We may have reached the end of the autumn-winter-spring subscription series, but now the festival season takes over, there is still a heck of a lot going on to enthrall music lovers.
This weekend, the remarkable Music at Leasowes Bank festival, now in its 33rd year, hosts its annual Festival Commission Concert, when clarinettist and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings joins the Ligeti String Quartet in the premiere of his own composition. (July 13, 8pm, details on 01743 790769).
Sadly it will be the last, as organisers John and Frances Williams have decided to relocate to somewhere less remote than their windswept farmhouse high in the Shropshire Stiperstones.
The same evening, stay-in-comfort-zoners can savour Christopher Warren-Green conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and Lichfield Festival Chorus in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
The names of all the young vocal soloists are new to me, as is that of Philip Higham, soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto (Lichfield Cathedral 7.30pm, details on 01543 412121).
The finale to this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival takes place on July 14, nowadays shrunk to a half of what it was in its prime, but still packed with several events every day. Sunday’s concluding concert at the Town Hall brings reminiscences of Cheltenham Festivals of yore, with classics by Tippett, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Arvo Part and the premiere of a Britten-matching new work for tenor, horn and strings by Michael Zev Gordon.
Toby Spence, happily restored to health, is the tenor soloist, Richard Watkins the hornist, and Stephen Layton conducts the City of London Sinfonia (Cheltenham Town Hall, 6pm, details on 0844 880 8094).
Next weekend sees a hive of activity in Bromsgrove with the second St John MusicFest presented in and around the town’s Parish Church, beginning on July 19 when the venue hosts the Worcestershire Youth Jazz Orchestra and Worcestershire Youth Wind Orchestra.
On July 20, attention shifts to St John’s Middle School, where musicians from the Orchestra of St John are joined by popular Midlands Today presenter Michael Collie and pupils from Aston Fields Middle School for performances of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony (12pm).
Later that afternoon, the same venue hosts a masterclass for string players led by OSJ conductor Richard Jenkinson (also principal cellist with the CBSO) and violist Louise Williams, before attention shifts back to St John’s Church for the evening concert. Richard Jenkinson conducts a mouth-watering concert here – Britten’s Simple Symphony, Barber’s emotionally searing Adagio, Dvorak’s Five Bagatelles and the same composer’s endearing Wind Serenade (7.30pm).
We are diverted to the airy elegance of Tardebigge Parish Church on July 21 for the latest in the wonderful Celebrating English Song series which has been such a summer gratification for so many years (this is not a gourmet column, so let’s not mention the luscious home-made cakes served at teatime).
James Gilchrist is the tenor soloist, Anna Tilbrook the pianist, in a programme including works by Britten, Vaughan Williams, Frank Bridge and Susie Self.
The latter, herself no mean accompanist, is a thread running through this year’s Tardebigge presentations, and will give a pre-concert talk at 2pm, the recital itself beginning at 3pm. And so back to the Parish Church for the Gala Concert which concludes this year’s festivities from the Orchestra of St John.
Richard Jenkinson conducts a programme to die for, beginning with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and ending with Beethoven’s momentous “fate knocking at the door” Fifth.
And between those two comes one of the greatest orchestral pieces ever written, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola.
Mozart himself played the viola part at its premiere (not content with being a great pianist, violinist, organist, conductor and a paragon amongst composers).
The mantle falls on this occasion upon Louise Williams, partnered on the violin by Paul Barritt.
The concert begins at 7.30pm; for more details, call 01527 878801.