Time once again for the Aix-en-Provence Easter Festival, over two weeks of glorious music making in the south of France. Following the success of last year, once again several of the concerts are being streamed live to a wider audience.
The opening evening of this year’s festival saw Canadian conductor/soprano Barbara Hannigan leading the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. The concert opened with Hannigan singing Luigi Nono’s vocal work ‘Djamilia Boupacha’, in which Nono set to music a poem, ‘Esta Noche’ by Jesus Lopez Pacheco, about an Algerian girl who was brutally tortured by French troops and whose subsequent trial caused a worldwide sensation. Djamilia Boupacha became for many a symbol of Algeria’s fight for independence.
Hannigan then took up conducting duties for the rest of the concert, beginning with an excellent performance of Alban Berg’s ‘Concerto for Violin and Orchestra’, dedicated to ‘the memory of an angel’, with soloist Christian Tetzlaff. Berg was moved to interrupt the writing of his opera ‘Lulu’ to complete this commission after the death from polio of eighteen-year-old Manon Gropius, the daughter of architect Walter Gropius and Alma Mahler, once Gustav Mahler’s wife. It was an extremely moving performance of the concerto, which combines the twelve-tone technique with a more tonal style, by the orchestra and German violinist Tetzlaff, which was much appreciated by the audience.
The second half of the concert was a sumpuous performance of Mozart’s ‘Requiem in D minor’, K.626, with the Choeur de Radio France joining the orchestra. Both the choir and soloists, soprano Johanna Wallroth, mezzo Adanya Dunn, tenor Charles Sy and bass Yannis François, were magnificent. I thought the Kyrie and Rex Tremendae were particularly notable.
The evening was an excellent start to the festival; with a packed hall proving that, whatever else is going on in the world, music, thankfully, never stops.
Charles Sy, Johanna Wallroth, conductor Barbara Hannigan, Adanya Dunn and Yannis François performing Mozart’s ‘Requiem in D minor’