News
 
"Songs of Triumphant Love is an enthralling novel: I couldn't stop reading. I got deeper and deeper into the very real world Jessica Duchen has created and just had to find out how it would unravel. Jessica writes with an unpredictable and original voice and a dazzling perceptiveness, and I was hooked from the first page. A sensational achievement."
JOANNA LUMLEY

 

Adrianna Forbes-Dorant, who’s going to be
Dalia herself, as Flora in Garsington’s
" The Turn of the Screw" last year





Barsington Opera

Booking Link here
(please click logo)

DALIA: a new People’s Opera for Garsington, July 22

Music: Roxanna Panufnik
Libretto: Jessica Duchen
Direction: Karen Gillingham
Dramaturg: Manas Ghanem
Consultant: Gulwali Passerlay


Booking is now open for Dalia at Garsington Opera!

There are three performances: 28 July and 30 July (7.30pm)
and 31 July (3pm).

Dalia, a new opera by composer Roxanna Panufnik, librettist Jessica Duchen and director Karen Gillingham, has been commissioned by Garsington Opera to engage local participants of all ages from diverse backgrounds, with professional and emerging artists for new audiences in a creative community opera. A new "People's Opera", like the same team’s highly successful Silver Birch (Garsington, 2017), Dalia is performed by 180 amateur and professional participants.

The opera is an original story, developed in close consultation with refugee organisations, sports charities and practitioners, and advisers from Syria and Afghanistan. The central character, Dalia – a young girl of 12, arrives in Britain as a refugee from Syria having lost her family in traumatic circumstances. Fostered by a local family, she discovers a passion for cricket. She follows her dream but must contend, however, with racism from the community, battle her demons and make an impossible decision.

Nadine Benjamin and Jonathan Lemalu sing the roles of Maya and Harry, Dalia’s foster parents. Tenor Ed Lyon is Fred, the cricket coach, and counter-tenor Andrew Watts is the town busybody, Roger. The Egyptian soprano Merit Ariane, a specialist in Arabic singing, is Dalia’s mother, Aisha. Dalia herself is sung by Adrianna Forbes-Dorant, who played Flora in Garsington’s magnificent production of The Turn of the Screw last year. As well as Garsington’s sizeable adult community chorus and both the Garsington youth companies, two remarkable youth choirs in the Middle East - the Al-Farah Choir from Damascus and the Amwaj Choir from Hebron - participate remotely via video. The Philharmonia Orchestra is conducted by Garsington’s music director, Dougie Boyd. 

And there is cricket on stage.

Please join us to celebrate the premiere of a work into which we have poured our hearts and souls.


“A special resonance”: THE SELFISH GIANT. Plus more opera plans
   


The Selfish Giant, the new youth opera by John Barber for which I’ve written the libretto, has triumphed at Garsington this summer. The performance took place against all the odds, directed by Karen Gillingham and starring Matthew Stiff as The Giant, Barbara Cole Watson as The Linnet and Barnaby Scholes (11) as The Child, with a chorus of 75 youngsters from Garsington Youth Opera, an ensemble from the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Jack Ridley.

The review in The Stage said that the work has “a special resonance” for our circumstances, and The Times wrote that it is “an opera to last”. We can’t wait for its next incarnation, due in summer 2022 in Leeds with its co-commissioner, Opera North.

   


Roxanna Panufnik

Now I’m hard at work with Roxanna Panufnik for a new opera on the scale of Silver Birch, commissioned again by Garsington and scheduled for summer 2022.

