Over the Britten Birthday weekend (20 – 22 November), Britten Pears Arts welcomes John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London for two concerts. Originally founded in 1955 and re-launched by conductor John Wilson in 2018, Sinfonia of London is an orchestra which comes together for special events and recordings. The players include many principals and leaders from numerous UK and international orchestras, alongside notable soloists and members of distinguished chamber groups. This partnership has already achieved critical success through its first recordings, and this is its Snape debut. They are joined by pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, who plays Britten’s Piano Concerto, and tenor Ian Bostridge, who sings Nocturne. John Wilson is a renowned interpreter of British music and these programmes put Britten’s music in context, in particular that of his teachers and the Royal College of Music. There will also be a Study Morning, an Archive Exhibition and a joyful celebration of Benjamin Britten’s birthday.

Sinfonia of London with John Wilson I, 20 November, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall

In the first of two concerts on Saturday 20 November at 7.30pm, Sinfonia of London and John Wilson perform John Ireland’s symphonic rhapsody Mai-Dun evoking the struggle of ancient Britons against the invading Romans, and Vaughan Williams’ A London Symphony containing faint echoes of his home city. Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov joins them to take on the challenge of Britten’s virtuosic Piano Concerto.

Sinfonia of London with John Wilson II, 21 November, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall

In the second concert on Sunday 21 November at 7.30pm, John Wilson and the Sinfonia of London play works by his teachers including Frank Bridge’s Lament and Arthur Benjamin’s Ballade for Strings, as well as his friend Lennox Berkeley’s Serenade for Strings. Tenor Ian Bostridge joins them to sing Britten’s darkly beautiful Nocturne, which sets texts by Shakespeare, Shelley, Coleridge and Wilfred Owen, among others. The programme is completed with a further nod to Britten’s teacher and a performance of his Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge.

The Red House, Saturday 20 November, 1 – 4pm

The whole site at the Red House will be open on Saturday 20 November from 1 – 4pm including the house itself where Britten and Pears lived, the Library and Studio plus the Archive. In the Archive there will be a special display of manuscripts, diaries, photographs and letters relating to the composers featured in the weekend’s concerts. Discover Britten’s close connections to John Ireland, Vaughan Williams and Arthur Benjamin and particularly to Lennox Berkeley and Frank Bridge.

Study Morning, Sunday 21 November, 10.30am, Peter Pears Recital Room, Snape Maltings

Over the course of three hours, Dr Lucy Walker and guest speakers including writer and broadcaster Dr Katy Hamilton offer insights into the pieces being performed during Britten Weekend.

The Red House, Britten’s Birthday Celebration, Monday 22 November, 11am – 4pm

On Monday 22 November, Britten’s birthday and St Cecilia’s day, The Red House presents outdoor performances in the garden of Britten’s beautiful choral work A Hymn to St Cecilia throughout the afternoon and a special display in the Archive of items relating to Britten’s birthday and to St Cecilia. There will be a chance to explore the house. 


Tickets for the two concerts are £15, £30 and £35 with under 30s half price

Tickets for The Red House opening on Saturday 20 November are £8.50 with under 16s free

Tickets for the Study Morning on Sunday 21 November are £10 with under 30s half price

Tickets for Britten’s Birthday Celebration on Monday 22 November are free but require a slot to be booked

To book tickets please visit www.brittenpearsarts.org or call 01728 687110.

Related review, http://www.colinscolumn.com/john-wilson-sinfonia-of-london-record-english-music-for-strings-for-chandos/. Please search “John Wilson” for others.