This year’s Music in the Round May Festival at the Crucible Studio is dedicated to Peter Cropper who passed away shortly after last year’s ended and with whom it all started in May 1984.
It was exclusively Beethoven (Peter’s musical god!) then, and although the days of one-composer May Festivals are long gone, it was natural for him to figure prominently this year in Beethoven Revisited!
It sees no fewer than 34 timed events over nine days, 6th of May to the 14th of May, catering for both the serious music listener with some imaginatively-planned concerts and families.
A blow by blow look at the festival would be tedious, especially as a visit to www.musicintheround.co.uk will tell you everything, including ticket prices, discounted subscription packages and, if you are under 35, how to get tickets for £5.
However, a few signposts indicating what is on offer is in order.
A couple of septets get the festival underway, Beethoven’s popular essay, Op 20, preceded by the late one by the French composer of English descent George Onslow (not entirely a festival stranger) for piano, winds and double bass.
Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony is heard in Hummel’s flute quartet transcription, an exercise he similarly undertook on the other six of his first seven symphonies, and seven Mozart piano concertos!
It is not the only the Beethoven work heard in different clothing with renowned jazz pianist and composer Julian Joseph, who has an impressive niche in classical music circles playing chiefly 20th century repertoire, returning to perform the Op 132 string quartet (No 15).
Another composer appears to introduce one of his works, Howard Skempton who wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for baritone Roderick Williams and who performs it here after a performance of Beethoven’s second Razumovsky string quartet.
Kreutzer vs Kreutzer sounds like a ‘do not miss’ event. A play for two actors by Laura Wade based on Tolstoy’s novella; it weaves Beethoven’s Kreutzer violin sonata and Janáček’s Kreutzer Sonata string quartet into it and has been greeted with considerable acclaim.
The shade of Beethoven has a night off when the Avison Ensemble (two violins, cello and harpsichord) led by Baroque violinist supreme Pavlo Beznosiuk mix Handel trio sonatas, plus a keyboard suite and violin sonata, with works by Bach (arr Mozart) and Johann Stamitz.
Other Beethoven works include the Quintet for piano and winds Op 16 (Mozart’s model for it is also heard), Clarinet Trio Op 11, the Diabelli Variations, String Quintet Op 4, Harp and Serioso string quartets, also lesser known pieces among the WoO number works.
Among other non-Beethoven items are Bartók’s String Quartet No 1, Schoenberg’s rhapsodic Verklärte Nacht, Brahms’s Op 18 string sextet, Schubert’s String Quintet and his Octet.
Ensemble 360 carry the brunt of the performances, while other visiting musicians are the Vertavo String Quartet and there is also a welcome return for Benjamin Frith who plays piano duets by Beethoven with Tim Horton, including the Grosse Fuge.