Thursday 25 May 2023

Norwich-based music writer, Tony Cooper, offers a glimpse to the 2023/24 season of Norwich Chamber Music opening in September.

Alim Beisembayev(Photo: Nabin Maharjan)
Alim Beisembayev(Photo: Nabin Maharjan)
Curated by Misha Donat - writer, lecturer and a senior music producer for BBC Radio 3 for more than a quarter of a century where he collaborated with many of the world’s leading musicians - the forthcoming season of Norwich Chamber Music offers classical-music aficionados another great, grand and exuberant feast of chamber music from a coterie of distinguished international performers.

The opening concert on Saturday, 16th September (7.30pm) falls to Kazakhstan-born pianist, Alim Beisembayev, playing Bach, Schubert, Debussy and Ravel. A pianist of extraordinary talent, Beisembayev’s career took off at an alarming rate after winning First Prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in September 2021 performing Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Manze.  

A prizewinner through and through, Beisembayev also took home the Audience Prize and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society Prize, too, for contemporary performance with The Guardian hailing him as a ‘worthy winner’ with a ‘real musical personality’. Praise, indeed!

The celebrated Castalian String Quartet follow in his footsteps on Saturday, 7th October (7.30pm) performing what promises a brilliant and entertaining programme featuring Mozart, Britten and Beethoven. Incidentally, the quartet’s name derives from the Castalian spring in the ancient city of Delphi. According to Greek mythology, the nymph Castalia transformed herself into a fountain to evade Apollo’s pursuit, thus creating a source of poetic inspiration for all who drink from her waters.  

Therefore, committed to inspiring a diverse audience for classical music, the Castalians have performed everywhere from great concert halls of the world to maximum security prisons and even the Colombian rainforest. When not on stage, Finnish first violinist Sini Simonen bags Munros therefore follows in the wake of Roger Rowe, former programme director of Norwich Chamber Music and now honoured as its President plus, to boot, a Munro veteran as he has scaled all 282 of these lofty Scottish heights, Irish violist Ruth Gibson teaches yoga and Welshmen, second violinist Daniel Roberts and cellist Steffan Morris, get overly emotional about rugby.

Noted for their special chamber-music weekends focusing on great composers, Norwich Chamber Music firmly puts the music of Schubert centre stage at this year’s event which gets underway on Saturday, 4th November (7.30pm) with performances of the Duo for violin and piano, Andantino for piano duet, Rondo for violin and piano and Sonata in C for piano duet while on Sunday, 5th November, an afternoon concert starting at three o’clock offers such delights as the Piano Trio (Notturno) and Variations in A flat heard against the Arpeggione Sonata and Fantasy in C. A top team of performers have been gathered together for what promises a magnificent weekend of music-making comprising pianists Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva, violinist Jack Liebeck and cellist Tim Posner.

The distinguished quartet, Quatuor Ébène - Pierre Colombet (violin), Gabriel Le Magadure (violin), Marie Chilemme (viola), Raphaël Merlin (cello) - make their Norwich Chamber Music début on Saturday, 2nd December (7.30pm) offering a great programme comprising Haydn, Bartók and Schubert.     

With their charismatic playing, their fresh approach to tradition and their open engagement with new forms, the musicians have been successful in reaching a wide audience of young listeners and in conveying their talent in regular masterclasses at the Paris Conservatoire. Therefore, bearing this in mind, Norwich Chamber Music allocates a limited number of tickets for each concert to those under the age of 25.

And the celebrated English-born soprano, Lucy Crowe, makes her NCM début, too, on Sunday, 14th January (3.00pm) performing a delectable programme of songs by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Alban Berg, Judith Weir and Richard Strauss.

Enjoying an international career, Lucy (accompanied by Anna Tilbrook) has appeared everywhere it seems including Aldeburgh, Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, Edinburgh and at Salzburg while conquering the ‘Prommers’ at the BBC Proms time and time again. Incidentally, this year the Proms run from Friday 14th July to Saturday 9th September at the Royal Albert Hall.

Lucy also enjoys a vast discography, too. Her début disc for Linn Records featuring Berg, Strauss and Schoenberg was released in the summer of 2021 while she received a Grammy nomination in the same year for Best Opera Recording for Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle.

One of Britain’s leading chamber ensembles, Haffner Wind Ensemble, directed by Nicholas Daniel, will deliver a charming and pleasing programme on Sunday, 28th January (3.00pm) dedicated to the works of Jonathan Dove and Mozart.  