Dalia is the story of a young refugee girl finding her feet in a little English town where the local obsession is cricket…





Books on the Boil
   
The London Chamber Orchestra has commissioned me to write its 101-year history for a special book to be published in 2022. It’s a roller-coaster story that encompasses the roaring twenties, World War II, the struggles of mid-century symphonists, a boom-time genre-bending revival, right royal celebrations galore (they played for William and Kate’s wedding, among other things), two pandemics and two quite remarkable conductors, Anthony Bernard and Christopher Warren-Green. I’m writing an occasional progress blog at the orchestra’s website:

https://www.lco.co.uk/about/history/
   




Dame Myra Hess

For many years I’ve been fascinated by the playing of Dame Myra Hess, who to my ears is the greatest pianist ever to be born in Britain. I now have the chance to write her biography. The book has been signed by the specialist music press Kahn & Averill and I am starting work on it in earnest in autumn 2021. Thrilled and honoured by this opportunity!





Jessica’s new novel Immortal brings to life a mystery that has intrigued music lovers for nearly 200 years.
 
   
 
   
After Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, his secretary discovered in his apartment a love letter – returned or unsent – to an individual addressed only as ‘Immortal Beloved’. The mysterious woman’s identity has never been definitively established.

The ageing Countess Therese Brunsvik von Korompa, a pioneer of Kindergarten education, tells a young writer that she herself was Beethoven’s lost love. But Therese is protecting somebody, concealing a tragic secret. She begins to write a letter to the one person who deserves to know the whole truth, at least as Therese remembers it.

Becoming Beethoven’s pupils in 1799, Therese and her sister Josephine grew close to the composer, following his struggles in the ensuing years against the onset of deafness, Viennese society’s flamboyance, privilege and hypocrisy, and the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars. Yet while Therese sought liberation, Josephine found the odds stacked against even the most unquenchable of passions.
 

Immortal unfurls in Vienna and Hungary in a turbulent era when the world order of 1000 years was overturned and ideals of equality and liberty were rising against entrenched aristocratic privilege. It casts perspective on the destructive class divisions placed on relationships and the invidious position of women seeking to break free from these strictures - whether in personal or professional and intellectual life. It also offers, in the most readable way, fresh light on some of Beethoven’s music.

The novel is inspired by the latest detailed research and coincides with the Beethoven 250th Anniversary Year in 2020.

Immortal will be published by Unbound on 29 October 2020.
 
   

IMMORTAL is a revelation, offering the ideal blend of historic exactitude and a book you simply won’t want to put down." -- Daniel Hope, violinist and president of the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn

“The perfect companion for this landmark Beethoven anniversary year. Jessica’s writing is, as always, deeply knowledgable, emanating from a profound understanding of her material. This new book brings the human, vulnerable side of Beethoven into focus for our 21st Century audience.” -- Marin Alsop, conductor

From its first, dazzlingly-rendered pages IMMORTAL pulls you into a vanished world and an utterly compelling love story – at its centre, one of music’s greatest and most enduring mysteries. Few authors understand better than Jessica Duchen the way music can change the course of a life; and few writers make that music leap more vividly off the page. If you’ve ever wondered what Ludwig van Beethoven was like as a man, here he is, painted as if from life: inspiring, infuriating, and intensely, unapologetically real. Because for all her understanding of art and character, and her brilliantly-described evocations of early 19th century Vienna in all its splendour and squalor, Duchen never forgets that at the core of all great music – and all great stories – beats a human heart.
-- Richard Bratby, music critic

 
   
More information can be found at: https://unbound.com/books/immortal/

Copies can be pre-ordered from Unbound at the link above, or from online bookshops including:

Blackwells | Foyles | Amazon | Amazon e-book |
 
   
Book Launch is on YouTube now
 
   
 
 
   
   

 
2022
 

 
   
FORTHCOMING EVENTS, 2022

How exciting it used to be to look ahead. How nerve-wracking it is now: who knows what we can plan safely any more? My work in progress includes a number of enjoyable projects: not least, I’m writing the biography of the London Chamber Orchestra for its 101st anniversary, which is a lot more fun than the orchestra probably anticipated when they commissioned it. Please watch for release date, hopefully in autumn 2022. Meanwhile, here are dates in the diary for 2022 up to summer, many of which have been rescheduled after initial postponement from 2020. Let’s hope some or preferably all of them can go ahead! JD


