The well-loved concert venue looks to shake things up with an eclectic and jazz infused series of late night concerts this month
Preview by Coriander Stuttard
Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, a gem in the artistic world has been standing proud since the beginning of the last century. Known as one of the most intimate settings for chamber music concerts, the Wigmore Hall has embraced changing times – new buildings around it, new audiences and changing tastes – without losing any of its charm. Despite a major refurbishment just over ten years ago, the actual hall retains its original features including a spectacular arts and crafts cupola over the stage with a painting which ‘symbolises the striving of humanity after the elusiveness of music in its great abstraction’.
There’s much to discover for the established concert-goer as well as the newcomer. Since its opening in 1901 as a recital hall next to the Bechstein piano showrooms, Wigmore Hall has been one of the key venues for the best musicians of the day to perform at in London. The Wigmore’s song recital series attracts the best talent from around the world with concerts often selling out within moments of booking opening. It nurtures new talent, holding a famous international song competition and its own string quartet competition, as well as providing a new platform for many other competition winners, all keen to have a place on this famous stage. As well as the newcomers, Wigmore Hall also has many loyal performers who return season after season to perform on this well-loved and well-trodden stage.
The Wigmore Hall’s audience is also loyal and many friendships have been sustained through the decades of concerts. But it’s also a place which is very much opening its doors to a new audience and embraces modernity and diversity. It runs workshops within the hall, at the nearby Wallace Collection and other venues in the community close by and puts on an inspiring collection of ‘pre concert talks’ to let you into some of the background to the music preceding a concert. It has its own composer in residence and has also started to release some of its recitals on its own record label, Wigmore Live.
It’s now not just classical music either. Renowned jazz pianist Brad Mehldau was appointed to take charge of a jazz series which, although the audience seats are still rigid, has everything swinging with a completely different vibe. Following on from the success of jazz, this summer sees a series of ‘Wigmore Lates’ offering an eclectic blend of music. Running for three Fridays in July, the sessions begin at 10pm with an hour long concert in the hall and then continue with live jazz accompanying a drink at the bar downstairs.
The concerts are a perfect way to discover Wigmore Hall. If you thought that classical music concerts could be a bit stuffy or full of an ‘in’ crowd, these certainly will not be. The first ‘O/Modernt: Monteverdi in historical counterpoint’ is a true blend of classical and jazz with Scandinavian musicians reinventing Monteverdi, one of the purist choral composers from the sixteenth century. The following week, three fine musicians each step out of their normal classical orchestral and chamber music lives to join forces with an accordionist for a tango-inspired evening. These different styles of the early twentieth century continue at the bar later. The final concert of the series on 24th July explores the essence of mystical medieval worship through songs from the twelfth century through to the present day.
It’s eclectic and it’s different and it’s a reflection of the openness of one of the traditional concert venues of London. The new season (concerts from September) are already on the website and open for booking and there’s huge variety for all musical tastes in those. However, in the meantime, for something a little spicier on a summer Friday evening, try the Wigmore Lates.