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Concert: Love, Loss and Longing
As part of our Brontë200 season, join us for a programme exploring love, loss and longing in the life and work of Charlotte and Emily Brontë, through music and the spoken word.
The centrepiece of the concert will be the world premiere of Robin Walker’s Letter to Brussels, a setting of Charlotte Brontë’s passionate letters to Constantin Heger, her tutor in Brussels, performed by soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers.
Emily Brontë's poetry will complement Charlotte's texts, in anticipation of her own bicentenary in 2018, and we will hear work by contemporary poet Edwin Stockdale. This is also a rare opportunity to hear the song cycle of six Emily Brontë poems by John Joubert, and the premiere of Robin Walker’s song setting of her poem Self-Interrogation.
The performance will take place in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Drawing Room, where Charlotte visited her dear friend (and biographer) on several occasions.
Featuring Lesley-Jane Rogers, Soprano
Janet Simpson, Piano
Suzanne Casey, violin
Philip Watts and Edwin Stockdale, Readings
Letter to Brussels for soprano and piano by Robin WalkerSix Poems of Emily Brontë for soprano and piano by John JoubertSelf-Interrogation for soprano, violin and piano by Robin WalkerPoems by Edwin StockdaleReadings of Charlotte and Emily Brontë's poetry
Charlotte Brontë: contemporary visions of her love and troubled genius expressed through the power of music and the spoken wordManchester's exciting Bicentenary contribution will centre on Elizabeth Gaskell's House. This unique concert experience is of both national and regional significance: commemorating the genius of the author's work through contemporary re-interpretation in music and poetry and featuring two world premieres, it brings to light not only the power of her genius but also the condition of suppression in the lives of Victorian women, including that of Emily Brontë, whose work is also celebrated in the theme of unattainable love.Robin Walker has written a commemorative song setting entitled “Letter to Brussels” based on the letters of Charlotte's unrequited love for Constantin Heger, and this will be the centrepiece, to be featured alongside settings of Emily Brontë by living composer John Joubert and by a further premiere by Robin Walker – also of Emily's poetry – and complemented by the Brontë-inspired poetry of young North West poet Edwin Stockdale and by the poet Philip Watts. The musicians, all highly experienced proponents of contemporary music, are the soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers, pianist Janet Simpson and violinist Suzanne Casey.The composer Robin Walker is recognised as a giant of British contemporary music, and along with John Joubert (the other living composer on the programme), has a particular affinity with the work of both Brontë sisters. Like them, Walker's own compositional processes are founded in an instinctual response to both discipline and passion, and it is the meeting of these elements which forms the equilibrium in his new song ”Letter to Brussels” for soprano and piano. Whereas Elizabeth Gaskell, as a Victorian biographer, was constrained to avoid the more compromising circumstances in the life of her subject (she omitted reference to the tyranny of religious and social prejudice which dogged the Brontë women, as well as the perceived 'shame' of Charlotte's rejected attempts to win romantic affection), Walker, in his contemporary role, has sought to reveal that which Charlotte was so desperate to expostulate. By exposing the conflict within her inner life - her rage at unrequited love for an unattainable man and also her desperate need to escape the stifling Protestantism and patriarchy of her father - the composition will bring a new resonance to the 'missing' elements from the biography, yet in the very place in which it was written. The poignancy of this association will be certain to heighten audience awareness of a part of her creative genius and life experience which can most powerfully be expressed through the re-interpretation of her words through music of the highest calibre.Walker's second premiere, “Self-Interrogation”, for soprano, violin and piano, similarly explores the common themes of despair and lost love and is the one remaining unperformed song in a series of Emily Brontë settings which lead you from hope-of-love to despair-and-death: the condition of Emily's life in a nutshell, also the ideal companion piece to illustrate the absolute contemporary relevance of the Brontë sisters' work to us today through a modern voice, and in anticipation of the upcoming Brontë 200 commemorations of Emily's birth.