Hay Chamber Music Festival 2018
The Fitzwilliam String Quartet:
Alan George, Lucy Russell, Marcus Barcham Stevens, Sally Pendelbury
Marcia Crayford, Susie Mészáros, Moray Welsh
and pianist Anna Tilbrook
Some post-Festival musings................
What was a nondescript couple from Oregon doing in a small church on the Welsh border on a drizzly night in April? Why had they travelled 9,000 miles for stone walls and oak benches when they should have been nursing a pint in front of a fire?
Nietzsche, the Fitzwilliam Quartet and Hay-on-Wye figure in the answers.
"Without music, life would be a mistake"...Nietzsche. If you believe this, your eyes are on the right page.
Meanwhile, the Fitzwilliam Quartet needs no introduction. They are a long established, top tier ensemble with a well deserved international reputation.
Hay-on-Wye needs no introduction. This tranquil town of 1,500 offers 29 (not a typo) serious bookstores: make what you want of that.
There is more to Hay than books. The friendly people of this bucolic hamlet have partnered with the Fitzwilliam to put on a chamber music festival unlike any other, presenting chamber music as close to its intimate ideal as this inveterate concert goer has experienced. In three days we sat amongst the Fitzwilliam and new acquaintances to enjoy Purcell to Britten, and much in between.
We gathered in a small hotel's lounge with the quartet and the world's leading authority on Schubert, Brian Newbould, discussing that evening’s Schubert concert...only breaking off to get prepared, and with the invitation to take up where we left off in the pub after the show.
We saw a moving film about Britten that tied seamlessly into that evening's performance of the third Britten quartet. Mozart, Shostakovich and Glazunov were there.
New friends were in abundance. The organization, programming, venues and ambience were perfect.
Make no mistake – if you like chamber music you should plan on attending the Hay Chamber Music Festival in 2019.
Thron and Betsey Riggs. Oregon, USA
FRIDAY, 27 APRIL IN ST MARY’S CHURCH: A ‘SCHUBERTIADE’
It took little persuasion to get me to Hay for an all-Schubert celebration by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet. They would, after all, be scaling one of the peaks of both Schubert’s chamber music and the quartet legacy of the western world as a whole – the mighty Quartet in G, D.887 – as well as giving me my first chance for more than 20 years to hear in the flesh my completion of the second movement of the C minor Quartet, D.703, conceived for and premiered by the Allegri Quartet.
The pre-concert event enabled me to share thoughts on Schubert – finished, unfinished, and finishable – in an open conversation at The Swan Hotel with members of the Fitzwilliam, all first class musicians with thought-provoking things to say, and ask. The concert, in the congenial acoustic of St Mary’s Church, was much more than just an excellent concert. For all that the individual players (Lucy Russell, Martin Barcham Stevens, Alan George and Sally Pendelbury) were in total command of their instruments and what the music required of them individually, it was clear that matters of ensemble had been scrupulously worked out, all with deference to the particularities of Schubert’s mature style: and yet the overriding impression was of immediacy, a striking sense of live performance.
Schubert’s answer to Beethoven’s inward late quartets and his more ebullient Rasumovsky set too was delivered with passion and a touch of panache: indeed the G major rang out as a final masterpiece to be set beside the ‘Great’ C major Symphony, a position Alan George had perceptively suggested for it in the pre-concert discussion. The A minor Quartet had preceded this – a more succinct mix of four characterful movements all distinctly individual – and all projected with inspired warmth. The Quartettsatz, as we call the sole surviving movement of D.703, was blessed with unfailing sensitivity to its vividly contrasting three principal themes, while the following Andante, of which Schubert left but 40 bars of superlative ‘quartet thinking’, gave those, and my hopefully added 100, every chance of conveying their essence.
On this showing, Schubert would surely have found that the Fitzwilliams, with their judicious rationing of vibrato, had penetrated to the very heart of his inspiration. Bravo Hay Music for giving such an event a platform!
Professor Brian Newbould
SATURDAY MORNING, 28 APRIL IN THE SWAN HOTEL: A COFFEE CONCERT....... DRAGONFLY PLAY MOZART
Ingredients for a successful coffee concert include the right music, the right musicians, a café-esque setting, good coffee and, in Vienna, or on a Sunday morning at The Wigmore Hall, torte.
