The Whitehall Road Sessions

Thursday 6 May 2021 | Of a Spring Evening: Boulanger, Zawadzki and Farrenc

In the third of Opera North's Whitehall Road livestreamed sessions, instrumentalists from the Orchestra of Opera North revisit revelatory works by neglected female composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, complemented by two pieces written and performed by the Anglo-Polish multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Alice Zawadzki.

Although it was the last work that Lili Boulanger composed in her short, troubled life, D’un matin de printemps (Of a Spring Morning) lights up with sun-dappled, spritely joy, showing very little of the sadness that coloured her other works. The influence of Debussy (see our Session of 22 April) can be heard in the arrangement of this short tone poem, but the magic in its dizzying adventure is all Boulanger’s own.

London-based singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Alice Zawadzki’s background takes in classical violin, gospel, jazz and folk. The richness of those influences illuminates her composition for Opera North’s Walking Home series of sound walks for last year’s lockdown, My Boy of the Birds.

Despite counting Berlioz and Robert Schumann among her champions, the work of the composer, virtuoso pianist and educator Louise Farrenc fell into obscurity due to prevailing attitudes towards women in the 19th century. “Rediscovered” during the late-20th century, Farrenc’s Second Piano Quintet is a marvel of harmony and counterpoint, revealing the full range of possibilities for the instrument in its exhilarating, rippling arpeggios and richly coloured chamber settings.

From the Orchestra of Opera North

Violin: Cristina Ocaña Rosado

Viola: Clare Gardiner

Cello: Jessica Burroughs

Bass: Genna Spinks

Piano: Annette Saunders

Special Guest: Alice Zawadzki

Presenter: Kate Simms

Director: Richard Critchlow

Produced by Opera North and Dependable Productions


Boulanger – Trio ‘D’un matin de printemps

Zawadzki – My Boy of the Birds and improvisation (voice and violin)

Farrenc – Piano Quintet No. 2