10th NORTH NORFOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL 12-24 AUGUST 2014 by Tony Cooper

12-24 AUGUST 2014

North Norfolk Music Festival forges ahead with a brilliant and entertaining programme for its tenth annual festival.

Tony Cooper reports
One of the most promising classical music festivals to surface in Norfolk over the past decade is that of the North Norfolk Festival founded by world arts traveller Barry Cheeseman and the distinguished British viola player Simon Rowland-Jones.

This year’s festival runs from Tuesday 12th to Sunday 24th August and a host of distinguished performers are heading to South Creake – the hub, energy and epicentre of the festival – to perform in the wonderful and inviting medieval church of St Mary which harbours a great 15th-century angel roof.

The outstanding British soprano Joan Rodgers – who has sung the world over from Aix-en-Provence to The Met working with the likes of Sir Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim – gets the festival off to a flying start on Wednesday 13th (7pm) in St Mary’s singing Poulenc’s L’histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant accompanied by the pianist Gary Matthewman who took part in the first festival while Simon Rowland-Jones will join Gary in Britten’s Lachrymae for viola and piano. The concert ends with a piece by Rowland-Jones entitled A Turn Outside which is almost a one-woman opera with piano and viola accompaniment and a tour-de-force for the singer. Written by Stevie Smith, the piece – originally a play for the Third programme which featured the writer – takes one into the complex and heart-rending mind of a woman facing death.

The festival takes off to Holkham the next day (Thursday, 14th, 7pm) for a concert by the Doric String Quartet in the marvellous setting of the Marble Hall of Holkham Hall, the grand Palladian-style mansion designed by William Kent for Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. They’ll play Haydn and Schubert plus Janáček’s deeply-passionate second string quartet (Intimate Letters) inspired by his long and spiritual friendship with Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 38 years his junior.

The complete Bach cello suites will be performed for the first time at the festival over three concerts in St Mary’s featuring John Myerscough (of the Doric Quartet), Bartholomew LaFollette and Philip Higham on Friday, 15th (5pm) and on Saturday, 16th (11am and 3pm). And later on the same day (8pm) singers from some of the country’s leading vocal groups come together as Floreat Sonus to perform a programme of late compositions by two celebrated composers of the Renaissance. One can marvel at Giovanni Palestrina’s renowned mass setting Missa Assumpta est Maria and Thomas Tallis’ monumental work Gaude gloriosa Dei mater while Marian settings by English composers, William Byrd and John Taverner, add that little bit extra to what promises a spiritually-uplifting concert.

The organisers are very excited about the first visit to South Creake by the Swiss-Chinese pianist, Louis Schwizgebel, currently a BBC New Generation Artist. He has been described as ‘a pianist with a profound gift’ by The Guardian and an ‘insightful musician’ by The New York Times. His programme in St Mary’s (Saturday, 16th, 8pm) comprises three great works from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries one of which includes Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, one of the most original, evocative and technically-demanding pieces ever written for piano.

The Doric String Quartet teams up with Bartholomew LaFollette in St Mary’s (Sunday, 17th, 3pm) for the première of Simon Rowland-Jones’ new quartet inspired by Caravaggio’s great painting, The Beheading of St John the Baptist, completed in 1608 and commissioned by the Knights of Malta as an altarpiece for St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta where it still can be admired. The recital ends with Schubert’s C major string quintet and opens with Haydn’s ‘Sunrise’ quartet. Later in the day St Mary’s will host a song recital (7pm) featuring the distinguished tenor John Mark Ainsley accompanied by Iain Burnside performing works by George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, Frank Bridge and John Ireland.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the festival, a special celebratory concert will be held in St Mary’s (Monday, 18th, 7.30pm) featuring Laura Samuel (violin), Alasdair Tait (cello), Simon Rowland-Jones (viola) and Carole Presland (piano). They’ll be joined by Benjamin Harrison (viola) and Peter Buckoke (double-bass). Two large-scale works make up the best part of their programme: Mendelssohn’s rarely-heard D major sextet for piano and strings and Schubert’s Trout Quintet, which, despite its popularity, has never been performed at the festival. Before the concert (5.30pm) BBC3 broadcaster Susan Sharpe will be in conversation with festival directors Barry Cheeseman and Simon Rowland-Jones talking about the past decade with a peep into the future.

The young, talented, prize-winning soprano Sarah-Jane Lewis – winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary for Young Singers 2006 – will be accompanied by the pianist Jonathan Papp for a song recital at St Mary’s (Tuesday, 19th, 5pm) devoted to works by De Falla, Rachmaninov and Richard Strauss while in the evening (8pm) the renowned Sacconi String Quartet will be joined by Simon Rowland-Jones for a performance of his second string quintet ‘Trouvaille’ while the quartet opens with Haydn’s string quintet ‘Der Geburtstag’ and closes with Mozart’s D major string quintet.

Melvyn Tan – who has a formidable reputation as a versatile keyboard player – makes his third appearance at St Mary’s (Wednesday, 20th, 5.30pm) playing Chopin but also including works by Liszt and offering the rare chance of comparing Chopin’s Nocturnes to those by Irish composer, John Field, who first coined the term for this particular form of romantic piano piece.

The festival travels to East Raynham on Thursday, 21st, 6pm, for a concert in St Mary’s in which the celebrated Swedish lutenist, Jakob Lindberg, will include in his programme Balcarres Lute Book and Bach’s G minor suite for solo lute. And it’s back to South Creake the following day (Friday, 22nd, 7pm) for an evening of opera in St Mary’s with singers from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden performing scenes from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Verdi’s Il corsaro and Don Carlo, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Bizet’s Carmen, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Bellini’s I Capuleti ed I Montecchi.

Formed in 2012 and directed by Eloisa-Fleur Thom, 12 Ensemble, England’s only professional non-conducted string orchestra comprising a dozen élite young instrumentalists, will be in concert at St Mary’s on Saturday, 23rd, 3pm, performing William Walton’s neglected but magnificent Sonata for Strings which the ensemble will be performing for a special concert for the Walton Trust at La Mortella in Ischia where Walton lived with his wife Susana. The programme also includes Tchaikovsky’s wonderfully-romantic work Serenade for Strings. In the evening (7pm) St Mary’s will host the St Petersburg-born soprano Ilona Domnich accompanied by pianist Benjamin Frith singing arias from Verdi’s La Traviata, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and Puccini’s La Rondine while piano items include works by Rachmaninov and Chopin.

The final concert in St Mary’s (Sunday, 24th, 3pm) reunites the festival’s original octet team – the Carducci and Brodowski string quartets – for what promises a marvellous and entertaining concert ending with Mendelssohn’s unsurpassed masterpiece for the medium while Simon Rowland-Jones’ octet, dating from 1989, will close the programme and mark the end of another festival.

Happy festival-going!

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Harpist at Reepham Music Festival Saturday 10 August

Xenia Horne Harpist solo concert.. an hour of music for a summer afternoon, from Celtic songs to interpretations of modern classics, a mixture of old and new, would love as many friends as possible to come along, great acts before and after wards including the Viennese Orchestra and Luke Jackson !

5pm St Michael’s Church