Tuesday 10 May 2022

Denys Darlow founded the Tilford Bach Festival to present the music of his favourite composer in his own parish church and 70 years later it is still going strong

All Saints' Church, Tilford, home of the Tilford Bach Festival
All Saints' Church, Tilford, home of the Tilford Bach Festival

The Tilford Bach Festival is 70 this year and the festival is celebrating with a weekend of events from 10 to 12 June 2022. The festival was founded in 1952 by Denys Darlow, who was the organist at All Saints’ Parish church, Tilford, a village in the west of Surrey (famous former residents include Arthur Conan Doyle and Lloyd George). Darlow's personal aim was that all performances should be fully professional and of the highest quality so as to entice soloists of international renown to come to a small church in a tiny village situated several dark, winding miles from the nearest railway station. By 1955, the BBC were broadcasting from the festival. In 1973, Darlow (then 73 years old) decided to share the direction of the festival, but he would not completely hang up his baton until 2002. Adrian Butterfield is now festival director.

This year, the festival takes place at St Luke's Church, Grayshott, GU26 6LF as Tilford Church is in need of repairs. The festival opens with Laurence Cummings (a former festival director) directing the London Handel Players in an evening of concertos, placing Bach's concertos for multiple instruments (two harpsichords; harpsichord and two recorders; flute, violin and harpsichord) alongside concertos by his contemporaries Vivaldi and Leclair.

On Saturday there is Bach's St Matthew Passion performed with the sort of forces Bach would have recognised, using just nine singers with Adrian Butterfield directing the London Handel Players and soloists including Joanne Lunn, Daniel Taylor, Charles Daniels (Evangelist) and Edward Grint (Jesus). Then on Sunday, Ensemble Augelletti bring their programme The Library of a Prussian Princess [also recorded on disc, see my review] featuring music associated with Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia (1723-1787), whose library included many important manuscripts associated with JS Bach

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