Coming up at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival

Britten-Pears Young Artists at Snape

Britten-Pears Young Artists at Snape - Credit: Archant

This year’s Aldeburgh Festival June 13-29 presents 17 packed days of classical and contemporary music, plus exhibitions including the contemporary art show SNAP and weekend evenings at The Pumphouse, where the programme ranges from folk, world and rock music to comedy, poetry and theatre.

Aldeburgh Musicircus

Aldeburgh Musicircus - Credit: Archant

pierre-laurent aimard with britten pears orchestra, jamie man conductor

pierre-laurent aimard with britten pears orchestra, jamie man conductor - Credit: Archant

Owen Wingrave

SNAP - Orford Ness

SNAP - Orford Ness - Credit: Archant

The centrepiece of the main programme is a major focus on Benjamin Britten’s late, controversial pacifist opera, Owen Wingrave. Britten wrote Owen Wingrave in 1969, during the Vietnam War and with American fighter jets flying over his Aldeburgh home from their nearby base at RAF Bentwaters. The opera was written especially for television, commissioned by BBC2 – in fact it was David Attenborough, then the new Controller of BBC2, who agreed the details of the commission over lunch. You can see an interview with Attenborough on the subject on the Aldeburgh Music blog). The BBC production was filmed at Snape Maltings Concert Hall and is now brought to new life in the same location by a brand new production directed by Neil Bartlett. As well as four performances of the opera (13, 15, 16, 18 June), there will also be a Study Day (17 June), bringing together members of the 2014 and the original 1971 productions.

Owen Wingrave is about a young man born into a military family who desperately fights against the future that has been mapped out for him. For the 2014 production the clash of generations at the heart of the opera finds its ideal representation in a cast mixing leading international stars such as Susan Bullock with brilliant young singers from Aldeburgh Music’s talent development scheme, the Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme. The opera is also an opportunity to hear the outstanding Britten–Pears Orchestra, who have just won BBC Music Magazine’s Opera Recording of the Year Award for the CD of Peter Grimes recorded at the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival.

Leading international ensembles and artists

Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s sixth year as Artistic Director continues to extend the Festival’s reach with the best international and UK-based artists, including a rare UK residency by one of the world’s leading orchestras, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, as well as the Arcanto Quartet, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ian Bostridge, CBSO and Thomas Adès, Richard Goode, Mark Padmore and Ryan Wigglesworth, Klangforum Wien, and Masaaki Suzuki.

Contemporary music

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The Aldeburgh Festival has contemporary music written into its DNA. This year’s Featured Composer is the French ‘spectralist’ artist Tristan Murail, whose remarkably organic sound is the focus of Saturday 28 June. Meanwhile among many events featuring new or recent work, one of the standouts is Faster Than Sound: Earthquake Mass (14 June). This new commission pairs the much-loved EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble with electronic artist Russell Haswell in an exhilarating realisation of Antoine Brumel’s partially-lost Renaissance masterpiece, Earthquake Mass. There are very few pieces composed around 1500 that can be compared with the huge scale of Brumel’s Mass and for this realisation the Aldeburgh Festival has commissioned multidisciplinary artist Haswell, who often uses extremes of sound in his work, to create electronic interludes which strengthen the sense of awe Brumel’s audience must have experienced 500 years ago.

An Aldeburgh Musicircus: Aldeburgh’s largest ever gathering of musicians

For two hours (Sunday June 22, 11am – 1pm) Aldeburgh will be turned into a huge, resounding sonic mass, inspired by artist John Cage’s ‘Musicircus’ happenings of the 1960s – extraordinary, free-spirited events where musicians gathered in large spaces to perform simultaneously, like a musical market-place where performing traders jostle for attention. In this spirit, An Aldeburgh Musicircus, led by Festival Artistic Director Pierre-Laurent Aimard, will bring together the largest number of musicians ever to have gathered in Aldeburgh to perform all at once in a stretch of the town centre and sea front that includes familiar landmarks – the Jubilee Hall and the medieval Moot Hall as well as unexpected spaces such as shops, pubs and private homes, and of course outdoors. Orchestras, ensembles and soloists visiting the Festival will perform alongside around 100 local Suffolk acts who have responded to an open call: indie bands, jazz quartets, folk groups, school choirs, steam organs, singer-songwriters, bellydancers, and much more… Audience members wend their own way through this sonic Babel making their own individual and unique concert experience. As the composer famously remarked, ‘You won’t hear a thing – you’ll hear everything’.

Visual art: SNAP

Inspired by the landscape on which the British military conducted its early experiments in flight, Scottish-born artist Anya Gallaccio will create a new installation for the Aldeburgh Festival’s annual visual art show SNAP in two locations in Suffolk – at Orford Ness and at Snape Maltings. The commission is part of the UK-wide cultural commemoration of the centenary of WWI, 14-18 NOW. During the First World War the Royal Flying Corps conducted trials in aerial photography and bombing at secret testing grounds on Orford Ness, to which the artist now returns. Using images of imploded material taken from the site, original aerial photography from the Imperial War Museums’ archive and the region’s constantly shifting shingle landscape, Gallaccio creates a spectacular installation and series of photographic images that draw on her fascination with the properties of organic matter and the forces of decay and destruction.

The Pumphouse: The alternative Aldeburgh Festival

Set in a disused Victorian pumping station on the Aldeburgh marshes, The Pumphouse hosts over 30 shows over three weekends (13-14, 20-22 & 27-28 June). From folk to Gambian, dirty blues to Brazilian, rock ‘n’ roll to storytelling, poetry and theatre. Including klezmer band The Turbans, author Louis de Bernières appearing as a cellist, Russian fairytales, sea shanties, comedy trio SHEEPS, Jan Ravens’ history of impressions and much more. The atmosphere is relaxed and the drinks flow.

Aldeburgh Festival Camping

For many years Aldeburgh Music has offered half-price tickets to under 27s to help young people visit, meaning they can get into most events for under £10. Now this year the Aldeburgh Festival is launching a new camping scheme to take this a stage further and make visiting the Festival much more affordable – starting at just £9 per person in a tent or £16 in dormitory accommodation. On top of half-price tickets and cheap accommodation, people taking up the camping offer also get the fantastic deal of free transport on the Festival coaches that take visitors between venues.

Tickets and full programme at

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