Secrets, Obsessions and Schubert-ian Gypsies

So, you may ask, how does a string quintet come to be played by a violin, cello, clarinet, accordion and cimbalom? – not any old string quintet, either, but Schubert’s immortal masterpiece!

Well, an ensemble made up of the five instruments calling itself ZRI (Zum Roten Igel) believes the gypsy/ Hungarian elements written into the Schubert quintet are not always clear to audiences now so have re-scored it to make them patently obvious.

A similar ‘re-imagination’ (a modern euphemism for arrangement!), a well thought of exercise has also been performed by the group on the Brahms Clarinet Quintet.

Prompting both ‘re-imaginings’ was a popular coffee house-cum-tavern in 19th century Vienna, Zum Roten Igel! – The Red Hedgehog, regularly frequented by Schubert, Brahms and others where they would have heard gypsy and folk bands as they socialised into the night.

Thus, Schubert’s String Quintet in new clothes with a dozen indigenous traditional tunes, plus the final song of the composer’s Winterreise cycle, Der Leiermann, woven in should at least to be an entertaining last concert at this year’s Bradfield Festival of Music on the 1st of July.

This year’s festival, in the picturesque surroundings of the historic church of St Nicholas at High Bradfield, is also its 20th birthday having been revived in 1998 – music festivals were held at the church in the 19th century, around the time Schubert’s String Quintet was penned in 1828, actually!

Proceedings get underway on the 24th of June with a visit by the ten-piece Austonley Brass ensemble and Neil Taylor: organ, who will not have to travel as far, for a Derek Renshaw-narrated mixture of Saint-Saëns: Carnival of Animals, Organ Symphony extracts, the Grand March from Aida, Star Wars and Schindler’s List themes and a Mary Poppins suite.

Jacqui Dankworth, daughter of two famous musicians, moves in (26th June) with husband Charlie Wood, a much-lauded American singer/songwriter and pianist, to celebrate a century of song taking in Alone Together, Autumn in New York, It Don’t Mean a Thing, A Foggy Day, You’ve Got a Friend, among others.

Twenty-four hours later, one of America’s finest younger generation string quartets, the Escher Quartet, which has had a spell on the prestigious BBC New Generation Artist scheme, performs Haydn’s Op 76 No 6 quartet, Debussy’s solitary essay in the form and Schubert’s Death and the Maiden quartet.

Benjamin Grosvenor makes his third visit to the festival (28th June) but this time with a friend, South Korean violinist Hyeyoon Park whose instrumental prowess appears to be as great as his around a piano keyboard.

Their attractive programme is Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No 8 and Piano Sonata No 14, the Moonlight, Ravel’s Violin Sonata No 2, Bartók’s Rhapsody No 1, Chopin’s Barcarolle Op 60 and César Franck’s Violin Sonata.

The human singing voice returns (29th June), three of them: soprano Elizabeth Watts, who needs no introduction to Sheffield audiences, tenor Nicky Spence and countertenor Christopher Ainslee, in the company of pianist Audrey Hyland to explore ‘Secrets and Obsessions’ over a programme of songs.

In total, 22 of them from the German pens of Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Loewe, the English quills of Purcell, Britten, Bridge, Balfe, George Butterworth, and French, Spanish, American items by Hahn, Granados and Lehrer.

Bringing us to the penultimate concert and a return visit by the outstanding St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble (30th June) in its 50th anniversary year with an evening of string sextets by Brahms, his second: Op 36, Dvořák: Op 48, and Richard Strauss, the often extracted string sextet prelude to his last opera Capriccio.

All concerts begin at 7.30pm; tickets range from £16 to £22 and a visit to will tell you how to obtain them.


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