And still prospectuses for the next concert season come flooding in from around the region. It is heartening how concert societies are still able to provide artistic riches when financial ones are drying up.
Right on the fringe of the area is Abbotsholme, near JCB-land in mid-Staffordshire, and what goodies the Abbotsholme Arts Society is offering to tempt us out of the Brumopolis. Among them are a lecture from one of the world’s greatest pianist-thinkers, Alfred Brendel, a recital of Goethe settings by many of Germany’s great Lieder composers from baritone Christopher Maltman and pianist Joseph Middleton, and an exciting piano duet recital to open the season.
When Noriko Ogawa and Martin Roscoe perform the standards (Mozart’s C major Sonata and Schubert’s F minor Fantasia) and then rarities in this format: Debussy’s Prelude a l’Apres-Midi d’un Faune and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, in this the latter’s centenary year.
Right down at the other end of our region, Gloucester Music Society devotes much of its forthcoming 84th season to commemorations of Benjamin Britten and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Gloucestershire composers – Vaughan Williams and Ivor Gurney – are a strong presence, but so too are Britten and Elgar, as well as Shostakovich, such a close colleague of Britten’s. The concerts take place in the atmospheric church of St Mary de Lode, just below Gloucester Cathedral.
Moving a little way homewards, Worcester Concert Club continues its laudable celebration of local musicians, its 2013-14 season centring on a violin and piano recital from Michael Bochmann and Michael Blackmore, including works by Schumann and Brahms, the world’s greatest violin sonata (Cesar Franck), and Three Pieces by Worcester-based Ian Venables, a composer whose works are deservedly receiving acclaim worldwide nowadays.
Not very far away is the amazingly buoyant Autumn in Malvern Festival, a long-established fixture during the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and bringing events and exhibitions traversing so many art forms.
This year Britten forms the core of the offerings, beginning with a showing of the propaganda films of the 1930s for which the young composer wrote the scores to the poetry of W.H. Auden. Night Mail is of course to the fore.
There is more Britten in a delicious all-English programme ranging from Purcell to Richard Rodney Bennett from the Aldwyn Voices and Chamber Ensemble at Stanbrook Abbey, and at Malvern College Theatre Humphrey Burton presents a fascinating montage of “Benjamin Britten on Film”.
Back to Stanbrook Abbey for the St Petersburg String Quartet, bringing together works by Britten and his great friend and colleague Dmitri Shostakovich, before the musical input of Autumn in Malvern ends with a visit to Malvern College from the Royal College of Music Orchestra, playing Arvo Part’s Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten,
Mozart’s miraculous Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola (Birmingham-based Alessandro Ruisi the violin soloist), an Elgar rarity (the Oboe Soliloquy – we need to learn more about that, and, finally, Britten’s magnificent homage to his teacher, the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge.
And a little way up the road towards Birmingham, Bromsgrove Concerts celebrates its 50th birthday with a mouthwatering programme on October 18, when the Atrium Quartet perform Walton’s rarely-played String Quartet, and are joined by Nicolas Stavy in two great Piano Quintets, those by Shostakovich and Elgar.
Among Bromsgrove’s other offerings are the opening recital concert from the Brodowski Quartet, when Prokofiev and Smetana sandwich the recent Fifth Quartet by John Pickard, a generous recital from the pianist Mark Bebbington, with Schubert’s wondrous late B-flat Sonata is actually sandwiched between Haydn, Debussy, and William Alwyn, whose masterly Fantasy Waltzes Bebbington has recorded for release around the same time as this January recital.
And Bromsgrove’s season ends with an unmissable programme of Janacek’s Intimate Letters String Quartet and Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, soloist Timothy Orpen joining the Cavaleri Quartet.
But the highlight here will be the premiere of Ian Venables’ Canzonetta for clarinet and string quartet, a joint commission funded by the Kay Trust for Bromsgrove Concerts and Droitwich Concert Club (Bromsgrove on March 21, Droitwich the next day).