Published 12 July 2019
As our 2018-19 season draws to a close, and before we are happily re-engulfed by preparations for 2019-20, I’m pleased to write to all of Arcangelo’s Friends and supporters with a review of the last year’s major highlights, and a snapshot of what’s in store for the year ahead.
Our first music-making of the Arcangelo year (which runs July to June) came in the form of the release on Hyperion of our second CD of Handel arias with bass Christopher Purves. Like the first album, ‘Finest Arias for Base Voice II’ quickly won widespread critical praise, with particular acclaim from Gramophone Magazine (Editor’s Choice), BBC Music Magazine (Opera Choice), Opera Magazine and The Sunday Times. We also made two new recordings, both scheduled for release later in the year: genteel Haydn organ concertos with Iain Quinn, and a fascinating selection of early music for horn with Ursula Paludan Monberg.
It was a superb season for Arcangelo in concert. We performed to a total live audience of over 8,000 in Europe, the US and the Far East, made three venue debuts, and drew frequently rapturous responses from audiences and critics. The most memorable single occasion was without question our BBC Proms 2018 performance of Handel’s ‘Theodora’, which by all correspondence and feedback was one of our supporters’ and musicians’ all-time top Arcangelo concerts. But there were also triumphs in Hong Kong where a capacity audience welcomed our performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, in New York where a similarly replete Carnegie Hall/Zankel Hall crowd enjoyed Handel’s ‘Nine German Arias’ and in Barcelona where the Catalan press declared ominously that our reputation placed us under a “moral imperative” to excel (!) before thankfully glad-handing our “almost painfully perfect tuning, careful ornamentation and astonishingly clear and precise attack.”
Throughout the year, we have been privileged to welcome and collaborate with outstanding ensemble musicians and soloists. We are grateful to all of them for their creativity and artistry, for the wonderful musical performances and memories which they have created, and for their readiness to enter into our collaborative spirit. This chamber ethos is what makes Arcangelo special, and it’s gratifying when one of our players tells us, as they did this year: “it always feels like we’re playing chamber music with Jonny, no matter how many people are involved. There is a concentration, energy and flexibility in the music making which helps to makes every performance feel fresh and exciting.” Jonny’s artistic leadership, as ever, has been inspirational. He communicates in music and musicianship, almost never ‘directing’ or ‘conducting’ because he doesn’t believe in either activity. He is adamant that the right musicians chosen for the right music and given the right creative space will instinctively generate a shared performance that lives at all points around the circle. I know that all Arcangelo Friends and supporters share my enjoyment of the sight and sound of this approach flourishing in rehearsals and in concert, whatever the repertoire. We are looking to find new ways of sharing it in the coming years.
We have been equally privileged by the breadth and generosity of support offered to Arcangelo by our Friends and supporters. Arcangelo receives no public funding, and our core staff costs and special projects have always been wholly reliant on private philanthropy. We are profoundly grateful to each and every individual who has contributed to this season’s success. Support is not just financial: our Friends and supporters have provided advice and expertise, advocacy to promoters and influencers, homestay accommodation for visiting and travelling musicians, and even a beautiful contemporary art gallery in which to rehearse! Our success is our supporters’ success, and we look forward to revealing new opportunities for engagement and interaction over the coming months.
Behind, in front of, and sometimes dangling heroically over the scenes are the Arcangelo staff. David, Hattie, James and Nick have worked and delivered at a rate and level apparently in defiance of time and space, not least a frankly crazy week in January involving a concert in Hong Kong, a Friends event in London, and a concert in Barcelona. We are looking forward to expanding the team next year with the recruitment of a new Individual Giving Officer. Outgoing tributes are due to Harriet Lawrence for her extensive contributions as Head of Development, and to Anna Rowe for her outstanding interim General Management following the departure of Adam Swann. Both Anna and Adam have been hugely helpful and supportive of me since January: I’m in their debt and (largely) out of their inboxes. We are also grateful as ever to our dedicated board of trustees, led by Rosalyn Wilkinson, who are integral to our success and who are even now working to develop exciting new plans for Arcangelo’s second decade.
Yes indeed: 2019-20 is our tenth birthday season. We are already as excited as any nine year old about our double digit do, which will be at the Barbican on Wednesday 1 April 2020 and will feature cake, candles, fizzy pop, and a sumptuous performance of (what else?) Haydn’s ‘Creation’. Tickets are on sale now and we truly hope to see all of you there. That said, we have plenty to tempt you with in the meantime, notably two concert performances (6 October at Tetbury Festival and 8 October at Wigmore Hall) of Handel’s most dramatic sacred work, the ‘Brockes Passion’. Described by leading Handelian academic Dr Ruth Smith as demonstrating “all of Handel’s power of dramatising immediacy and human sympathy”, the ‘Brockes’ is set to a remarkable text by the eponymous Hamburg poet, journalist and senator, which mixes soulful theological meditations with startlingly gruesome descriptions of Christ’s suffering. Our cast for this haunting masterpiece is led by soprano Sandrine Piau, tenor Stuart Jackson and baritone Konstantin Krimmel, who will also appear on the studio recording of the work which we make directly after the concerts. This landmark project is being funded by a consortium of Arcangelo supporters who have so far raised £37,000: please contact me directly if you would like to contribute to the campaign’s closing stages. Other highlights in a very bright year include our debut at the Grosser Saal of Vienna’s Konzerthaus with another performance of Handel’s ‘Theodora’ (18 January), a second recording of trio sonatas by Buxtehude (the first got us a Grammy nomination; we’re mildly giddy at the prospect of an Academy acceptance speech – ‘I’d just like to thank the burgomeisters of Luebeck’ – so here’s hoping it’s second time lucky), and a rich new collaboration with mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey exploring the mythological figure of Arianna-Ariadne.
In November, we will be hosting a special event for our Friends and supporters at which we look forward to providing much more information about these plans, and to introducing new ways of supporting Arcangelo’s programmes and ambitions. For now, thank you for reading, enjoy the rest of the Summer, and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you at one or more of our 2019-20 concerts or events.
With best wishes,
General Manager, Arcangelo