Tuesday 26 March 2013

Buzzing with new music - Cheltenham Music Festival 2013

Cheltenham Music Festival 2013
This year's Cheltenham Music Festival runs from 3 to 14 July and as ever it is a-buzz with new music. One of the oldest music festivals in the UK (it was established in 1945), current director Meurig Bowen has been in place since 2007; he talks about the festival's 'robust commitment to a wide range of new music'. This is particularly challenging in the current economic times, but the programme includes 15 premieres including new pieces by David Sawer, Roxanna Panufnik, Colin Matthews, David Matthews, Michael Zev Gordon, Antony Pitts and Gabriel Jackson. The festival is also launching a new Composer Academy, as well as marking the anniversaries of Britten and Poulenc. The festival uses a wonderful range of locations, many of them very historic, and it is lovely to see the way different artists thread their way through the programme in a variety of guises.

David Sawer's The Lighthouse Keepers will premiere in a double bill with Moron Feldman/Samuel Beckett's Words and Music in a programme described as A Radio Play Double Bill, performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conductor Martyn Brabbins. (4 July)

The Schubert Ensemble will be playing two big piano quartets by Schumann and Faure, alongside music by the Matthews brothers; the premiere of Colin Matthews' Nowhere to hide and David Matthews' 2013 work Piano work (4 July). David Matthew's Double Concert for Violin, Viola and Strings will be premiered by Anthony Marwood and Lawrence Power with the Welsh Sinfonia conducted by Mark Eager. Marwood and Power also play the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante. Also in the programme is the English premiere of Roxanna Panufnik's Orchestrapaedia inspired by Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra with illustrations by Panufnik's brother Jem. (7 July).

The Signum Quartet premiere a new work by Hungarian composer Marton Illes in a mixed programme which include Mozart's Clarinet Quintet with Mark Simpson and songs by Duparc and Respighi with Clara Mouriz. (11 July).

The Clerks, under their director Edward Wickham, in a programme called Cocktail Party Polyphony, perform  motets from Medieval France and England, plus the premiere of a new piece by Christopher Fox, Tales from Babel. The event will also provide insights into the neuroscience of listening and give the audience a chance to participate in some specially designed auditory tests. I'm intrigued already. (July 7). 

Still in things choral, the Tallis Scholars perform at Tewkesbury Abbey as part of their 40th anniversary tour with music by Palestrina, Tallis, Allegri, Arvo Part and Eric Whitacre. (10 July). Felicity Lott joins the Royal Hollloway Choir, conductor Rupert Gough, in a programme which mixes Britten and Poulenc with Michael Berkeley, Anthony Pitts, Peteris Plakidis and Gabriel Jackson. The choir of Trinity College Cambridge, conductor Stephen Layton, give a mixed recital of music by Arvo Part, John Tavener, Poulenc, Esenvalds, Britten, Howells, Tallis, Parsons, Bach and Peter Bannister (14 July)

Poulenc's anniversary will be celebrated with a performance of his one-act opera La Voix Humaine, performed by Sarah Gabriel with Christopher Glynn at the piano, in a translation of Cocteau's text by Simon Butteriss, directed by Edward Dick. (5 July). And Poulenc's Gloria and Organ Concerto are performed by City of London Sinfonia with the Choirs of Trinity College, Cambridge and Royal Holloway, plus the Holst Singers and St Cecilia Singers, conducted by Stephen Layton with David Briggs on the organ (July 13) in Gloucester Cathedral.

Britten's works thread there way through the whole programme (from the opening performances of Noyes Fludde to the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings in the Festival Finale). Dutch mezzo-soprano Christiane Stotijn will be accompanied by Imogen Cooper in a programme of Schubert and Britten songs including A Charm of Lullabies and the premiere of a mezzo-soprano version of Winter Words which comes from a manuscript given to Janet Baker by the composer. (July 6). Callum Smart is the violin soloist in Britten's Violin Concerto with Chetham's Symphony Orchestra, in a programme which also includes Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 (July 6). Viola player Lawrence Power will also demonstrate his skill on the violin in a recital with pianist Simon Crawford Phillips which pairs Britten's Lachrymae and Suite for Violin and Piano with music by Elgar, including the Violin Sonata, and York Bowen's Phantasy for Viola and Piano. (July 7).

All three of Britten's string quartets are performed by a trio of young quartets. The Carducci Quartet perform Britten's String Quartet, No. 1 alongside the premiere of a piece by David Onac and Beethoven's String Quartet No. 8, Op. 59/2. (8 July). The Signum Quartet play Britten's String Quartet, No. 2 and are joined by cellist Leonard Elschenbroich for Schubert's magical String Quintet (9 July).  The Elias Quartet perform Britten's String Quartet, No. 3 with music by Purcell and Beethoven (9 July).

Manus Noble's solo guitar recital stretches from Bach to Gary Ryan and Yuquijiro Yocoh, by way of Piazzolla and Bruce MacCombie. His concert is a Quenington where the sculpture garden will be open and tae and cake served in the garden after the concert! (5 July). Clare Hammond's piano recital takes a Greek theme, with a premiere of a work by Kenneth Hesketh alongside Szymanowski and Satie. (July 6).  Kuniko Kato gives a solo percussion recital with music by Arvo Part, and Steve Reich plus a new work by Hywel Davies

Film critic Mark Kermode will be talking about his favourite films in a joint show with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (yes, you did read that right). The CBSO, conducted by Robert Ziegler will be playing music from the films.

There is a strong programme of family events, led by performances of Britten's Noye's Fludde at Tewkesbury Abbey, with 200 young people from Gloucestershire plus Philip Smith, Jessica Dandy, Donald Maxwell conducted by Glyn Oxley, directed by Edward Derbyshire (founder of Gloucestershire Youth Players) and designed by children's author and illustrator James Mayhew (3 and 4 July).

The festival finale, at Cheltenham Town Hall on Sunday 14 July sees Toby Spence and Richard Watkins performing Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, with the City of London Sinfonia, conducted by Stephen Layton. The programme also includes music by Tippett, Britten and RVW plus Arvo Part's Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten and a new work for tenor, horn and strings by Michael Zev Gordon

There are exhibitions including an outdoor sculpture exhibition, walks, Gamelan workshops and much more. See the festival website for further details.

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