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Seen and Heard Festival Preview

 

 

 

Exeter Summer Festival 2006: Glorious Music in Glorious Devon, 7th to 23rd July 2006 (BK)

 

 

Exeter Cathedral


Of all the UK's summer music festivals, Exeter is still my favourite. I'm partisan of course since I live in Devon, but simple convenience isn't everything. Generally speaking, classical music is poorly served in Devon - Exeter University's Music Department all but closed down last year and we have no professional orchestra locally except the remarkable Devon Baroque, a chamber group led by Margaret Faultless. We also lack facilities: there's no concert hall in the county and no large theatre in Exeter. Instead we make do with the city's Cathedral or the University's Great Hall for visiting orchestral concerts; and for opera - which really means English Touring Opera's annual visits - the compact (not to say bijou) Northcott Theatre is the only suitable venue.

 

Hats off then, to Exeter City Council for the lively programme of music, theatre and ballet that comes to Devon's 'capital' every year in July. Without a big name Artistic Director to spearhead the event, the Council arranges a varied mix of concerts and recitals that does them great credit, especially since it is funded by ticket sales and some sponsorship.

 

This year, another rich assortment of recitals and bigger concerts is in store. The Borodin Quartet will play Miaskovsky (no.13) Shostakovitch (No. 1) and Schumann (Op 41, No 3 in A major) on July 13th, a programme of great interest to many. Next up is Welsh mezzo Buddug Verona James and a small baroque band presenting the 'one-woman' show Castradiva, a celebration of the lives of Rome's castrati singers in the early 1700s. This costumed presentation includes arias by Gluck and Handel as well as instrumental music by Biber, Marais, Mattei and Scarlatti and promises musical excellence combined with some drama and comedy. Anyone describing herself as 'opera singer, actress and butcher' clearly has a sense of fun.

Other recital highlights include Freddie Kempf playing Beethoven (Appassionata and Pathétique sonatas) and Chopin and the Fujita Piano Trio, three young women from Japan bringing trios by Haydn ('Gypsy Rondo' ) Mendelssohn and Schubert. Their Wigmore Hall debut in 1999 was greeted with enthusiasm and their reputation for tour de force playing grows year on year. And according to reports so far, the solo recital by the young guitarist Xufei Yang on July 20th - whose playing is reminiscent of John Williams by all accounts - should be well worth a hearing too.

 

 

Shuntaro Sato

 

The bigger musical events start with the Philharmonia conducted by Shuntaro Sato on July 8th playing Smetana's Bartered Bride Overture, the Grieg Piano Concert with soloist Vesselin Stanev and Rimsky's Scheherezade. Emma Johnson and the European Union Chamber Orchestra are also in the Cathedral on July 12th with a Haydn and Mozart programme that includes the Clarinet Concerto (K622) Directed by Eva Stegemann, this concert is bound to be very popular.

So too will be the concert by the London Mozart Players and the excellent Exeter Festival Chorus two nights later. Conducted by chorus's permanent director, former Kings Singer Nigel Perrin, the programme consists of Karl Jenkins' increasingly popular Requiem and the Beethoven Mass in C. The soloists for the evening are Elizabeth Watts (sop),  Patricia Orr (mezzo) Sean Clayton (tenor) and Haken Vramso (bass). Clive Bell plays the shakuhachi in the Jenkins Requiem.

 

To complete this round-up, two vocal concerts with greatly contrasted programming and musical styles are worth mentioning. Harry Christophers and The Sixteen bring their Choral Pilgrimage 2006 to the Cathedral on July 22nd,  a concert comprising the Victoria Requiem and some of Victoria's motets. The tour has had enthusiastic reviews from critics everywhere so far and is bound to be a sell-out. Early booking is certainly advisable.

 

And finally, a concert two nights before The Sixteen by the Swingle Singers deserves attention. Yes, they're still going, 43 years on since Jazz Sebastian Bach, and dooby, dooby doo-ing just as they always did. Though Ward Swingle is in his seventies now and his singing days are past, he calls the current group his 'grandchildren' and makes sure that they still sound.....well,  Swingley. No other word will quite do.

 

 

 

 

Bill Kenny

 

 

 

Further details of the festival can be found at http://pub.exeter.gov.uk/asp/summer2006/ and online booking is available from May 11th.

 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)