• Britten Pears Arts presents the 75th Aldeburgh Festival in June 2024
  • New production of Judith Weir’s opera Blond Eckbert opens the Aldeburgh Festival
  • Featured musicians are composers Judith Weir and Unsuk Chin; violinist Daniel Pioro and cellist Alban Gerhardt
  • New staging of Britten’s Curlew River 60 years after its first performance
  • Gweneth Ann Rand performs three major Messiaen song cycles
  • Orchestras include the London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, The Hallé, Britten Sinfonia and the Knussen Chamber Orchestra
  • Ensembles include BBC Singers, Ensemble Diderot, The Marian Consort, Nash Ensemble, Tenebrae and Vox Luminis
  • Artists include Christian Blackshaw, Claire Booth, Alice Coote, Julius Drake, Rolf Hind, Braimah, Isata and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Matilda Lloyd, Steven Osborne, Andrè Schuen, Kathryn Stott and Elizabeth Watts
  • Continued commitment to new music with 23 world premieres (of which 10 are Britten Pears Arts commissions) and three UK premieres
  • The introduction of ‘Made in Snape’, a strand of new music created on Britten Pears Arts residencies at Snape Maltings by a wide range of pioneering contemporary artists
  • The Red House will be open daily during the festival with talks and exhibitions including ‘The Composer’s Place: Britten, the Festival and his Suffolk home’
  • Visual Art at Snape Maltings includes a new work from conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans; a new series Beryl & Pam featuring Maggi Hambling and Karen Densham; an exhibition exploring Britten and Pears’ friendship with artist Keith Grant; Conflagration, a painting and sound installation by Jelly Green and Lily Hunter Green; and a new collection of work from Suffolk painter Tessa Newcomb
  • BBC Radio 3 brings live music to listeners around the world with a series of broadcast Festival concerts

The programme for the 75th Aldeburgh Festival in 2024 is announced today (18 December) and takes place from Friday 7 to Sunday 23 June. The Festival opens with a new production of Judith Weir’s opera Blond Eckbert, a co-production with English Touring OperaJudith Weir is one of four featured musicians – alongside composer Unsuk Chin, violinist Daniel Pioro and cellist Alban Gerhardt – and her music features in 10 concerts including the world premiere of her Second String Quartet and a new orchestral piece. Unsuk Chin’s music receives two UK premieres – Alaraph for symphony orchestra and a piece for 40 voices. Alban Gerhardt recreates – with pianist Steven Osborne – the recital given by Rostropovich and Britten in 1961 which included the first performance of Britten’s Cello Sonata – and performs both Elgar and Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concertos, the latter written for him. The first ever Aldeburgh Festival concert from 5 June 1948 is also recreated in a performance by Britten SinfoniaDaniel Pioro features in seven concerts during the Festival including intimate performances in surprise locations, a recital with pianist Simon Smith, a collaboration with The Marian Consort and a performance of Britten’s Violin Concerto.

There will be a new staging of Britten’s Curlew River, 60 years after its first performance, as well as a rare chance to see Sumidagawa, the Japanese Noh play which inspired Britten’s church parable, performed by leading Japanese artists. Acclaimed Messiaen interpreter, Gweneth Ann Rand, performs the three major Messiaen song cycles over three concerts.

Visiting orchestras include the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Edward GardnerBBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Knussen Chamber Orchestra conducted by Ryan WigglesworthThe Hallé and Sir Mark Elder, and two performances involving the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Jessica Cottis and Olivia Clarke. Performances from visiting ensembles include the BBC SingersEnsemble DiderotThe Marian ConsortNash EnsembleTenebrae and Vox Luminis. Visiting artists include Christian BlackshawClaire BoothAlice CooteJulius DrakeRolf HindBraimahIsata and Sheku Kanneh-MasonMatilda LloydSteven OsborneAndrè SchuenKathryn Stott and Elizabeth Watts.

Britten Pears Arts continues its commitment to new music with 23 world premieres (of which 10 are Britten Pears Arts commissions) from composers including Lara AgarTom CoultGraham FitkinRobin Haigh, Joanna Ward, Judith Weir and Ryan Wigglesworth, plus three UK premieres of music by Unsuk Chin and Thomas Larcher.

In Snape and Aldeburgh, Britten Pears Arts continues the spirit of artist development which Britten and Pears established. Musicians are given time and space to develop their artistry as well as to experiment and create new work. ‘Made in Snape’ is a strand of new music created on residencies at Snape Maltings by a wide range of pioneering contemporary musicians including Xhosa ColeMark Sanders and Jason SinghEmily Levy and Mella FayeHoly OtherTom RogersonLiam Byrne and Clare O’Connell. Nurturing young talent was also central to Britten and Pears’ vision and Britten Pears Young Artists appear throughout the Festival in everything from Curlew River to CAPPA and Festival masterclasses to French-song recitals.

