Susanna Phillips Returns to Twickenham Fest on 8/31
For her final festival appearances of the summer, Beverly Sills Prize Winner Susanna Phillips returns to her hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, for the fourth season of Twickenham Fest, the chamber music festival that she herself co-founded. This year's festival will showcase the world premiere of Fragments from an Explanation, a new commission from 2013 composer-in-residence Christopher Weiss (Aug 31), bookended by programs of Schubert (Aug 30) and Messiaen (Sep 1). The soprano and her fellow co-founder, bassoonist Matthew McDonald, will be joined by a first-rate roster of guest artists, including violinist Itamar Zorman, cellist Matthew Zalkind, and pianist Roman Rabinovich, respective winners of the Tchaikovsky, Washington, and Rubinstein International Competitions. As the Birmingham News recognized in a five-star review last season, "Twickenham Fest is well on its way to becoming a driving force in classical music in Alabama."
The recipient of a Theodore Presser Foundation Career Grant, Christopher Weiss's music has been hailed by the New York Times as "wonderfully fluid [with a] cinematic grasp of mood and lighting." His new work Fragments from an Explanation, scored for soprano, bassoon, string quartet, and double bass, was commissioned by Twickenham Fest for Phillips, whose world premiere performance will form the centerpiece of a program of Bach, Brahms, and Prokofiev. This continues an exciting new tradition that was launched last season, when - marking the festival's first world premiere - Phillips sang William Harvey's Speaking for the Afghan Woman, a song cycle written for her and set to verses by female Afghan poets. The Birmingham News found the poetry "poignant, often gut-wrenching," and reported that "Phillips' emotive powers" were such that she "penetrated directly to the hearts of these poets."
Additional highlights of this year's Twickenham Fest include the soprano's rendition of Schubert's "Auf dem Strom" with Rebekah Daley, Principal French horn of the North Carolina Symphony, and Gilmore Young Artist Orion Weiss on piano. The festival draws to a close with Messiaen's transcendent Quartet for the End of Time, featuring Canadian violinist Nikki Chooi, winner of the 2013 Michael Hill International Violin Competition. The festival's three concerts will be held in Huntsville's Church of the Nativity, and enriched by guest artists' educational outreach visits to schools, music programs, and other local institutions.
Phillips, who also looks forward to celebrating the Britten centennial at the Aspen Music Festival, where she will make her role debut as Ellen Orford in a concert performance of Peter Grimes (July 27), recently returned to Santa Fe Opera for The Marriage of Figaro. Reminding audiences why she is already a "Santa Fe Opera favorite in Mozart's great operas" (Opera Warhorses), the soprano gave a "firm, full-throated performance" (Santa Fe New Mexican) as the Countess.
Details of Twickenham Fest are provided below, and more information is available at TwickenhamFest.org. For more about Susanna Phillips's upcoming engagements, please visit the artist's web site at susannaphillips.com.