Hay Chamber Music Festival served the first four of these on a cold but sunny Saturday morning in the Swan Hotel with ‘Dragonfly’, a trio of old friends and star string players: Marcia Crayford, violin, who lead The Nash Ensemble and almost every good UK orchestra for many years, Suzie Meszaros who attended the Menuhin School with Marcia and had her Wigmore Hall debut with Menuhin is violist with the Chilingirian Quartet and Moray Welsh who, as a youngster, was spotted by Britten who introduced him to Rostropovich which led to three years in Moscow with the great cellist. He has been principal cellist with the LSO and is an acclaimed chamber music player (and no mean painter).
Mozart’s divertimento K.563, his only work for string trio, was perfect fare, its six movements displaying melodic, moving and virtuosic writing for each instrument. It was a delight to hear these friends play with such evident enjoyment in somewhere close to the domestic setting Mozart might have had in mind. After the intense Schubert late quartets of the previous evening Dragonfly calmed us down and whetted our appetites for the afternoon’s film about ‘Britten’s Endgame’ and the evening’s concert in Richard Booth’s Bookshop.
SATURDAY EVENING, 28 APRIL IN RICHARD BOOTH'S BOOKSHOP
There was a most convivial atmosphere in the Bookshop for the final event of an action packed Saturday. Members of the audience greeted and chatted with new acquaintances from earlier events and then settled down to a most engaging programme given by the Fitzwilliam Quartet of Purcell’s Chacony in G minor, Britten’s Quartet No 3, Glazunov’s Alla Spagnuaola, Op 15 No 1 and after the interval, joined by Susie Meszaros (viola) of Dragonfly, Mozart’s Quintet in C major.
The poignancy of the Britten quartet, composed in Venice shortly before the composer’s death, will not have been lost, particularly on those of the audience who watched John Bridcut’s exceptionally good film ‘Britten’s Endgame’ at the Bookshop Cinema earlier in the day. The concert had been opened with Purcell’s Chacony – a piece to which Britten was particularly drawn and which we were to hear in his edition at St Mary’s the following afternoon. FSQ brought our awareness to a little performed gem with Glazunov’s Alla Spagnuola to conclude the first half. After an interval, with drinks and more conviviality, the second half was dedicated to an outstanding performance of Mozart’s magnificent Quintet in C major.
The Fitzwilliams’ interpretive skills shone out throughout the evening, with the light and shade, sensitivity and sheer beauty of tone with which we have been so fortunate to have become familiar through this and earlier Hay Chamber Music Festivals. A most satisfying and memorable evening of music making.
SUNDAY AFTERNOON, 29 APRIL IN ST MARY'S CHURCH: THE FITZWILLIAM STRING QUARTET WITH ANNA TILBROOK, PIANO
A near full house gathered at St Mary’s Church for the last of this year’s Hay Music Chamber Music Festival concerts bringing to a glorious close a weekend of outstanding music making. Although the new heating system for the church was not yet on stream the warmth of the enthusiastic audience soon made up for its absence.
The Fitzwilliam String Quartet opened with a stunningly beautiful arrangement by Benjamin Britten of Henry Purcell’s Chacony in G minor played with such sensitivity and delicate piano that left us in awe of the quartet’s musicality.
The FSQ then followed with what must be their signature piece, Shostakovitch’s Quartet No 14. The composer sent the handwritten score and parts direct to the Fitzwilliam in 1974 and the quartet was then able to give the Western premiere of the work. It is an intensely emotional work played with such sincerity and luminosity that the spine tingling moments brought tears to the eyes. The work allows individual instruments to have extended passages but special mention should be made of the lengthy passages for the cello played with rapturous beauty by Sally Pendelbury. The whole quartet performed with technical mastery and perfect intonation. A joyous wonder to hear this music and what a privilege to be present at this performance.
