In the middle, they’ll play Benjamin Britten’s youthful setting of Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations for tenor soloist and strings, from 1939. Tactile yet twisted, sensitive yet sinister, flushed with ecstasy yet touched with madness, the song cycle will be sung by tenor Kyle Knapp, winner of the 2010 School of Music Concerto Competition.
And they’ll start with perhaps the coolest piece of all, Peter Maxwell Davies’ Orkney Wedding and Sunrise, from 1984. A native of Manchester who moved to the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, Davies wrote the piece as a sort of musical picture postcard of the events of the title, starting with the arrival of the guests, moving through the dancing and the drinking, and culminating with one of the great sunrises in all music: a bagpiper—here, the magnificently named D. Gregor MacGregor III—playing full tilt while the orchestra blazes behind him. For listeners who’ve had enough of Hallelujahs and Sugar Plum Fairies for the season, it’ll be just the thing.
[Originally published in December, 2010.]