The top classical, world, folk and jazz of summer 2017

Comedy choirs, desert rock, a trip to the moon and a musical tour of Hull are the standout sounds of the season. Plus Django Bates jazzes up Sgt Pepper


Songhoy Blues

The young, exuberant Malian four-piece guitar band return with songs from their second album, Résistance, which mixes desert blues and Songhai influences with rock, funk and reggae. They formed in Bamako after fleeing from the north when militant Islamists overran the region, came to the attention of the Africa Express team, and have developed a crossover style aimed at rock and world music fans.
• At Park stage, Glastonbury, 24 June; Somerset House, London, 16 July, and festivals until 22 September.


Greek influence … Ahetas Jimi of Xáos.
Greek influence … Ahetas Jimi of Xáos. Photograph: Darren Filkins

Long-awaited live debut from a band who released one of the most original albums of 2015. Nick Page – AKA Dubulah – has been a key figure in the British world/fusion scene, working with Transglobal Underground, Temple of Sound, Dub Colossus and Syriana. With Xáos he explores Greek influences (his mum is Greek) along with electronic composer Ahetas Jimi and traditional musicians including the Cretan bagpipe player Kalia Lyraki.
At Womad, Charlton Park, Wiltshire, 28 July. Box office: 01926 776438.

Spooky Men’s Chorale

The 15-piece Australian male choir celebrated for their unique blend of thoughtful comedy and exquisite harmony vocals return for a lengthy, 30-date summer tour of concert halls and festivals. Their leader, Stephen Taberner, says they are “trying to master the impossible art of being both musically immaculate and blitheringly stupid”, and they do so while covering anything from Georgian polyphonic singing to Abba or a Tennyson meditation on death.
At Sheldonian theatre, Oxford, 7 July; 01865 305305. Then touring UK until 31 August.

Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling

Heading for Ronnie’s … jazz singer Kurt Elling.
Heading for Ronnie’s … jazz singer Kurt Elling. Photograph: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

He might not be as famous as his trumpeter sibling Wynton, but saxophonist Branford Marsalis is a comparably tradition-respecting virtuoso, with his own edgier improv appetite, and openness to bold partnerships. His collaboration with vocal star Kurt Elling on a repertoire spanning Gershwin, Sting and Jobim, was a 2016 jazz highlight – revisited in two UK shows this summer, with fiery postbop pianist Joey Calderazzo driving Marsalis’s fine quartet.
• At Wigan Jazz Festival, 7 July, 01942 828508, and Barbican, London, 16 July; 020-7638 8891.

Django Bates and Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Saluting Sgt Pepper

The judges of Denmark’s coveted Jazzpar prize once complimented maverick composer-pianist Django Bates’s music as “grotesk og folsom” – grotesque and fulsome. That mix of wackiness, fearlessness and richly sophisticated musicality makes him the perfect candidate for a 50th anniversary jazz reimagining of the Beatles’ visionary Sgt Pepper album. Frankfurt’s famous Radio Big Band commissioned this adventure, and play to Bates’s wayward baton for this week-long, 12-show run.
• At Ronnie Scott’s, London, 4-9 September; 020-7439 0747.


Anne Sophie Duprels, who sings the title role in Opera Holland Park’s Zazà.
Anne Sophie Duprels sings Zazà. Photograph: Christophe Lebedinsky

Leoncavallo’s bittersweet 1900 opera about a music hall singer’s affair with a married man has been heard and admired in concert and on disc of late, though it’s Opera Holland Park, pioneers in the reappraisal of the Italian post-Romantic repertory, who have decided to give the work its long-awaited first staging in decades, in a new production by Marie Lambert conducted by Peter Robinson. Anne Sophie Duprels plays Zazà, with Joel Montero as her evasive lover Milio, and Richard Burkhard as Cascart, her long-suffering ex.
• At Opera Holland Park, London, 18-29 July; 0300 999 1000.

I Fagiolini’s Monteverdi

Festival bound … Robert Hollingsworth’s I Fagiolini.
Festival bound … Robert Hollingsworth’s I Fagiolini. Photograph: Riccardo Cavallari

Robert Hollingsworth’s I Fagiolini are marking the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth with an extensive UK tour of his work. Catch them in L’Orfeo at the Cheltenham festival on 9 July (01242 850270), or a programme of madrigals at Cadogan Hall, London, on 17 July (020-7730 4500). The Other Vespers, Hollingsworth’s innovative reconstruction of a 1620 service at St Mark’s in Venice, using material from Monteverdi’s 1641 collection of sacred music, Selva Morale e Spirituale, can be heard at Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, as part of the international festival on 19 August (0131-473 2000).


“The tragedy of an entire nation,” is how Semyon Bychkov describes Mussorgsky’s immense historical opera, left incomplete at his death in 1881, though its analysis of both political ineptitude and the relationship between religious oppression and fanaticism far transcends national boundaries. Using Shostakovich’s 1958 edition, Bychkov conducts the complete work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms. The cast includes Elena Maximova as Marfa, Vsevolod Grivnov as Golitsin and Ain Anger as Dosifey.
• At Royal Albert Hall, London, 6 August; 0845 401 5040.

