Sunday, 10 May 2009

Aldeburgh Music Campus

Snape Maltings, home of the Aldeburgh Festival that was founded by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears many moons ago, opened its doors this weekend for a housewarming to celebrate the completion of its new music campus. Like the much older Snape Maltings Concert Hall, the new spaces have been converted from existing buildings on site which had long fallen out of use. Funded with generous support from the Arts Council and private donors, the centrepiece of the campus is a brand new concert hall, Studio 1. Seating 340 its main purpose is as a rehearsal space for the Britten-Pears School - a year round scheme that nurtures the musical talents of young and old professionals. I myself was lucky enough to play with the orchestra way back at the tail end of my trumpet playing 'career'.

It's an attractive venue that has preserved many of the building's rougher edges - if you've been to Wilton's Musical Hall, you'll know what I mean. Interestingly, when the architects Howarth Tompkins first took on the project they discovered Britten had drawn up very similar plans for the site himself. I'm sure then he'd be delighted with the outcome albeit four decades on. My one quibble is that the extensive use of large planes of wood chip all over the place gives the venue a temporary rather than contemporary look if you get my meaning. And although I was immensely impressed with Rebecca Blankenship's performance in Schoenberg's Erwartung, the acoustic didn't strike me as being particularly helpful to her or the excellent Apollo Orchestra. However, I was fiercely overruled by my colleagues on this vexed issue.

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