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London Song Festival

In 2014 The London Song Festival's concerts display a thought-provoking and exciting range of music in programmes that illuminate important and recurring facets of twentieth century and earlier history.

The Festival will explore how composers, particularly in the turbulent times of the twentieth century, reacted to oppressive regimes. Two featured composers will be Richard Strauss (born 150 years ago) and Dmitri Shostakovich; how did they deal with the Nazi and Soviet regimes that they were faced with? Both these composers stayed in their countries of birth; but we will also explore the works of composers who fled their countries of origin. The list of composers who escaped from Germany and Russia in the first half of the twentieth century is huge and encompasses many of the great names of twentieth century music, ranging from Rachmaninov to Kurt Weill; how does exile affect a composer's work? We explore the lure of foreign cultures and the whole question of national identity in music; what inspires a composer to write in the style of a different country and culture?

In addition to the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of the Austrian Joseph Marx, who like Strauss remained in his homeland throughout the war years, and the 150th anniversary of the death of Isaac Nathan, a British-Jewish composer who emigrated to Australia to become the 'Father of Australian Music'.

Our singers this year include Ailish Tynan, a past BBC New Generation Artist  and a Vilar Young Artist at the ROH Covent Garden,  who is now singing at major european opera houses: Simon Wallfisch, a member of an outstanding musical family who came to the UK as émigrés fleeing Nazi persecution: Peter Brathwaite, winner of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Award at the 2009 Voice of Black Opera Competition: outstanding young Russian-Jewish soprano Ilona Domnich: Regina Nathan who has sung in concert and recital across Europe: and young up-and-coming singers, Sinead O’Kelly and Dominic Sedgwick from the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The 2014 London Song Festival Master Class will be given by Ian Partridge CBE.  The master class this year will be combined with the new Schubert Society Singer Prize Competition held under the auspices of the Schubert Society of Britain and the German YMCA (

Highlights for 2014

Other highlights of the Festival include:

• EntarteteMusik (Degenerate Music) – a song-based reconstruction of the infamous Düsseldorf exhibition of 1938, intended to alert the German public to supposedly inferior and dangereous forms of music, particularly jazz and Jewish music.  This concert will feature video projections created by James Symonds a digital artist working primarily with projected forms of graphic moving image for use in theatre and product display -

• A recreation of the recital given in London in 1903 by Richard Strauss and his wife Pauline de Ahna.

• A selection of Isaac Nathan's Hebrew Melodies, written in the early 1880s to words by Lord Byron. These achieved sensational success in their day, but are virtually unknown and unperformed now.

• Songs by Victor Ullmann, composed inside the Theresienstadt concentration camp

• A performance of the complete Italienisches Liederbuch (1912) by Joseph Marx. These are settings of Italian poems translated of into German by Paul Heyse, winner of the 1910 Nobel Prize for Literature, and are much less well known, though arguably as fine, as the collection of Hugo Wolf songs, also settings of the same translator.

• The premiere of two heart-rending songs by Michael Csanyi-Wills that sets his mother's final letter written to her children before she was killed by the Nazis. Michael has written a number of major film scores including The Little Vampire, The Trouble with Dot and Harry (starring Neil Morrisey) and Rocket Post.