Christopher Morley looks at a packed autumn season for the region’s classical music scene.
It’s that time of year again when the nights start to draw in and we look forward to filling them by going to concerts and operas.
And there are an abundance of goodies in the new season starting with Malvern Concert Club, which kicks off its 106th season on September 25. The concert features the Nash Ensemble, bringing a mouthwatering programme of Mahler’s early Piano Quartet Movement in A minor (a tremendous piece written at the age of 16), Mozart’s troubled and troubling G minor Piano Quartet, and Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A major.
Subsequent events feature the Gould Piano Trio and clarinettist Robert Plane (Beethoven, Brahms and Messiaen), the Carducci String Quartet (Haydn, Ravel and Mendelssohn), Steven Isserlis playing baroque cello, joined by harpsichordist Maggie Cole (Handel, Bach and Scarlatti), the Dante String Quartet (Purcell, Haydn, John McCabe - Malvern Concert Club’s vice-president’s 70th birthday - and Mendelssohn), and a song-recital by the locally-based baritone Roderick Williams, accompanied by Susie Allen.
All concerts are given in Malvern’s Forum Theatre, and begin at 7.30pm. Details: 01684 892277, and malvern-concert-club.co.uk.
Also in Malvern, the Autumn in Malvern Festival runs throughout most of October, beginning with a visit from the European Union Chamber Orchestra playing a programme of Haydn, Bach, Schubert and Mozart to the Great Hall of Malvern College (October 3).
Other concerts feature the renowned St Petersburg String Quartet playing Shostakovich, Debussy and Ravel in Malvern Priory (October 12), the same venue hosting a recital from violinist Miriam Kramer and organist John Scott-Whiteley (October 18). Also at the Priory, the Aldwyn Voices vocal group, conducted by Stuart Nicholson, is joined by organist Carleton Etherington in works by Mouton, Villette, Durufle and Vaughan Williams (October 25).
Autumn in Malvern also features exhibitions, walks and talks. Highlights among the latter include Andrew Motion in An Afternoon with the Poet Laureate in Ledbury’s Market Theatre (October 4), the much-respected musicologist Diana McVeagh on Thomas Hardy and English Music at the Elgar Birthplace Museum in Broadheath (October 11), writer and broadcaster Roy Palmer illustrating Vaughan Williams and English folksong on October 18 (Coach House Theatre, Malvern).
Continuing the Vaughan Williams theme in this, the 50th anniversary year of the composer’s death, Nicholas Cleobury is assisted by the Malvern College Chamber Choir in his exploration of Vaughan Williams and the English Hymnal (Malvern College Music School, October 19), and on October 26 the Coach House Theatre is the venue for a free showing of John Bridcut’s BBC4 film The Passions of Vaughan Williams.
All details for Autumn in Malvern are available on 01684 892277.
Also in Worcestershire, Bromsgrove Concerts enters its 46th season with a concert on October 10 dedicated to the memory of Fred Darley, for many years treasurer to the society, and right to the end of his long life an enthusiastic presence both here and at Symphony Hall concerts.
Performing on this occasion is the Warwick University-based Coull Quartet, playing quartets by Kodaly and Beethoven, and joined by the cellist David Smith for Schubert’s valedictory String Quintet.
Spiced by Bromsgrove’s special mix of classic and contemporary, the series continues with the acclaimed young pianist Ashley Wass in a recital of Beethoven, Bax, Liszt and Franck, the colourful young medieval ensemble Joglaresa, and the Callino String Quartet in Haydn, Beethoven, Kurtag and Mendelssohn.
We can also look forward to the much-admired soprano Claire Booth (who has already made her mark with the CBSO and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) in an all-20th/21st century song recital, Andrew Matthews-Owen accompanying, the London Bridge Ensemble bringing works by Frank Bridge (for whom they are named) and Schumann, and the Smith Quartet in music by Philip Glass, Leamington’s Howard Skempton, Joe Cutler (head of composition at Birmingham Conservatoire) and Steve Martland.
And there is still more: cellist Gemma Rosefield and pianist Simon Lepper performing Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams and Shostakovich, the Atrium Quartet in Mozart, Walton and Tchaikovsky, and the season ends with the modestly lower-cased new noise (oboe and percussion duo) in a generous menu of contemporary composers, including more Skempton. Details of this busy season are available on 01527 874163, bromsgrove-concerts.org.uk.
Across the other side of Birmingham, the Sutton Coldfield Philharmonic Society does heroic work in providing live music for those residents reluctant or unable to make it into the big city at night.
Three of the region’s major orchestras will visit the Sutton Town Hall, beginning with the Birmingham Philharmonic on October 6. A conductor to watch, Daniele Rosina, is on the rostrum, and Thomas Gould is soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto, centrepiece in a programme also including Glinka and Dvorak.
The other orchestras in the season are Peter Bridle’s Academy Chamber Orchestra (Elgar, Weber and Haydn) and Orchestra da Camera conducted by Leon Gee. Between these two comes a piano recital from Di Xiao, Symphony Hall’s current “Rising Star” representative around major European concert-halls. All details on 0121 373 1779.
Right on the edge of our region, the amazingly enterprising Abbotsholme Arts Society kicks off its 41st season of bringing world-class performers to Abbotsholme School near Rocester, deep in Staffordshire, with a visit from the Endellion String Quartet. The programme for this October 4 event includes Haydn, Britten, Janacek and Mozart.
There follows a positive cornucopia of concerts in this heady series, with all details available on 01543 263304, abbotsholmeartssociety.co.uk.
Opera-lovers need not feel neglected in this round-up, with the much-respected Mid Wales Opera beginning its nationwide tour of Offenbach’s fantastical Tales of Hoffmann with performances on September 3, 5 and 6 at its home base of the Theatr Hafren in Newtown (Powys). Keith Darlington conducts, and Tim Hopkins (who has also provided a new translation) is the director.
Other local ports of call for the production are Tewkesbury’s Roses Theatre, the Music Hall, Shrewsbury, the Palace Theatre, Redditch, Ludlow’s Assembly Rooms, Hereford’s Courtyard Theatre, and the Opera House, Buxton. All details on 01938 500611, midwalesopera.co.uk.