Either side of the interval the FSQ were joined by pianist Anna Tilbrook for lively performances of two Mozart Piano Concertos, A major K.414 and C major K.415. Anna is no stranger to Hay Music as this was her third visit, having previously played Shostakovitch’s Piano Quintet, and with James Gilchrist at Dorstone House. We may be more familiar with these concertos accompanied by a 40 member chamber orchestra, but Mozart had scored them so that they could equally be played with a string quartet. To many it was a revelation to hear the transparent structure of the music with a quartet with nothing lost. This beautiful, happy music, played by musicians who were obviously enjoying themselves, ended a thrilling afternoon as we left with a renewed spring in our steps.
HAY CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL 2018 OUTREACH PROGRAMME
In addition to presenting a first rate musical experience over a long weekend, the aim of the Hay Chamber Music Festival is to endeavor to make classical music more accessible, to increase community involvement, to use music as a conduit for working with the vulnerable and disadvantaged. In addition to performing in four concerts over the three days, the musicians are keen to encourage community engagement and are involved in workshops for local groups, including the local primary school and senior school, the HayDay Café Workshop for adults with dementia and the Family Place Workshop for traumatized children. Through the workshops the Hay Chamber Music Festival aims to show how music can be used to enrich the lives of vulnerable children and adults.
HayDay Café Workshop: This workshop is an interactive and informal performance by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet at the HayDay Café for adults living with dementia. The quality of life for older people living with dementia is enriched in this workshop as they are brought together to enjoy live chamber music in a friendly and empathetic environment. Often these individuals can be marginalised from the arts and cultural activities.
Hay Primary School and Gwernyfed High School: These workshops show how classical music can be made more accessible for school children and by having the opportunity to access live chamber music in their local schools their music education improved. The workshops include an interactive performance with Hay Primary School and a lecture recital open to all local GCSE and A Level students at Gwernyfed High School where GCSE and A level pupils hear their 'set works' and elements of the music curriculum brought to life in the school hall workshops. This kind of opportunity for experiencing musical excellence and inspiration isn't readily available for children and young people growing up in rural mid Wales.
The Family Place: This creative music making workshop for fostered and adopted children with developmental trauma was given by The Dragonfly Trio. The workshop was led by a music leader with specific expertise in working with vulnerable children and young people. These children and their families, who are coping with developmental trauma, are enabled to participate together in a creative and nurturing workshop which gives them a positive experience as a family unit.
HayDay Café Organiser feedback: "The Quartet were brilliant, so engaging and empathetic. All of our visitors took pleasure from the concert. One of our visitors was very interested in the musical instruments and he wanted to look at them in the interval. This set the ball rolling for members of the Quartet to talk and show everyone their instruments - it was lovely to see this happening."
Hay Primary School head teacher: "The children responded enthusiastically to the Quartet's performance: this is not something they experience regularly and we very much hope this can be an annual event."
Gwernyfed High School Head of Music: "To experience music of this quality at such close quarters, and to have the musicians talk directly to the pupils about the repertoire was a unique opportunity."
Family Place Director: "Caroline and the musicians were outstanding and the impact for the children and their families was profound."
Hay Music is most grateful to Lucy, Alan, Marcus and Sally, as well as to the musicians of Dragonfly - Marcia, Susie and Moray, and to Anna who helped bring the Festival to a close on such a 'high', for all the pre-Festival preparation in addition to their wonderful playing 'on the day', and particularly for their generosity of spirit which has given us another wonderful musical experience. Also to our Festival Director, Miranda Cooke, for her vital and tireless work behind the scenes.
The 2018 Hay Chamber Music Festival was supported by individuals and:
Bromptons Auctioneers The Bulmer Foundation Hay Markets
Hay Town Council (Recycling Find) Lindenleaf Charitable Trust
Mid-Wales Music Trust Powys Welsh Churches Act
Layton Bright Fund HayDay Cafe
Thank you! - Diolch yn fawr!