Roger Wright, Chief Executive, Britten Pears Arts commented, ‘The 2024 Aldeburgh Festival is the 75th in the Festival’s history. The Festival continues to be distinctive and is recognised nationally and internationally, not least for its unique combination of music and place, with events presented in the wonderful surroundings of Snape, Aldeburgh and other Suffolk settings. This year, four featured musicians – violinist Daniel Pioro, cellist Alban Gerhardt and composers Unsuk Chin and Judith Weir – form the backbone of the programming and there is an exciting mix of opera, orchestras, choirs, singers, dance, chamber music, recitals, films, talks and a thrilling range of music from the medieval to the brand new, alongside a fascinating visual arts programme. We will also reflect our rich heritage with a number of events which recreate significant moments in the Festival’s history. We hope you will join us.’

Detailed Programme information

Opera

Judith Weir’s Blond Eckbert

  • The 2024 Aldeburgh Festival opens with a new production of Judith Weir’s Blond Eckbert, a co-production by Britten Pears Arts and English Touring Opera.
  • Blond Eckbert is a dark story of isolation and mystery, based on a supernatural tale by the romantic author Ludwig Tieck.
  • Eckbert and Berthe live a life of quiet solitude in their forest home. One day, a visit from an old friend upends their lives. As mysteries swirl and dark secrets are revealed, Eckbert suspects his world is far stranger than it first appeared and that the past is maybe best left buried.
  • Conducted by Gerry Cornelius, the cast will be announced in early 2024.
  • The creative team includes director Robin Norton Hale (7 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).

Featured Musicians

Judith Weir

  • Judith Weir is Master of The King’s Music and one of the UK’s most celebrated living composers. In Weir’s 70th birthday year, her Aldeburgh Festival residency includes 10 concerts featuring the composer’s works.
  • Ryan Wigglesworth leads the Knussen Chamber Orchestra in the first performance of Judith Weir’s Planet – a Britten Pears Arts commission written especially for this orchestra (11 June, 7pm, 11 June).
  • Alumni of the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme, the Leonkoro Quartet is one of Europe’s brightest chamber groups. It is 30 years since Judith Weir wrote her first string quartet, and this concert features the world premiere of her second, The Spaniard, a Britten Pears Arts and Wigmore Hall co-commission (13 June, 11am, Britten Studio).
  • The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performs Weir’s Forest with conductor Ryan Wigglesworth. The composer says of the work: ‘nearly everything in the piece has grown from the tiny musical seeds encountered in the opening bars, and the composition has unfolded in a particularly natural and organic way’ (19 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Judith Weir’s longstanding relationship with the BBC Singers is celebrated with a performance of her oratorio blue hills beyond blue hills, a five-movement cycle which charts the changing seasons (17 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Weir’s mini opera for solo voice, King Harald’s Saga, is performed by soprano Claire Booth (10 June, 3pm, Britten Studio). 
  • Steven Osborne’s piano recital features three of Weir’s miniatures: Michael’s Strathspey is based on a traditional Scottish dance and was written for composer Michael Finnissy; Fragile was commissioned as part of William Howard’s Love Song project and creates a resonant soundworld in a few short minutes and Chorale, for Steve joins other 2024 Festival repertoire in being a memorial piece, in this case for the American composer Steven Stucky (16 June, 11am, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Rolf Hind’s piano recital features Weir’s The Art of Touching the Keyboard. Weir comments: ‘in a single continuous movement, the piece demonstrates the many ways in which the piano keys can be touched, from the gentlest of strokes to the most vicious of blows’ (20 June, 11am, Britten Studio).
  • Britten Pears Young Artist Programme alumni, Trio Bohémo, makes its Festival debut. The programme includes two works by Weir: O Viridissima, which reimagines workings of Hildegard of Bingen, and her Piano Trio (20 June, 4pm, Britten Studio).
  • The Nash Ensemble celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2024 and performs Weir’s folkloric Distance and Enchantment for piano and string trio (22 June, 11am, Britten Studio).
  • The traditional Aldeburgh Festival Service includes Aldeburgh Voices performing Judith Weir’s setting of George Herbert’s poem A Wreath, commissioned in memory of Edmund Bridges (9 June, 10.30am, Aldeburgh Church). This same work will be performed by Tenebrae in a concert marking 60 years since the Aldeburgh Festival’s first visit to Ely Cathedral (12 June, 7pm, Ely Cathedral).

