Prestigious Lineup for Chipping Campden Music Festival 2014 (May 11 to 24)

Prestigious Lineup for Chipping Campden Music Festival 2014 (May 11 to 24)

Great music and great perfomances always sound better to me when played in pleasant surroundings, and this is surely the secret of Chipping Campden Festival’s success since it was inaugurated in 2002. I fear am losing count of all the eminent musicians who have appeared in  the lovely Cotswold wool church of St James whose acoustics have been praised by the likes of Alfred Brendel.

 The Literature Festival in the town which takes place in the first week of May has taken War and Peace as its theme to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. This theme spills over into at least two of the Festival concerts which promise to be among the highlights of the fortnight. The Tallis Scholars will remember the war dead in the form of a mass comprising movements taken from Guerrero’s Missa batalla escoutez and Missa l’homme armé interpersed with music by Tavener, Victoria, Palestrina and Pärt.

 The second event entitled The Soldier – From Severn to Somme takes the form of a song recital by Christopher Maltman and Julius Drake. From Severn to Somme is the title of a book of war poems by Ivor Gurney, the Gloucester composer-poet, and he naturally features quite prominently as does George Butterworth, who lost his life in the First World War.  However, the recital has an international dimension including composers such as Wolf, Schumann, Fauré and Ives within its remit.

 Pianist Lucy Parham is gaining a well deserved reputation for her compilations of words and music devoted to the lives of different composers. Her evening devoted to Brahms and the Schumanns a few years back in which she played works by all three composers gave a perceptive insight into their lives. On the first night of the Festival she returns to focus on Claude Debussy with Alex Jennings playing Debussy which promises to be equally enthralling.

 I normally expect to hear Angela Hewitt play Bach, but in Chipping Campden she is confounding my expectations by including Haydn, Beethoven and (wait for it!) Liszt’s amazing  Dante Sonata in her recital on the second night. American pianist Jonathan Biss is springing a surprise to by including some of Janacek’s pieces from On the Overgrown Path in his Beethoven/Chopin recital; while Imogen Cooper makes a welcome return to the Festival to play music by Schubert, Beethoven and both Clara and Robert Schumann.

 The pianist Ronan O’Hara will also be much in evidence. On the first Saturday he conducts a master-class in the morning and gives a recital of Mozart, Brahms, Schubert and Wagner/Liszt in the afternoon. The following week he returns to play the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Chipping Campden Academy Orchestra. This ensemble has become a notable feature of the Festival where young up and coming musicians are joined by seasoned performers on a 50/50 basis to play core works of the repertoire under the baton of Thomas Hull. Competition to join the orchestra is keen: I gather there were six candidates for every position this year.

 It is good to see top artists returning to Chipping Campden again and again. Violinist Jack Liebeck is back, this time with Katya Apekisheva, to play Bach, Brahms, Kreisler and Franck. The Nash Ensemble will feature a Vaughan Williams Quintet and a Dohnanyi Sextet. The Academy of Ancient Music are performing an all-Bach programme featuring two hapsichord concertos played by Richard Egarr. In the second week Egarr partners Steven Isserlis in a recital of Baroque music featuring Froberger and Grabus along with better known names.  Isserlis will also be performing the Schumann Cello Concerto with the Academy Orchestra.

 A recital of Shostakovich, Debussy and Schubert by the famous Fine Arts Quartet is bound to attract great interest. Allan Clayton’s performance of Finzi’s Dies Natalis also looks promising, and I’m sure that there is a wealth of burgeoning talent to be found in the lunchtime concerts performed by graduate students of conservatories up and down the Kingdom. I am tempted to say that this Festival goes from strength to strength, but will desist on this occasion as I feel the programme speaks for itself.

 For further information see

 Roger Jones