Friday 17 June 2022

Evensong: St Magnus Festival 2022

The 2022 Saint Magnus Festival opens today. This midsummer event has brought  classical music and related nonsense to the isles for 45 years.  It was the vision of the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, who had moved to Sanday, one of the islands that make up the Orkney archipelago. In 2005 the police raided his home and removed parts of a whooper swan, a protected species, which Max had been planning to eat. A couple of years later he kicked up a fuss when the Registrar refused to go out to Sanday to conduct a civil ceremony on the Sanday Light Railway to marry Max and his partner, Colin Parkinson, a builder. Max and Colin broke up in 2012 amidst allegations of drunkenness and cruelty. Max died in 2016 aged 81. Despite all this local controversy, Max was very popular amongst the musical set and the annual Festival is a fine legacy to bequeath to Orkney.
Apart from the Covid Lockdown years, fashionable and woke musicians, their audiences and generic festival-goers have trekked to Orkney each late June, when the sun sets but it doesn't get quite entirely dark. Plays havoc with your circadian rhythms. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Tenebrae are here this year, which is a bit of a treat. 
The programme of the  RSNO on Saturday includes Sibelius' Rakastava. Here's Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Halle Orchestra, and a montage of images to illustrate the lovers.
Rakastava (The Lover), Op. 14, is a suite by Jean Sibelius. He completed it in 1912, scored for string orchestra, percussion and triangle. He based it on his earlier composition of the same title, a song cycle of four movements for men's chorus a cappella completed in 1894. The works are based on a Finnish text in Book 1 of the Kanteletar. Sibelius used the cycle as the basis for his orchestral suite Rakastava, completing it in 1912 and often conducted the suite together with his symphonies because, he said, the piece "captivated audiences".

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