Unsuk Chin

  • Koreancomposer Unsuk Chin studied with Ligeti and her output features both electronic and acoustic scores. It is modern in language and lyrical in its communicative power.
  • Pianist Joseph Havlat begins the Aldeburgh Festival’s two-part presentation of Unsuk Chin’s Etudes (10 June, 3pm, Britten Studio) which is completed by Rolf Hind (20 June, 11am, Britten Studio).
  • Tenebrae gives the first UK performance of Unsuk Chin’s new work for 40 voices – a prelude to Tallis’ Spem in alium (12 June, 7pm, Ely Cathedral).
  • Composed especially for Alban Gerhardt and first performed at the 2009 BBC Proms, Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concerto has been described as “the biggest and most ambitious… and arguably the most important concerto for that instrument to appear since Lutosławski’s in 1970. The solo writing pushes the cellist – the superb Alban Gerhardt – to the limits of what is possible, while constantly reassessing the way it and the orchestra respond to each other” (The Guardian). Gerhardt joins the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ryan Wigglesworth (20 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • The Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra and conductor Roderick Cox perform the UK premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Alaraph. The composer comments, ‘two images were especially important when composing this score: firstly, I was drawn to the concept of the so-called ‘heartbeat stars’, with their regular pulsation. The second image depicted certain aspects of Korean traditional music, both the ‘static’ courtly ritual music and the lively folk music, alluded to distantly in the work’s gestures and structure in a compressed and highly stylized manner’ (22 June, 4pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).

Alban Gerhardt

  • ‘One of the finest cellists around – expressive, unshowy and infinitely classy’ (The Guardian), Alban Gerhardt is renowned for his intense musicality, compelling stage presence and insatiable artistic curiosity.
  • Alban Gerhardt begins his Festival residency with Elgar’s timeless Cello Concerto performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Edward Gardner (8 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • He joins forces with soprano Claire Booth, pianist Joseph Havlat and violinist Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux to perform two works by Thomas LarcherMy illness is the medicine I need is based on extracts from interviews with patients of mental-health facilities, which Larcher describes as being of “a strong inner power, yet [they] do not claim to convey an overall picture of these people.” Splinters is for cello and piano and ‘the splinters of the title have ‘regressed’ into entire trees: the imagined concepts have been splintered through the compositional process … an image of one’s own soul and its abysses makes its way forward”. (10 June, 3pm, Britten Studio).
  • Alban Gerhardt is joined by his regular collaborator pianist Steven Osborne to recreate a seminal moment in Aldeburgh Festival history: the June 1961 recital by Britten and Rostropovich which saw the world premiere of Britten’s Cello Sonata, along with classic works by Schubert, Schumann and Debussy (14 June, 7pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Rostropovich’s visit to the Festival in 1961 also included performances of Bach’s cello suites. He described No.6 as “a symphony for solo cello” and Bach was one of Britten’s musical inspirations. Alban Gerhardt plays his chosen pairing of suites by Bach and Britten (15 June, 11am, Orford Church).
  • Gerhardtperforms Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ryan Wigglesworth (20 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).

Daniel Pioro

  • Violinist Daniel Pioro actively promotes new music and is interested in finding different ways of listening to and creating sound, as well as developing strong collaborations across the arts. The breadth of his artistry is showcased across seven events at this year’s Festival.
  • Daniel Pioro joins forces with pianist collaborator Simon Smith to perform Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas (8 June, 11am, Britten Studio).
  • Pioro is joined by The Marian Consort and director Rory McCleery for a concert created especially for Blythburgh Church at dusk. Tom Coult reimagines music by the mediaeval abbess Hildegard of Bingen and Kassia – the perfect match for The Marian Consort’s interest in marrying ancient and contemporary musical influences into a new coherent whole (10 June, 8pm, Blythburgh Church).
  • For a special Festival Walk in ancient woodland, Daniel Pioro adds a musical element that invites deep listening and connection with the natural music of the forest, inspired by the sonic mediations of the American composer Pauline Oliveros (12 June, 10am, Rendlesham Forest).
  • Daniel Pioro and harpsichordist David Gordon unite for a late-night event in which they intersperse Bach’s second Partita with free-spirited improvisation and sonic mediations (14 June, 10pm, Britten Studio).
  • An open invitation from Daniel Pioro to drop into his afternoon’s practice in the Red House Library – to listen to, discuss, and above all experience the magic of music as it is prepared and crafted in the rehearsal room (15 June, 12.30pm, The Red House Library).
  • Pioro joins a long line of leading violinists to perform Britten’s Violin Concerto at Snape Maltings. He is joined by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ryan Wigglesworth. Pioro says: ‘The work itself is quintessential Britten: recurring drama, daring virtuosity and searing harmonies’ (19 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • As his final festival event, Daniel Pioro will meet, greet and play to a small number of lucky audience members, one at a time, in a secret seaside venue (20 June).

