The English Music Festival welcomes back the BBC Concert Orchestra to Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire to open the thirteenth annual discovery of orchestral, choral and chamber music gems, 24th – 27th May 2019

The annual English Music Festival celebrates the brilliance, innovation, beauty and rich musical heritage of Britain with a strong focus on unearthing overlooked or forgotten masterpieces of the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century.

Launching the festival at Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire this year will be the BBC Concert Orchestra under conductor Martin Yates, who will perform a programme of world première performances of works by Lord Berners and Stanford, Robin Milford’s Symphony and Vaughan Williams’s The Blue Bird, alongside pieces by Delius and Arnold.

Gems of the English choral repertoire are represented in two programmes featuring works by Charles Wood, Stanford, John Ireland, Howells, Parry and Vaughan Williams, Dyson, Finzi, Holst and Howells, performed by the Chapel Choir of Worcester College, Oxford, and the Godwine Choir, along with the Holst Orchestra, under Hilary Davan Wetton.

Intimate chamber recitals featuring works of transformative beauty include song cycles by Herbert Howells, John Ireland, Gerald Finzi and Ian Venables, performed by acclaimed Indian tenor, Anando Mukerjee and Pavel Timofeyevsky. Venables’s Venetian Songs are based on words by the Victorian author and critic, John Addington Symonds, and include The Invitation to the Gondola; the author’s wistful evocation of Venice as ‘a city seen in dreams’.

Taking a step back in time, soprano Sara Stowe with Sam Brown and Matthew Spring present songs and duets from the seventeenth-century by John Dowland and John Daniel performed on lute and viola da gamba. Piano-Duet, Lynn Arnold and Charles Matthews, perform York Bowen, William Alwyn, Delius, Bliss and Donald Tovey, and the powerhouse Piatti String Quartet - prizewinner of the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition - perform Elgar, Britten, Bridge and Walton.

Contemporary music is represented by Israeli-French-British composer Nimrod Borenstein and a new work composed by David Matthews, featuring violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck and the celebrated German pianist, Michael Korstick. Also in this programme is a performance of Elgar’s Violin Sonata using a new urtext edition from G. Henle Verlag, stripping back the editorial layers and errors that found their ways into the hitherto published versions, to bring a fresh new version that is true to Elgar’s intentions.

A performance of Paul Carr’s Stabat Mater coincides with the première recording performed by the English Arts Chorale on the Festival’s own record label, EM Records.

In lighter vein, EMF regulars, the New Foxtrot Serenaders, perform from The Great British Songbook of the 1920’s to the 60’s in their own engaging style. Poetry is also featured, with a recital by actor Lance Pierson in conjunction with Festival Director Em Marshall-Luck, on the theme of composers and music in poetry, and musical poems. The Chamber Ensemble of London under Director, Peter Fisher, bring the festival to a close with characteristic string works by Bainton, Delius, Alwyn, Ireland, Finzi and Vaughan Williams.

Informative and entertaining talks and interviews, setting the composers and music in context, take place in Dorchester Village Hall, and cover English string music; a new version of the Elgar Sonata, and Holst’s final years, while Martin Yates, in discussion with Lewis Foreman, explores the premières he has discovered and that will be performed for the first time on the opening night.

Concerts continue throughout the day and late into the evening, taking place at Dorchester Abbey, Radley College and Sutton Courtenay Church. Characterful local inns provide accommodation and the opportunity for convivial social occasions over lunch and supper, and a convenient mini-bus transfer operates between venues and Didcot Parkway station.

Visit the website to see the festival programme:


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