 

 
   
2 March 2022, School of Divinity, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland

TWO EVENTS
13:00, Roxanna Panufnik: Songs of Love and Friendship, libretto by Jessica Duchen


18:30 ‘Piercing the Clouds’ -
Jessica interviews Roxanna Panufnik about the interaction of faith and composing
 
 

 
29 May 2022, 7.30pm, Philharmonie, Berlin

‘Ever Us’
new choral work by Roxanna Panufnik

For the Berlin Rundfundchor and guest choirs, libretto by Jessica Duchen, created for and postponed from Beethoven 250.

Visit website (incl. Booking Information)

 

 

15 June 2022, 7.30pm, Sedbergh Festival, Lake District

‘Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved’


Words&music concert drama based on Immortal, with Jessica Duchen (narrator) and Viv McLean (piano).

Booking link supplied, when available.

 

 
2 July 2022, Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, Oxford

‘Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved’


Words&music concert drama based on Immortal, with Jessica Duchen (narrator) Benjamin Appl (baritone), Manon Fischer-Dieskau (piano) and a quartet of musicians from the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra.

Booking link supplied, when available.

JDP Building

OPO
 

 

8 July 2022, 6.30pm, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester


Pre-concert talk about the Korngold Violin Concerto
for Chetham’s orchestral concert.

Booking link when available.

 

 
28, 30, 31 July 2022, Garsington Opera

‘Dalia’
(world premiere)

A new community&professionals opera by Roxanna Panufnik and Jessica Duchen, directed by Karen Gillingham. Cast includes Nadine Benjamin (Maya), Jonathan Lemalu (Harry), Ed Lyon (Fred), Merit Ariane (Aisha), Andrew Watts (Roger), with Garsington Youth Companies and Community Chorus. Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Dougie Boyd.

Garsington Opera
 

 

Summer 2022, Opera North – date TBC


‘The Selfish Giant’, youth opera by John Barber and Jessica Duchen – co-commission with Garsington Youth Companies.

Booking link when available.

 

 
... more to come
 
   
   
 
   

 
Recent Events
 

 
2022
 

 
   

19 February 2022, 8.15pm, TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, Holland

Roxanna Panufnik: Songs of Love and Friendship, libretto by Jessica Duchen
based on two poems of Belle van Zuylen. Performed by Grootomroepkoor Netherlands.


In this special concert, the Netherlands Radio Choir and chief conductor Benjamin Goodson provide a lot of adventure and variety. They perform a great 'song of praise to the sun', while it is still winter outside. The variety comes from six composers from no fewer than five countries.

Visit website (incl. Booking Information)

 
   

 
   

17 February 2022, 7pm, Knowledge Centre, The British Library

‘Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved’


Words&music concert drama based on Immortal, with Jessica Duchen (narrator) and Viv McLean (piano). Part of the British Library’s Beethoven Exhibition.


BOOKING LINK BELOW

   
BL
Book Now British Library
 
   

 
2021
 

 

15 August 2021, Time: TBC
Fidelio Orchestra Cafe, 91-95 Clerkenwell Rd, Holborn, London EC1R 5BX
'Up Close and Musical' Festival
A reading from IMMORTAL plus Q&A with Jessica Duchen.
Info & booking here:

Fidelio Cafe

Meet Jessica, author of Odette and former music correspondent for the Independent. Jessica will read from her new novel Immortal released in October 2020 and share her personal experiences as one of the most prolific music writers of her generation in a candid Q&A led by Artistic Director Shiry Rashkovsky.

https://www.upcloseandmusical.co.uk/jessica-duchen



 

 

29 July 2021, Two performances in the afternoon, TBC
Wormsley Estate, Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire HP14 3YG
Garsington Opera Company

Garsington Opera

The Selfish Giant

No trespassing! The tale of one giant, his garden and an equal share of paradise.
In 2021 our Youth Company takes to the stage once more, with a world premiere of The Selfish Giant, a new co-commission with Opera North by John Barber & Jessica Duchen based on Oscar Wilde’s short story.

