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Britten Dances

Britten Dances sees DanceEast and Aldeburgh Music revive their popular Snape Dances partnership which has brought many of the world’s best dance companies to Suffolk in recent years. This special weekend includes two world premieres and the compelling combination of fine dancers and musicians performing live together in the exceptional settings of Snape Maltings Concert Hall and Orford Church.

While Britten wrote just one ballet score, his music has inspired some of the world’s leading choreographers, no one more so than Richard Alston, whose rich body of work features Britten as a recurring theme. On Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd October, Richard Alston Dance Company performs the world premiere of Alston’s choreography to Britten’s string arrangement of Henry Purcell’s Chacony.

Also in the programme, the taut drama of Phaedra, nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production, features mezzo soprano Allison Cook re-creating her role for the first time since 2013. Phaedra contrasts with the succinctly intimate Holderlin Fragments, danced to one of Britten’s lesser-known song cycles for voice and piano; the words are fragments from the poetry of the visionary, troubled Friedrich Holderlin, and sung by the outstanding tenor Mark Padmore. The sheer exhilaration of Les Illuminations takes wild imagery from the life of French poet Arthur Rimbaud and his lover, the older poet Verlaine. Rejoice in the Lamb is danced to Britten’s superb setting of Christopher Smart’s wild, warm and witty poetry performed by Aldeburgh Voices. Alongside Allison Cook, Britten Sinfonia and Pekka Kuusisto resume their acclaimed collaboration with Richard Alston Dance Company, performing on-stage with celebrated tenor Mark Padmore, Aldeburgh Voices and Andrew West.

On Saturday in Orford Church – where Britten himself premiered four works – there will be an afternoon of dance and music from rising star choreographer Joseph Toonga and charismatic cellist Leonard Elschenbroich. In To Be Felt, Toonga approaches Britten’s music from a background in hip hop shaped by a classical sensibility. His dynamic young company performs to Britten’s Suite No 1 and Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 and the recital also includes works by Kevin Volans and Witold Lutoslawski. Toonga was the first recipient of DanceEast’s Choreographic Development Award which supported the creation of To Be Felt. He is also one of only a small number of choreographers invited by Richard Alston to make work for his company.

Back at Snape Maltings on Sunday afternoon Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and Cello Sonata and Tavener’s Threnos, The Lamb and Svyati will be performed by Aldeburgh Voices, Leonard Elschenbroich, Andrew West, Alexander Binns and Alexander Chaplin.

Britten Sinfonia directed by Pekka Kuusisto completes this unique weekend with Three Idylls by Bridge and three more pieces by Britten; Prelude & Fugue, Lachrymae, Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge displaying the brilliance and bravura of Britten’s writing for string orchestra.


In addition to the dance performances there is a pre-performance discussion on Friday evening with Roger Wright and Richard Alston, a Study Morning with Richard Alston, Luke Jennings, dance critic of The Observer, and Isabel Tamen, executive director of Richard Alston Dance Company, on Saturday morning, and performances by Aldeburgh Voices and Britten Sinfonia in the closing programme on Sunday afternoon.

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