Songs to the fortepiano – Early classical masterpieces
Kate Semmens - soprano,
Steven Devine - fortepiano
In 1791, the year that Mozart died, the young Beethoven travelled to Vienna where he began studying composition with Joseph Haydn. His song Adelaide was composed around 1795 and is likely to have been strongly influenced by Haydn’s song O Tuneful Voice. Beethoven was already familiar with Vienna having made an earlier attempt to study with Mozart in 1785.
This concert balances the later lieder of Mozart with early songs of Beethoven, finally leading to Haydn’s masterpiece Arianna a Naxos, first published in Vienna in 1791. Also featured are early piano sonatas by Beethoven and Haydn.
At the heart of the programme is a copy of a Viennese fortepiano built by Mattheas Heilmann in 1785, exactly the kind of instrument that Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn would have known, bringing the listener into an intimate sound world perfect for these chamber masterpieces.
Kate Semmens is a soloist with many leading groups and opera companies, and has sung with some of the UK's finest choirs with conductors including Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Paul McCreesh, John Butt and Eric Whitacre. Her opera performances have included Cupid (Venus and Adonis), Mycene (Isis), Suzanna (Le Nozze de Cherubino), and Mrs P (The Man who mistook his wife for a hat). Kate is a regular performer for New Chamber Opera, with whom performances include Galatea (Acis and Galatea), Second Woman (Dido and Aeneas), Orgando (Amadigi), Atalanta (Xerxes), Semira (Artaxerxes). She was the title role in Mozart's 'Il Re Pastore' and most recently played Asteria in Handel's 'Tamerlano'. She created the role of Euridice in Caldwells' The Story of Orpheus. Of her Ciro, in their production of Stradella's Il Trespolo Tutore, Opera Magazine wrote " the clarity and charm of Kate Semmens' soprano was dissarming".
Kate has been particularly involved in historic performances, singing the title role in the first modern performance of John Stanley's Teraminta for Opera Restor'd and recently completed performances of Cavalli's Erismena, from the original English edition bought by the Bodleian Library in 2009.
Kate particularly enjoys singing with instrumentalists, and has been enjoying recent performances of Bach Cantatas with violinist Margaret Faultless, Jacobean programmes with lutenist Lynda Sayce, and viol programmes with Jacob Heringman and Susanna Pell.
Kate has been particularly enjoying performing recitals of music from the pleasure gardens, and the recent anniversaries of Thomas Arne and William Boyce have given opportunities to explore the wealth of this music even further. Her latest solo CD Delicatessen performed with harpsichordist Steven Devine and recorded at the Sendesaal in Bremen gave opportunity to record some of this repertoire.
Steven Devine enjoys a busy career as a music director and keyboard player working with some of the finest musicians.
Since 2007 Steven has been the harpsichordist with London Baroque in addition to his position as Co-Principal keyboard player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He is also the principal keyboard player for The Gonzaga Band, Apollo and Pan, The Classical Opera Company and performs regularly with many other groups around Europe. He has recorded over thirty discs with other artists and ensembles and made six solo recordings. His recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (Chandos Records) has been received critical acclaim - including Gramophone magazine describing it as "among the best". Volumes 1 and 2 of the complete harpsichord works of Rameau (Resonus) have both received five-star reviews from BBC Music Magazine and Steven's new recording of Bach's Italian Concerto has been voted Classic FM's Connoisseur's choice.
He made his London conducting debut in 2002 at the Royal Albert Hall and is now a regular performer there - including making his Proms directing debut in August 2007 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He has conducted the Mozart Festival Orchestra in every major concert hall in the UK and also across Switzerland. Steven is Music Director for New Chamber Opera in Oxford and with them has performanced repertoire from Cavalli to Rossini. For the Dartington Festival Opera he has conducted Handel's Orlando and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
From 2016 Steven will be Curator of Early Music for the Norwegian Wind Ensemble and will complete his complete Rameau solo recording for Resonus Classics.