Unmissable Delights at SCMF

Music in the Round’s 34th annual May Festival has a new name this year – well, a new old name! – Sheffield Chamber Music Festival, occasionally used in its early days and what it has always been.

Also, this time round, it is easily the most eclectic in terms of content and programming over 39 events (including talks) between Friday, the 11th of May and Saturday, the 19th.

From Edgar Allan Poe to Mercadante and a silent Russian film, there is much to discover in nine jam-packed days, which carry an underlying theme of harmony. Venues vary, but most activity is at the Crucible Studio.

Chronologically, highlights can be said to include Roderick Williams performing Schubert’s Schwanengesang, the concert blurb referring to 13 songs – No 4 is the famous Ständchen (Serenade) – suggesting the 14th song, the solitary Seidl setting, is being omitted.

Earlier, the baritone joins Ensemble 360 for Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) arranged for chamber ensemble by Erwin Stein – Schoenberg came up with a more regularly heard version!

A concert headed When Death Comes to Call has Sheffield Theatres involvement for Pushkin’s one-act play Mozart and Salieri with an outing for Mozart’s K301 violin sonata during or after it.

Part two, so to speak sees appropriate works by Debussy and his disciple Florent Schmitt prefacing a super piece for harp and string quartet by another Debussy follower André Caplet, Conte Fantastique, a depiction in music of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.

Were you aware, incidentally, that Debussy worked on an unfinished double bill of one-act operas after two Edgar Allan Poe stories, one being The Fall of the House of Usher?

Ensemble 360 members are heard in Sheffield Cathedral with an irresistible programme of Elgar, Howells, Butterworth before an ad-hoc Sheffield Youth Strings Collective (not to be underrated!) tune up for Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis by Vaughan Williams.

Super Swedish mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus and pianist Joseph Middleton performing Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis; three of Fauré’s best-known songs; ditto, by Duparc; plus songs by Satie and Messiaen, should make compulsive listening.

Music in the Round’s ongoing World of Strings strand in its spring and autumn seasons is invoked for what promises to be a beguiling evening in the company of virtuoso harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora (it resembles large banjo) maestro Seckou Keita.

Peter Hill, quietly a Bach keyboard specialist, offers the composer’s Goldberg Variations – on the piano, obviously – to close a day investigating the significance of mathematics in music.

Among other concerts from the world-class Ensemble 360 is a thoroughly engaging affair of Dvořák, Martinů and Janáček; and there is a performance of Mozart’s six-movement Divertimento for string trio K563 four hours later.

The ensemble’s double bass player Laurène Durantel also calls on her talents as a pianist and singer for an improvised accompaniment to the 1929 Russian film Man With a Movie Camera (deemed a classic!) at the Showroom Cinema and a sell-out hit at Sheffield University 12 months ago.

O yes, Mercadante! Saverio Mercadante, a sort of Italian Gluck and virtually forgotten composer of some 60 operas, many highly successful, but had the misfortune to have Rossini as a contemporary.

He crops in a programme of Italian instrumental music from Ensemble 360 headed Young Rossini and ends with his William Tell Overture, penned to what was to be his last opera at the age 38 in 1829 – not really young!

Full details of everything in the festival at www.musicintheround.co.uk