Thursday 2 August 2012

Full of goodies - Presteigne Festival

Presteigne Festival
Presteigne (Llanandras in Welsh) is a small town on the Welsh borders in Radnorshire; a perhaps slightly unlikely venue for a lively and interesting music and arts festival which has a highly welcome strand of contemporary music to it. The festival has been directed since 1993 by George Vass. This year it runs from 23 to 28 August and is full of goodies.

Sally Beamish is this year's resident composer (a role she is also playing at the Lincolnshire Chamber Music festival) and there is a solid strand of her music running through the concerts; a lot of it (I counted seven pieces in seven concerts), not just a token amount. What impresses about the festival programmes is how full integrated the contemporary and other strands are, so that all the concerts have something which catches the eye - you really could spend from dawn to dusk going to enjoyable events.

There is also a goodly selection of music by Michael Berkeley, including the premiere of his Oboe Quintet (on 26 August, another festival commission). Plus music by John McCabe, Cecilia McDowall (including the premiere of the festival commission Rousseau’s Execution), Graham Fitkin, David Matthews and Peter Sculthorpe.

The festival opens with Vass conducting the Presteigne Festival Orchestra in Peter Sculthorpe’s Saxophone Concerto (the world premiere of a festival commission) with Amy Dickson on saxophone. The concert also includes Sally Beamish’s Under the Wing of the Rock, Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge and William Alwyn’s Concerto Grosso No 2 in G. And there is more William Alwyn later in the festival.

Beamish and Dickson reappear at the festival’s closing concert on 26 August when Vass again conducts the Presteigne Festival Orchestra. Beamish will be narrating her No, I’m not afraid, alongside Paul Patterson’s Allusions for two violins and string orchestra and Tippett’s Concerto for double string orchestra.

Another relatively neglected composer, John Joubert, gets his viola sonata performed (26 August) and his anthem, Lord, in the Strength of Grace performed at the Festival Eucharist on 26 August, when the setting will be Lennox Berkeley’s Missa Brevis. And there is also some of Alan Rawsthorne’s music in the festival. Another thread running through the festival is the music of Paul Hindemith.

There are a series of discussions Artists in Conversation involving composers John McCabe, Sally Beamish, Cecilia McDowall, David Matthews, Paul Patterson and Michael Berkeley, your chance to hear the composers talk as well as listen to their music.

The Carducci Quartet performs at three events, and oboist Nicholas Daniel makes a number of appearances. There are over 30 events in all, packed into just six days. An amazing feast. More information from the festival website. 

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