The Oxford Lieder Festival seems to be growing in stature every year and increasingly attracts notable names to perform in Oxford. The festival runs for the next two weeks, which means that we start the term spoilt for choice. My top pick from the superb selection of events on offer is Roderick Williams (baritone) and Andrew West (piano) – Schumann: Dichterliebe & Saxton: Time and the Seasons (Weds 16th, 8pm, Holywell Music Room). Oxford-based composer Robert Saxton is celebrating his sixtieth birthday this year and this is marked here with the world première of his new song cycle: Time and the Seasons. Set to his own texts, these songs engage with themes of time, memory and nature. Paired with this new work is a song cycle exploring similar themes that sits right at the heart of the German lieder tradition: Robert Schumann’s hauntingly beautiful Dichterliebe (1840). The concert will begin with a selection of Romantic songs which take “time and the seasons” as their subject matter, including Schubert’s Der Winterabend (read on for more wintry Schubert). This fascinating programme, sung by renowned baritone Roderick Williams, is a must-see.
The theme of seasons continues on Friday (18/10) which is the festival’s “Frozen Landscape and Winter Journeys” day, with a free event at the Pitt Rivers Museum in the afternoon. This will feature live music, a talk by curator Dr Laura Peers (4.45pm), and a special trail around Oxford’s most charmingly eclectic museum – look out for the mammoth ivory carvings. As well as a lunchtime concert given by students from the Royal Academy of Music (1.10pm), the Holywell Music Room will play host to two concerts on Friday evening (5.45pm and 8pm), with a further late-night concert around the corner in the chapel of New College (10pm). My pick of these is Robert Murray (tenor) and Andrew West (piano) – Schubert: Winterreise (Friday 18th, 8pm, Holywell Music Room). Schubert’s great masterpiece will be interspersed with readings from the diaries of Captain Scott’s polar exploration. Whether these two champions of human endeavour – in their respective fields – will enhance or undermine each other remains to be seen. Either way, a feast of ice and snow awaits, as the days get shorter and the cold depths of winter in Oxford draw in.
Tickets for the main evening concerts (8pm starts) of the Oxford Lieder Festival can be quite expensive (£22/£19 concessions), but £5 tickets for students may be available on the door.
For more information about the Oxford Lieder Festival, please visit their website