They enjoy an enviable reputation for imaginative programming and for championing contemporary music. They also have an impressive list of performing new commissions, too, from such leading composers as Michael Berkeley, Martin Butler, Gary Carpenter, Philip Cashian, Colin Matthews, Anthony Powers and John Woolrich. Therefore, for their Norwich concert, they’ll perform a contemporary piece by the Buenos Aires-born composer, Marcelo Nisinman (now living in Basel, Switzerland) who’s also a master performer of the bandoneon.  

A formidable and talented trio comprising Ben Goldscheider (French horn), Callum Smart (violin), Richard Uttley (piano) will play Beethoven, Ligeti, Schumann and Brahms in their concert on Sunday 11th February (3.00pm) while the 22-year-old Swedish-Norwegian violinist, Johan Dalene, teams up with pianist, Nicola Eimer, later in the same month (Sunday, 25th February (3.00pm) to play Beethoven Schoenberg and Franck.

A blossoming musician, Dalene’s making a big impact on the international music scene performing with leading orchestras and in celebrated recital halls both at home and abroad. His ability to ‘make his Stradivarius sing like a master’ (Le Monde) coupled with his refreshingly honest musicality and engagement with musicians and audiences alike, has won him countless admirers. This talent was heralded most recently as winner of the Norwegian Soloist Prize and First Prize at the prestigious 2019 Carl Nielsen Competition.

Maxwell String Quartet

A well-established quartet at the North Norfolk Music Festival (this year the festival runs from Friday 11th August to Friday 18th August), the Maxwell String Quartet (1st Prizewinner and Audience Prizewinner at the 9th Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition in 2017) comprises four close friends - Colin Scobie (violin), George Smith (violin), Elliott Perks (viola) and Duncan Strachan (cello) - who grew up playing classical and folk music together in various youth orchestras. Now they make their Norwich Chamber Music début on Saturday, 9th March (7.30pm) performing Haydn and Beethoven while offering the audience a selection of well-loved Scottish folksongs.

And, indeed, no stranger to Norwich is the celebrated French-born pianist, François-Frédéric Guy, who delighted a packed house at John Innes in 2011 playing the complete set of Beethoven sonatas over ten concerts. He triumphantly returned in 2012 to play Debussy and Bartók and in 2015 he was back again and brilliantly organised and performed with a coterie of close friends a weekend of music by French composers. On his latest visit (Saturday, 6th April, 7.30pm) he’ll be offering a delightful programme of Debussy, Chopin and Beethoven as well as a piece by fellow countryman, Tristan Murail.  

Born in March 1947 in Le Havre to a highly cultured and artistic family, Murail studied Arabic and economics at university and later studied composition at the Paris Conservatoire from 1967 to 1972 under Olivier Messiaen. He’s also closely associated with the ‘spectral’ technique of composition which involves the use of the fundamental properties of sound as a basis for harmony as well as the use of spectral analysis, FM, RM and AM synthesis as a method of deriving polyphony.

Major pieces by Murail include large-scale orchestral pieces such as Gondwana, Time and Again and, more recently, Serendib and L’Esprit des dunes. Other pieces include Désintégrations for 17 instruments and tape, Mémoire/Erosion for French horn and nine instruments, Ethers for flute and ensemble, Winter Fragments for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello and electronics as well as Vampyr! for electric guitar. Among his many awards are the Prix de Rome, the Grand Prix du Disque and the Grand Prix du Président de la République, Académie Charles Cros.

The final concert of Norwich Chamber Music - an international music series of great standing! - falls to the Modigliani String Quartet - Amaury Coeytaux (violin), Loïc Rio (violin), Laurent Marfaing (viola), François Kieffer (cello) - whose concert on Saturday, 20th April (7.30pm) comprises Mozart, Wolf and Beethoven as well as a contemporary piece by French-born composer, Élise Bertrand. A child prodigy, she took up the piano at the age of five, the violin at eight and started composing three years later. She first studied at the conservatoire in her hometown of Toulon before being admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, aged 14. What more can one say!

All of Norwich Chamber Music concerts take place at the John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UH.  

A season ticket costs £220 plus £30 membership fee thus making it an ideal gift anytime of the year!

Individual tickets, however, can be bought online, by phone or at the door (by card only) subject to availability.

Online: purchase through TicketSource (no fees charged).

By phone: call TicketSource 0333 666 3366 (open weekdays from 9.00am to 5.00pm (booking fee applies). 

Full details from the festival's website,


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