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Michael White’s music news: Tête à Tête festival; Angela Hewitt at Wigmore Hall

18 September, 2020 — By Michael White

Angela Hewitt play the Wigmore Hall

• If you were compiling a list of provocatively titled operas, Beethoven Was A Lesbian would be one not to miss. And it premieres 6pm next Wednesday, September 23, as part of the congenitally provocative Tête à Tête Opera Festival, which comes around every year with a crop of short, new music-theatre pieces designed to drag traditional opera audiences out of their comfort zones and into uncharted territory. What the festival puts on can be rough and ready – or in some cases, not ready at all, with ink still dripping from the manuscript.

But that’s the risk you take with cutting-edge new work. And it’s actually not so much of a risk this year as usual, because Covid has meant that many of the pieces in the season are online – so you don’t have to stir from your armchair to experience them (and there’s always the off button).

As for the things that are happening with an audience present, they’re playing at the Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, in Marylebone. And the season as a whole – which is up and running right now and continues to September 30 – includes an opera about wrestling and Donald Trump (if only!), an all-too-topical reflection on life after the apocalypse, and a fantasy evocation of a 12th-century queer, feminist gardening club founded by the nun St Hildegard of Bingen. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, nothing will.

Full details of all performances, physical or online, are at www.tete-a-tete.org.uk

For those with more conservative tastes, the City of London Sinfonia have a real, live, with-audience concert this Friday in Southwark Cathedral where you can hear Bach’s great Goldberg Variations arranged for string trio. In fact you can hear it twice, because the performance plays at 2pm and 7.15pm. Tickets are just £5, but they have to be booked in advance at www.cityoflondonsinfonia.co.uk – and it’s interesting to reflect that this is the kind of event which, a year ago, would barely have registered in the crowded schedules of London music-making. Now, it’s an Event with a capital E, and kind of special.

• But still more special are the chamber concerts running at Wigmore Hall right now. In the coming week you can see – either as part of the necessarily small audience, or online, because every concert is live streamed on the Wigmore website – the star guitarist Milos Karadaglic with saxophonist Jess Gillam on Monday, September 21. And next Thursday, September 24, brings pianist Cedric Tiberghian playing Debussy and Ravel. But the highlight of the week comes this Saturday when the world’s most celebrated Bach pianist, Angela Hewitt, plays (what else?) an all-Bach programme. It’s the penultimate concert in a long-planned Bach “Odyssey” through which she performs the entirety of Johann Sebastian’s keyboard music. And it will be extra-special for me because I’ll be there, presenting the concert for the livestream. So I can literally say join me – 7.30pm, Saturday, September 19, either in person or online. All details: www.wigmore-hall.org.uk

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