Directed by Karen Gillingham, this new production will feature young professional singers performing alongside 90 members of our Youth Company aged 9-25.

Booking details will be announced later this year.

Garsington Opera website information here:

 

 

29 July 2021, 17:00 (POSTPONED DUE TO COVID)
Australian Chamber Music Festival, Townsville Civic Theatre


Immortal Beloved
Jessica Duchen Author
with Cheryl Barker (Concert host), David Greco (Baritone), Timothy Young (Piano), Flinders Quartet

After the triumph of Being Mrs Bach 3 years ago, Jessica Duchen has recently turned her attention to Beethoven. This chamber version has been specially created for AFCM and promises to be equally special. We can look forward to music and words illuminating the very essence of this romantic story.

Further info:
AFCM website

 

 

11 July 2021, 19:00
Venue to be advised
Deal Music Festival,

Deal Music Festival

Being Mrs Bach
Jessica Duchen Author/Narrator
Steven Devine Harpsichord

Married to J.S. Bach at the age of 20, Anna Magdalena Wilcke was a gifted singer, soon becoming stepmother, mother, copyist,
manager and more. We learn about the ecstasies and tragedies of her hectic life with her husband, alongside his music.

Further info:
Deal Music Festival (to be updated)

 

 

27 June 2021, 19:00
St Mary's, Perivale Lane, Perivale, Middlesex, UB6 8SS
Music at ST MARY'S,

Music at St. Mary's

IMMORTAL
narrated concert, Jessica with Viv McLean (piano). Music by Beethoven

Further info:
Watch Live when it happens:
HERE



 

 

26 May 2021, 18:00 and 20:00,
St Mary's Church, Church Road, Barnes, London SW13
Barnes Music Society,

Barnes Music Society

IMMORTAL
narrated concert based on the novel, with Viv McLean (piano) and Jessica reading.

This event will admit a socially-distanced audience, max 60, from the Barnes Music Society. Music by Beethoven.

Further info here:

Barnes Music Society website



 

 

24 May 2021, 19:00,
Music at 22 Mansfield Street,
Bob Boas Foundation

Bob Boas

IMMORTAL
narrated concert based on the novel, with Viv McLean (piano) and Jessica reading.

This event will admit a socially-distanced audience, max 60, from the Barnes Music Society. Music by Beethoven.

Further info here:
Bob Boas (contact the foundation via email link and reserve/buy tickets)



 

 

21 March 2021, 17:00,
on ZOOM (Virtual Event)
Insiders/Outsiders Festival


‘Mendelssohn, the Nazis and Me’ -
Sheila Hayman, four-times-great-granddaughter of Fanny Mendelssohn, is a filmmaker whose documentary about the effect of the Nazis on her family’s musical history will be shown as part of the Insiders/Outsiders Festival, celebrating the contribution to British culture of immigrant refugees from Europe at the time of the Second World War. Following the film, Jessica will chair a Q&A with Sheila and  Professor Erik Levi from Royal Holloway College, author of several books on music in the Nazi era.

Please book via Eventbrite (£5): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mendelssohn-the-nazis-and-me-tickets-142698869159


 

 

Release date TBC, ON-LINE Event only
Dryburgh Hall, Putney Leisure Centre, Dryburgh Road, Putney, London SW15 1BL
Putney Music

Putney Music


On Stage and on the Page.
Husband and wife Thomas Eisner and Jessica Duchen, respectively a first violinist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 1986, and the author of studies of Fauré and Korngold as well as five novels with musical themes, talk to Putney Music’s vice-president Andrew Neill.

PutneyMusic website


 

 
Hosted by broadcaster and writer Jessica Duchen, the discussion will investigate
how music is used to help heal communities whose lives are lived out in some of the most
traumatic scenarios throughout the world.


