Yesterday I took myself off to the Gregynog Festival in mid-Wales - driving through the most beautiful countryside on the way there and back - to hear Kristian Bezuidenhout play Mozart and Beethoven on the fortepiano. I spent hours playing these piano sonatas in my youth, so I know them well, but these performances were just sublime. I could have listened all day!
The festival continues until 28 June, finishing on Sunday afternoon with the wonderful Vox Luminis, whose recent recording of motets by the Bach family was pick of the week on BBC Radio 3's CD Review on 21 June
The mezzo Esther Brazil tells me that she has been part of the story of a portrait of J S Bach being returned to Leipzig, where an annual Bachfest celebrates the time the composer spent there. The portrait's last owner, American philanthropist William H. Scheide, died last November at the age of 100. He instructed in his will that the painting should fly home to Leipzig, Germany, where Bach spent the final decades of his life and where the Bach archive has its headquarters and a small museum.
Esther says "I sang with a small group in front of it in Princeton, at the house of the owner's widow, Judy Scheide, and then a few days ago I sang in front of it again with the same select group of Monteverdi Choir people at the event marking its installation at the Bach Arkiv in Leipzig."
You can read the whole story in the New York Times report and if your German is up to it the story from the Leipzig Bach archive.
I headed with Chris to Cheltenham's Pittville Pump Room on Sunday evening for Cheltenham Bach Choir's concert. I don't know whether Jonathan Dove wrote The Passing of the Year with the intention that it could be programmed with Carmina Burana - it has the same accompaniment of two pianos and percussion, although a completely different text (lovely poems by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, George Peele, Thomas Nashe and Alfred Lord Tennyson). I enjoyed both pieces and both performances enormously.
It was great to see a packed house, again - the Cheltenham Youth Choir provided the children's chorus for Carmina, with soloists Erica Eloff, Matthew Minter and Njabulo Madlala (who was in Cheltenham just recently with English Touring Opera, in The Wild Man of the West Indies and La Bohème). Diggory Seacome's Regency Percussion Ensemble together with pianists David Jones and David Whitehead completed the cast.
Sarah Tenant-Flowers was conducting - she was one of the mentors in the first series of Maestro on BBC2 tv and stepped in prior to the arrival of Cheltenham Bach Choir's new conductor, David Crown, who starts in September.
Who would have thought that Malvern could be a centre for Argentinian tango? I've loved the music and the dance since I took a few classes when I was living in London quite a few years ago now, so I was intrigued to see the programme for last Saturday's concert by Malvern Festival Chorus. Their new conductor Richard Knight is passionate about South America and also a composer, and his lovely La Vida de Tango opened the concert, followed by some numbers from Tango Siempre, a four-piece band brought from London. Dancers from Tango Malvern took to the aisles of Malvern Priory to demonstrate the sultry steps of the tango and milonga.
The UK premiere of the Misa a Buenos Aires by Martin Palmeri formed the second half of the concert - this is a great piece, and should be performed by more choral societies! There are a couple of recordings on YouTube including this one:
On a beautiful summer's evening I drove over to Lyde Court near Hereford for a performance of Perola Barroca - a show about the little-known baroque composer Zipoli, who after studying in Florence and Rome travelled to Paraguay where his music was widely performed. It's a fascinating story, told by countertenor Will Towers, who also wrote the libretto. Eloise Irving is the Roman noblewoman and patroness with whom he falls in love, and they sing to the accompaniment of two violins (Miles Golding and Charlotte Fairbairn), cello Sophie Gledhill, and Mark Latimer, keyboards and musical director.
There's just one further performance in Cornwall tonight but the website suggests there may be more to follow in London in the autumn. Highly recommended!
Rhian Davies has just sent out a newsletter about the Gregynog Festival, which is beginning in less than a week's time. She says "With a record 13 Wales or UK debuts, we've received a host of press recommendations, including the Daily Telegraph ('Wales' premier music festival ... top-rank performers of early music'), BBC Music Magazine ('20 Unmissable Events for June'), Early Music Today ('a strong early music programme featuring high-profile artists')"- read more here
Jill Davies has spent most of her life immersed in music, from sitting under the piano while her mum gave lessons to taking up the ukulele a couple of years ago. She's an agent (mainly for singers) by day, has a personal record of going to 12 concerts in 3 days, and can't decide whether it's more fun to sing Elgar partsongs or play Gibbons viol consorts.