Tuesday 12 March 2013

First thoughts on the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival

So, the excitement of Edinburgh International Festival programme launch day is here again. Full thoughts will follow later, when such matters as work aren't inconveniently getting in the way, but in the meantime, a few first thoughts. (These were snatched on the bus and over lunch breaks, so please forgive the odd typo.)

Where is he?

With the BBC SSO, as expected, conducting the closing concert. This, too might have been expected since its Verdi's anniversary we're getting the Requiem. Runnicles does a good one, these same forces opened the festival with one in 2005. This time there is the added bonus of stunning soprano Erin Wall.

What orchestras are coming?

2013 seems to be a pretty good year in this regard. Top of the billing are the Bavarians under the baton of chief conductor Mariss Jansons for programmes including Mahler 2 and Tchaikovsky's pathetique.

Elsewhere there is rising star Nezet-Seguin with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The visit of Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble to do no fewer than five Schubert symphonies is also interesting (as is the fact that the festival are presenting the last two under the German numbering).

The Concertgebouw would be an exciting prospect were it not for the presence of Gatti who last year produced interminable Wagner and Mahler.


Opera de Lyon are back and bringing Fidelio. Also of note is The Opera Group's American Lulu.

What's Gergiev doing?

The answer is rather less than in many previous years. There is no sight of either the LSO or the Mariinsky. The festival's honorary president is on hand to open the festival though with the RSNO and a concert performance of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. This is good news as it means we're likely to be spared the tedium of some recent curtain raisers.

Here's Gregson

We're big fans of Edinburgh born cellist Peter Gregson and his innovative musical offerings. It's very exciting that he gets a deserved festival debut with the premiere of To Dream Again. Indeed, Mills' commitment to bringing new music into the festival has been one his big achievements.

What's ludicrously ambitious piece of theatre is taking place in what unusual venue?

This year's prize goes to Grid Iron's Leaving Planet Earth which takes place at the EICC and then the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in Ratho (with a bus transporting the viewer between the two). I shall leave further description to the programme.

There's also a mini Beckett festival and the Wooster Group performing Hamlet and selections from their archive.

What's the theme?

There doesn't really seem to be one, but that's okay since there's lots of good stuff. Judging from Mills' forward it's all about the interaction between art and technology. While this clearly applies to some things (e.g. Gregson) there are so many vast swathes it doesn't, it could hardly be said to be a theme.

That or lightbulbs.

Anything else?

Well, Mitsuko Uchida is exciting. Ditto Aimard playing Ligeti at the Queen's Hall. Plus I've not even mentioned the dance. Then there's, well, just check out the brochure on the EIF website.

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