Curlew River and Sumidagawa

  • There will be a new staging of Britten’s church parable Curlew River, 60 years after its first performance, directed by Claire van Kampen. The stellar cast is led by music director Audrey Hyland and includes tenor Ian Bostridge, baritone Peter Braithwaite, bass-baritone Sir Willard White and singers and alumni from the Britten Pears Young Artists programme. The two performances in the beautiful surroundings of Blythburgh Church will be filmed with direction by Dominic Best (21 & 22 June, 8pm, Blythburgh Church).
  • Sumidagawa (“Sumida River”), one of the most renowned Noh plays, inspired Britten’s church parable Curlew River and there will a rare chance to see it at the Festival. Sumidagawa returns to the Aldeburgh Festival for the first time in 33 years and is presented by exceptional Noh performers from Japan including Shizuka Mikata in the role of the mother and the kotsuzumi player Tatsushi Narita. It will be preceded by a newly written English re-telling of the story by Xanthe Gresham Knight (18 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).

Orchestras

  • Britten’s long passion for music from India and South-East Asia informed both his own compositions and the concerts he programmed for the Aldeburgh Festivals. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and its Principal Conductor Edward Gardner pair his suite from Britten’s Balinese-inspired music for the ballet The Prince of the Pagodas with the striking and exotic sound world of music from Bartók’s ballet The Miraculous Mandarin (8 June, 7pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Ryan Wigglesworth leads the Knussen Chamber Orchestra in two major works of Mozart and two first performances: Judith Weir’s Planet – a Britten Pears Arts commission written especially for this orchestra – and his own solo-piano piece Glasharmonie (11 June, 7pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Britten Sinfonia’s first concert features Holst’s opera Sāvitri. The libretto is based on a Sanskrit story in the Mahabharata and is performed by soloists Kathryn Rudge (Savitri), Anthony Gregory (Satyavān) and Ross Ramgobin (Death) and the Pagrav Dance Company. This concert also features the first modern performance of Imogen Holst’s Suite which was premiered at Wigmore Hall in in 1943 and oboist Nicholas Daniel performs Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto (13 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).  Britten Sinfonia’s second concert recreates the first ever Aldeburgh Festival concert which took place on 5 June 1948. The Chaconny in G minor by Purcell, one of Britten’s major musical influences, and Handel’s Organ Concerto in D minor were paired with two new works: God’s Grandeur by Martin Shaw and Britten’s recently completed cantata Saint Nicolas. For this concert the Shaw is replaced by the world premiere of Robin Haigh’s LUCK with trumpeter Matilda Lloyd (15 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra gives two concerts at the Festival with its Chief Conductor Ryan Wigglesworth. The first features two works that sprang from the seeds of melodies: Judith Weir’s Forestand Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with soprano Elizabeth Watts. Featured musician Daniel Pioro plays Britten’s Violin Concerto (19 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall). In the second concert, Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concerto pushes Alban Gerhardt to the limits of the possible and is paired with Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony (20 June, 7.30pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Conductor Roderick Cox makes his Festival debut with the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra performing Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony alongside the UK premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Alaraph, which is inspired by the traditional music of Korea and by ‘heartbeat stars’ (22 June, 4pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • The Hallé and its Principal Conductor Sir Mark Elder close the 75th Aldeburgh Festival with a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and Steuart Bedford’s suite from Britten’s Death in Venice. Bedford conducted the opera’s premiere at the 1973 Aldeburgh Festival (23 June, 7pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).

Ensembles

  • In its 20th anniversary year, Vox Luminis and Artistic Director Lionel Meunier give the first UK performance of its concert production of Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen, described in Paris as ‘a must-see event in the world of Baroque music’ thanks to ‘Emilie Lauwers’ bold concept and staging, Mário Melo Costa‘s stunning visuals, David Carney’s hypnotic lighting, and Isaline Claeys & Simon Robson’s dramaturgy’ – sortiraparis.com (9 June, 6pm, Snape Maltings Concert Hall).
  • Ensemble Diderot gives two concerts at the Festival: the first is an exploration of Purcell and the musical influences he drew from Italy (10 June, 11am, Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall); the second concert draws on its acclaimed