As the concert season moves into full swing after the summer shut-down, groups all around the region are gearing themselves up for action.
Gloucester Music Society kicks off its 85th season next Thursday with a recital devoted to Schumann songs, sung by the highly-promising baritone Benjamin Appl, accompanied by James Cheung. Subsequent concerts in GMS’ atmospheric home in the medieval St Mary de Lode church include an evening of music by Howard Blake, and a highly eclectic programme from Ellipsis, masterminded by mezzo-soprano and composer Susie Self.
On October 7, Leamington Music launches what are always enterprising concert seasons with a stimulating programme of words, music and songs from mainly English composers of the Tudor period. Clifford Rose, a founder-member of the Royal Shakespeare Company , is joined by the Tk’Antu Ensemble, and the venue is the atmospheric St Mary’s Church in Warwick.
On October 10, Leamington Music moves to another of its regular venues, the Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington itself, for a concert by the legendary Allegri String Quartet. An early Haydn work and one of Beethoven’s great late ones (the E-flat Quartet Op. 127) flank a Richard Strauss rarity, the Quartet in D Op. 2.
A little further south, Stratford-upon-Avon hosts its annual Music Festival between October 11 and 25. Director Ambrose Miller has this year assembled a fascinating programme whose underlying theme is dance
The European Union Chamber Orchestra visits the Old Town’s Holy Trinity Church on October 16, bringing dance-based compositions (Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Bartok’s Romanian Dances) as well as a Sibelius rarity, the Romance for Strings, and the highly-popular Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
Next evening the church is taken over by the Medieval Baebes, with their unique blend of ancient texts and original music, all performed on medieval and classical instruments, and sung in an array of long-forgotten languages.
Cellist Guy Johnston performs Schumann, Beethoven, Faure and Brahms at the Town Hall, Simon Lane accompanying, at Stratford Town Hall on October 19. There is a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm with students from the local King Edward VI School, and the evening is presented in association with the Stratford-upon-Avon Chamber Music Society.
And a King Edward VI student (as yet un-named) will hear their new work for clarinet, cello and piano performed as part of a concert from the Contemporary Consort at the Shakespeare Institute on October 20. The programme ends with Brahms A minor Trio, but much of the menu is devoted to works by the Leamington-based composer Howard Skempton, who will be present, topping and tailing the evening in pre-concert conversation with Ambrose Miller and post-concert wine-bibbing with the audience.
October 21 brings a fascinating programme of Marvellous Sweet Music, a Shakespeare Song Book performed by musicians from the Royal Shakespeare Company under the direction of Bruce O’Neil at the Guild Chapel. Featured composers who have written for the RSC since 1879 include Vaughan Williams, Billy Bragg, Lennox Berkeley and Ian Dury, whose work we can hope to be included here.
As the festival moves towards its conclusion audiences can look forward to a recital at the Town Hall by guitarist Craig Ogden on October 23, a flute and harp recital at St Helen’s Church, Clifford Chambers on October 24, when Harpist to the Prince of Wales Hannah Stone is joined by flautist Renata Sokolovska, and a wonderful Festival Finale at the new Stratford ArtsHouse in Rother Street on October 25, when Elaine Delmar sings George Gershwin and Cole Porter.
Back in Birmingham, two major organisations are all set to embark upon the new concert-season, with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group kicking off in spectacular style on October 4.
BCMG’s concert in the newly-refurbished CBSO Centre at the bottom end of Berkley Street, just off Broad Street, begins with one of its earliest commissions, Colin Matthews’ Hidden Variables, which since its 1989 premiere has gone around the world in countless performances, and includes its latest commission, Raga Fields by Param Vir.
In this, his third BCMG commission, Delhi-born Vir seeks to integrate Indian classical ragas with his own highly-developed western harmonic language. The sarod soloist is Soumik Datta, and the programme also includes some contemporary greats, including the Ligeti Piano Concerto, in which the soloist is the much-acclaimed Tom Poster.
At the other end of the historical scale, Ex Cathedra’s new season begins with a return to one of this expert chamber choir’s signature composers, Michel-Richard de LaLande, presenting a programme of music for The Sun King at Versailles at Birmingham Town Hall on October 12 (4pm).
* Gloucester Music Society details on 01242 620736.
* Leamington Music 01926 334418.
* Stratford Festival 01789 298197
* Birmingham Contemporary Music Group 0121 345 0491
* Ex Cathedra 0121 345 0603.