Cheltenham Music Festival 2011
Long summer evenings and beautiful music mean just one thing to me, Cheltenham Music Festival! The sixty-seventh Festival begins on June 29th, and with over one hundred and fifty hours of live music on offer this year's concerts promise to be the most diverse ever. The Festival attracts more than sixteen thousand visitors each year, with events ranging from free family workshops and projects for young artists to concerts by world-class musicians.
Performances at the Town Hall will be broadcast on big screens, putting audiences even closer to the music, and fourteen rows of tiered seating will be added to the back of the main floor to improve sight lines. With so much to choose from it would be impossible to highlight everything of note, but the Festival always presents the very best pianists. Several events have particularly caught my eye, beginning with Leif Ove Andsnes (July 5th).
This will be the Norwegian pianist's Cheltenham debut. Described as 'one of the most gifted musicians of his generation' by the Wall Street Journal, he is currently the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's Artist in Residence. His Festival programme will comprise a selection of pieces composed in Vienna, including two Beethoven sonatas (Op. 53 and Op. 111), Brahms' Four Ballades (Op.10) and Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces (Op.19).
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (July 7th) makes a welcome return to the area, having performed in Malvern in March as part of the Yamaha International Piano Series. His repertoire ranges from Beethoven and Bartók to contemporary composers such as Maurice Ohana and Henri Dutilleux. His programme in Cheltenham includes Haydn's Sonata in C minor (Hob. 16/20), Ravel's Menuet sue le nom de Haydn and Liszt's Dante Sonata.
The Russian-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg is no stranger to the Festival, having appeared here in 2005, 2006 and 2007. This time he will perform an all-Russian concert with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, under Principal Conductor Kirill Karabits (July 8th). Their programme includes Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on a Bare Mountain, and Rachmaninov's second Piano Concerto (Op. 18).
James Rhodes (July 3rd) will make his second Festival appearance, this time with the Festival Academy Strings under conductor Neil Thomson. Bach is one of Rhodes' great loves, as those of you who went to his 2010 recital in the Parabola Arts Centre will know. His programme includes Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 4 (BWV 1055) and Arvo Pärt's extraordinarily calm and contemplative Tabula Rasa for two solo violins, piano and strings.
Since 1999, BBC Radio 3's New Generation Artists programme has nurtured a huge array of talent. On July 5th and 6th, current NGAs Francesco Piemontesi (piano), Veronika Eberle (violin) and Nicolas Altstaedt (cello) will join forces for two concerts. Their programmes include two Beethoven piano trios (No. 2, Op. 1 No.2, and No. 5, Op. 70 No. 2), extracts from Bach's Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) and Schumann's Op. 15 Kinderszenen.
Other highlights for pianophiles include Alexander Melnikov joining forces with the Jerusalem Quartet to perform Schumann's Op. 47 Piano Quartet (July 2nd), and the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, another BBC Radio 3 NGA, performing Dmitri Shostakovich's Op. 57 Piano Quintet with the Escher Quartet (July 4th). In the same concert, she will play Sergei Prokofiev's dissonant Op. 83 'Stalingrad' Sonata.
Performances take place in a variety of venues, including Pittville Pump Room, Gloucester Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey and the Everyman Theatre. Whether you're a music buff or a curious novice, a family looking for a fun day out or a young professional in search of something to do after a long day at work, the Festival has something for everyone. Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the box office on 0844 576 8970.