IVORS Academy
 
   
   

 
2020
 

 
   

6 February 2020, 18:45, Glasgow City Halls

BBC Scottish SO

Pre-concert talk: Jessica introduces Robert Schumann’s fascinating and poetic Symphony No.2. Concert at 7.30pm with Karl-Heinz Steffens conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Zlata Chochieva (piano), and the Schumann Symphony No. 2 to close.

Link to Glasgow Concert Hall to book tickets

 
   

 
2019
 

 
Immortal by Jessica Duchen
 
   

 

3 April 2019, 18:30, Great Malvern Priory, Church Street, Malvern, WR14 2AY
Schumann Violin Concerto -
pre concert talk about Jelly d'Arányi's rediscovery of the work in the 1930s

ESO

with Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra.
Violin soloist: Zoe Beyers.

Programme:
Mozart – Overture to the Marriage of Figaro
Schumann – Violin Concerto, Zoë Beyers – Violin
David Matthews – Romanza for Violin and Strings
Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 “Italian”

Sponsored by Gerald Green

Booking Link and further information

 

 
13 April 2019, 17:00, Kings Place, London: BEING MRS BACH - UK premiere

Jessica's concert play about Anna Magdalena Bach, first heard in August 2018 in the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, receives its UK premiere with baritone Benjamin Bevan, harpsichordist Steven Devine and cellist Jonathan Manson. Jessica is Anna Magdalena. Part of the Kings Place Bach Weekend with the Feinstein Ensemble, and also part of the series Venus Unwrapped.

Further information and Booking Link
Being Mrs. Bach
 

 

17 April 2019, 19:30, Music at Mansfield Street:
ODETTE: A CELEBRATION OF SWAN LAKE


with Fenella Humphreys (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator).

Repertoire includes music by Chopin, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.

For more information and booking please contact boas22m@btinternet.com

 
 

 
27 April 2019, 19:30 St Mary's, Perivale:
ODETTE: A CELEBRATION OF SWAN LAKE
with Fenella Humphreys (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator).

Repertoire includes music by Chopin, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.

Further information on St. Mary's, Perivale website
 

 

28 April 2019, 15:00, The Harborough Collective:
The Methodist Church, Northampton Road, Market Harborough, LE16 9HE

‘Revelation’ - Messiaen: Quartet for The End of Time


Pre-concert talk about Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.


Further information on this site (scroll to 28 April)

 

 

Saturday 1 June 2019, Oxford Town Hall, 7.30pm
The Ghosts of War

With the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, violinist Alena Baeva and conductor Marios Papadopoulos.
I’m overjoyed to be presenting the story of the Schumann Violin Concerto live in concert with the Oxford Philharmonic, exploring the saga of the work’s rediscovery by Jelly d’Arányi. The full, ingenious programme features the concerto as centrepiece, preceded by the exquisite Elegy In Memoriam Rupert Brooke by Jelly d’Arányi’s close friend FS Kelly, who was killed in World War I, and followed in the second half by the stunning Concerto for Orchestra by Bartók, d’Arányi’s old friend from Hungary who wrote this piece after going into exile in the US during World War II. Poised between two devastating wars, the concerto symbolises both a premonition of tragedy and a beacon of hope.
Info and booking here: https://oxfordphil.com/events/128153638/the-ghosts-of-war-2019-06-01

 

 
Friday, 2 August 2019, Start time: TBC Garsington Opera:
THE HAPPY PRINCESS (youth opera world premiere)

Music: Paul Fincham, libretto: Jessica Duchen (after Oscar Wilde)


Information on Garsington Opera website
Garsington Opera
 

 
   
   
   
more to come ....
 
   

 

Author Jessica Duchen talks about her novel 'Ghost Variations' and the real incident that inspired it: the rediscovery in the 1930s, by the great violinist Jelly d'Arányi, of Schumann's long-suppressed Violin Concerto. Film by Zen Grisdale 

 

 
   

 
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