Reformation Day

The Proms mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation with a day of concerts on 20 August that thoughtfully examine its impact on musical history. Donald Butt’s Dunedin Consort perform Bach’s St John Passion in the evening. In the afternoon, organists William Whitehead and Robert Quinney juxtapose newly commissioned chorale preludes with works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Wesley, and the BBC Singers and City of London Sinfonia survey the development of passion music from Schütz to MacMillan.
• All three concerts at Royal Albert Hall, London, 20 August; 0845 401 5040.

Filarmonica della Scala/Riccardo Chailly

Riccardo Chailly
Flying visits … Riccardo Chailly Photograph: Record Company Handout

Riccardo Chailly, music director of La Scala, Milan, brings its orchestra on flying visits to this year’s Proms and Edinburgh festival. Respighi’s glorious Pines and Fountains of Rome are preceded by Brahms at the Albert Hall on 25 August, and by Verdi two days later, in the second of the Edinburgh concerts. The first features music by Bartók and Enescu, together with Shostakovich’s 12th Symphony “The Year 1917”, given a rare outing to mark the centenary of the Russian revolution.
• At Royal Albert Hall, London (Respighi/Brahms), 25 August; 0845 401 5040. Then at Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 26 August (Bartók, etc) and 27 August (Verdi).

New Music Biennial

Eliza Carthy, Errollyn Wallen, Brian Irvine will perform in the New Music Biennial.
Bound for Hull … Eliza Carthy, Errollyn Wallen, Brian Irvine will perform in the New Music Biennial. Photograph: Thomas Arran

Hull’s year as city of culture reaches its halfway point and it celebrates with 20 contemporary works spanning the worlds of folk, classical, electronica, jazz and campanology. Thirteen of the pieces are new commissions, none are longer than 15 minutes, and they’re all performed over a single weekend in venues across the city. Many draw on Hull’s rich past and vibrant present for inspiration, others have been developed with and feature local groups and performers. In a smart piece of programming, each piece will be performed twice, with a short Q&A session with the composer between the performances. Composers include Sam Lee, Gavin Bryars, GoGo Penguin and Mica Levi. The following weekend the whole shebang goes to London.
• At various venues, Hull 30 June - 2 July; free. Then at Southbank Centre, London, 7-9 July; 020-3879 9555.

The Dream of Gerontius

Patricia Bardon, who sings the Angel in ENO’s The Dream of Gerontius.
Patricia Bardon, who sings the Angel in ENO’s The Dream of Gerontius. Photograph: Frances Marshall

It might be summer, but English National Opera are still open for business, albeit at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The company heads over the river for a rare staged performance of Elgar’s mighty and much-loved choral work. Conducting ENO’s chorus and orchestra is Australian Simone Young; Lucy Carter is responsible for the designs and direction; and the classy soloists are Matthew Rose, Patricia Bardon and Gwyn Hughes Jones.
• At Royal Festival Hall, London, 1 and 2 July; 020-3879 9555.

A Trip to the Moon

Community music-making will be at the heart of Simon Rattle’s work with the London Symphony Orchestra – and this completes a trilogy of new children’s operas that Rattle and the LSO have brought to life, one each year. Following on from 2015’s Monster in the Maze by Jonathan Dove and last year’s Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Hogboon, US composer Andrew Norman – little known in the UK – takes his inspiration from Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon and promises bumbling astronomers, a broken rocket, and a community of Selenites, mysterious moon people who are facing a perilous threat of their own…
• At Barbican, London, 9 July; 020-7638 8891.

Chineke! Orchestra

Chineke! Orchestra.
Stylish music-making … Chineke! Orchestra. Photograph: Belinda Lawley

Europe’s first professional orchestra for black and minority ethnic musicians bring their spirited and stylish music-making and message of inclusivity to a handful of festivals this year. Programmes include world premieres of work by James Wilson (Cheltenham) and – at the Proms – Hannah Kendall’s The Spark Catchers. At London’s Southbank Centre on 16 July there’s also the chance to hear Chineke!’s Junior Orchestra in action.
• At Cheltenham festival, 10 July (01242 850270); Southbank festival, London, 16 July (020-3879 9555); Snape Maltings, 29 August (01728 687110); Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 30 August (0845 401 5040).


he composer Mark Anthony Turnage.
Oedipus in the East End … the composer Mark Anthony Turnage. Photograph: Philip Gatward

Greek was the work that turned the then 25-year-old Mark-Anthony Turnage into the holy terror of British music. Relocating the Oedipus myth to London’s East End, it raged against values of Thatcherite Britain, its in-your-face viscerality cutting a swath through the late-80s opera scene. The Edinburgh festival hosted its UK premiere in 1988; 30 years later it returns in a new co-production between Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures. How will its apocalyptic vision of a divided Britain play out today? Don’t expect director Joe Hill-Gibbins to pull his punches.
• At Edinburgh Festival theatre, 5-6 August. Box office: 0131-473 2000.

• This article was amended on 3 July 2017. An earlier version said Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling at the Barbican was a one-off UK show. The show will also be at the Wigan International Jazz Festival on 7 July.


Tim Ashley, Robin Denselow, John Fordham and Imogen Tilden

The GuardianTramp

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