Key to venues:
B = Richard Booth's Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye
D = Dorstone House, Dorstone
St M = St Mary's Church, Hay-on-Wye
C = The Castle, Hay-on-Wye
HCPS = Hay County Primary School
S = The Swan Hotel, Hay-on-Wye
L = Llanigon
T= The Mill, Talgarth
January (B) The Consone Quartet
February (B) 'Oriental Miscellay': Jane Chapman and Yu-Wei Hu
March (HCPS) Sirinu with composer Howard Skempton
April - Festival (St M/S/B/St M) Fitzwilliam String Quartet / Dragonfly String Trio / Anna Tilbrook
January (B) Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano) and Laura Snowden (guitar)
February (B) André Pereira (violin) and Josh Salter (cello)
March - Festival (St M/B/St M) Fitzwilliam String Quartet / Dragonfly String Trio / members of Sinfonia Cymru
April (St M) Chris Brannick (percussion) and Sara Stowe (soprano)
June (St M) The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge
July (St M) The Solem Quartet
August (B) The Camilli String Quartet
September (D) Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins - Piano Duo
October (D) Jayson Gillham - Piano
October (St M) Marsyas Trio
November (St M) The Schubert Ensemble
January (St M) Rachel Podger - Baroque Violin / Chad Kelly - Harpsichord
February (St M) Duo Concertante - Nancy Dahn - Violin / Timothy Steeves - Piano
April - Festival (St M/B/St M) Fitzwilliam String Quartet / Dragonfly String Trio / Tom Wilkinson - organ / members of Sinfonia Cymru
June (D) The Rautio Piano Trio
July (D) Clare Hammond - piano
August (C) Enigma Duo: Katherine Thomas - harp and Laurence Kempton - violin
September (D) James Gilchrist (tenor) and Anna Tilbrook (piano)
October (St M) Voskesrenije Choir of St Petersburg
November (B) Dragonfly String Trio
November (B) Flauguissimo Duo (Hay Winter Festival opening event)
December (B) Ligeti String Quartet with Peter Florence
January (B) Maciek/James - Clarinet/Piano Duo
February (B) Newbold/Thomas - Flute/Harp Duo
March (B) Welsh National Opera Chorus Members
April - Festival (St M/B/D) Fitzwilliam String Quartet with Dragonfly and Friends
July (D) Lee/Baek - Violin/Piano Duo
August (C) Scherzo Brass Quintet
August (C) Flourish Wind Quintet
October (St M) St Petersburg Chamber Choir
October (St M) Edgar Speyer Concert - Jeremy Fisher - Piano / John Hymas - Violin / Hannah Grove - Soprano / Olivia Gomez - Mezzo-soprano
November (B) Zoltan String Trio
December (St M) Choir of Clare College, Cambridge
February (B) Sterling Trio - Flute, Clarinet and Keyboard
March (B) Fitzwilliam String Quartet
April (B) Dragonfly Ensemble
May (B) Tre Voci - Cello Trio
July (C) Flourish Wind Quintet
August (B) Jones/Maruri - Cello/Guitar Duo
September (B) Kiel Baroque Ensemble
September (D) Jayson Gillham - Piano
November (B) Crayford, Welsh, Meszaros (Dragonfly)
December (B) Tom Guthrie - Baritone / Johan Löfving - Guitar
February (B) Harmonie Musik - Wind Quintet
March (B) Michael Jones - Cello
April (T) Julian Boyce - Baritone
May (St M) Choir of Hereford Cathedral School
June (B) Wingate Ensemble - Flute and Strings
July (D) Tianhong Yang - Piano
September (B) Sian Winstanley - Soprano / Stephen Gordon - Guitar
October (B) Janacek Film with Castalia Quartet
November (D) Jayson Gillham - Piano
December (B) Mavron String Quartet
January (B) Cambrian String Quartet
February (B) Caird Oboe Quartet
March (B) Catherine Hughes - Welsh Folk Songs
April (L) Ivan Ilic - Piano
May (B) Fitzwilliam String Quartet
July (B) SILD - Estonian and Welsh Folk Music
August (B) Downes/Jefferis - Violin/Cello Duo
September (D) Gagliano Piano Quartet
October (B) Castalia String Quartet
November (B) Moray Welsh - Cello
December (B) Music for Viols and Voice
April (B) Sterling Wind and Keyboard Trio
May (B) Aquarelle Guitar Quartet
July (B) Castalia String Quartet
July (B) Thomas/Kempton - Harp/Violin Duo
August (B) Louise Thomson - Harp
September (B) Rory Russell - Guitar
October (B) Alexander/Newbold - Bassoon/Flute duo
November (B) Handel German Songs
December (B) Gagliano String Trio