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Handel, Purcell, and PBO’s inaugural Britten

Prior to meeting John Beard, Handel had a habit of placing tenors in minor roles. After meeting him, Handel dramatically expanded the role of the tenor to honor Beard’s talent. Though separated by centuries, both Purcell and tenor Peter Pears loom large in Benjamin Britten’s music and life. And who better to interpret the works written for these luminaries than James Gilchrist, one of Richard’s favorite tenors, whose facile voice will illuminate the emotional core of this program. These three masterful tenors comprise this intriguing program of Handel, Purcell, and PBO’s debut performance of music by Benjamin Britten.

HANDEL Concerto Grossi, Op. 6
HANDEL Arias for John Beard
PURCELL Chacony in G minor (arr. Britten)
BRITTEN Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31

Richard Egarr, conductor
James Gilchrist, tenor
Todd Williams, horn
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra


Wednesday, February 3 @ 7:30 pm | first United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Friday, February 5 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Saturday, February 6 @ 8 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, February 7 @ 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Join us for the Pre-Concert Talk forty-five minutes prior to the concert start time.


James Gilchrist began his working life as a doctor, turning to a full-time career in music in 1996. His musical interest was fired at a young age, singing first as a chorister in the choir of New College, Oxford, and later as a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge.

James’ extensive concert repertoire has seen him perform in major concert halls throughout the world with conductors including Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Roger Norrington, Bernard Labadie, Harry Christophers, Harry Bicket and the late Richard Hickox. Recent highlights have included Britten’s Church Parables with performances in St Petersburg, London and at the Aldeburgh Festival, Handel’s L’Allegro il Penseroso ed il Moderato with the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Teatro Real, Madrid, Solomon with Les Violons du Roy, Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri and Die Schöpfung at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Britten’s Nocturne with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and War Requiem with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. In J.S. Bach’s great Passions of St John and St Matthew, James works consistently at the highest level and is recognised as the finest Evangelist of his generation; as one recent BBC Proms reviewer noted, ‘he hasn’t become a one-man Evangelist industry by chance.’

A prolific and versatile recitalist, James enjoys imaginative and varied programming in collaborations with pianists Anna Tilbrook and Julius Drake, and harpist Alison Nicholls. Recent appearances include a Schubertiade weekend at St John Smith Square and Schwanengesang coupled with Beethoven An die Ferne Geliebte at the Wigmore Hall. James recently returned to the Wigmore Hall to begin his project with Anna Tilbrook, Schumann and the English Romantics, pairing Schumann song cycles with new commissions from leading composers, Sally Beamish, Julian Philips and Jonathan Dove, setting English poetry of the Romantic period.

James’ impressive discography includes the title role in Albert Herring and Vaughan Williams’ A Poisoned Kiss for Chandos, St John Passion with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Finzi song cycle Oh Fair To See, Elizabethan Lute Songs When Laura Smiles with Matthew Wadsworth, Leighton Earth Sweet Earth, Vaughan Williams On Wenlock Edge, Finzi songs and Britten’s Winter Words for Linn Records and the critically-acclaimed recordings of Schubert’s song cycles for Orchid Classics. James and Anna Tilbrook have recently released a new disc of Schumann song cycles for Linn Records.

Recent engagements include performances with The King’s Consort at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest; concert performances of Semele with Concerto Köln, and Hercules with the English Concert; Handel’s Messiah with Boston Handel and Haydn Society; Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and with the Academy of Ancient Music; a recital with Julius Drake at the Concertgebouw and Haydn’s Creation with Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia and in a new staged production for Garsington Opera and Ballet Rambert, as well as appearing as the Evangelist in St Matthew Passion across Europe with the Monteverdi Choir.

This season, highlights include Handel L’Allegro with Stuttgart Bachakademie; Haydn Creation at Sadler’s Wells (Garsington Opera / Ballet Rambert) and in Denmark (Aarhus Symphony Orchestra); Christmas Oratorio across Europe with Windsbacher Knabenchor; and appearances at the Lammermuir, Roman River, Hatfield House and Oxford Lieder festivals. James will also curate a concert series of Bach and Purcell for the Academy of Ancient Music, and appears in the role of Reverend Horace Adams in Britten’s Peter Grimes for Bergen National Opera and the Edinburgh International Festival.


Hailed by Gramophone for his “impressive horn playing,” Todd Williams is an active performer and educator based in Philadelphia. A leading exponent of the natural horn in America, he currently serves as principal horn of numerous ensembles across the country including the Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, Trinity Wall Street, Clarion Society, Apollo’s Fire, Mercury, Opera Lafayette, Tempesta di Mare, and more.

Recent appearances as guest principal horn this season include Tafelmusik (Toronto) and American Bach Soloists (San Francisco). Past appearances as soloist include the Bach Societies of Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas, Madison, and San Diego.

On the topic of the natural horn, he’s conducted lectures at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Eastman School of Music, Oberlin College, Case-Western University, the University of Wisconsin (Madison), the University of Texas (Austin), and has served as adjunct faculty at Temple University.

On the modern valved horn, he is a staple of the Philadelphia music scene performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Opera Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Philly Pops, and the Academy of Vocal Arts. From 2003-2014, he served as solo horn of the opera festival Lyrique-en-Mer, France.

He’s recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, RCA/Sony Records, Atlantic Records, CORO, Naxos, Musica Omnia, Chaconne/Chandos, and Warner Brothers. Todd is a graduate of Indiana University.

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