Unmissable event comes of age

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Anthony Marwood with the Aurora Orchestra

Last weekend, in glorious weather, the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival, formerly the Florestan Festival at Peasmarsh, achieved its majority, old style, by completing its twenty-first season in Peasmarsh church. As always, the standard of concerts has been of the highest, with an extraordinary highlight being the traditional Friday night event in Rye church.

Festival co-directors Anthony Marwood (violin) and Richard Lester (‘cello), accompanied by the brilliant Aurora Orchestra gave us unforgettably beautiful accounts of, respectively, Vaughan Williams’s Lark Ascending and Elgar’s elegiac Concerto for ‘Cello and Orchestra; the Vaughan Williams even had its own little bird flying around in St Mary’s to accompany it.

By complete contrast, the new Bridge Point facility at Rock Channel hosted hundreds for the Young Composers element of the Festival’s educational outreach. Here the mercurial and astonishing Sam Glazer coaxed from pupils of Peasmarsh, Beckley and Rye primary schools, songs composed in a single day each with the theme of space and time; what astonishingly expressive results were achieved, also with the support of the Aurora.

The concerts at Peasmarsh church itself are too many and varied to cover fully but the forte piano performance on the Sunday morning not only contained wonderful playing by Kristian Bezuidenhout and Richard Lester (on a gut-stringed and spikeless ‘cello) but also gave an impression of what Mozart and Beethoven might have heard in their day.

Perhaps most magical and mysterious of all was the late-night concert on the Saturday, miraculously rescued from power cut disaster by the resourcefulness of the management team.

In this the guitarist Derek Gripper was accompanied by classical string players in his own adaptations of music from Mali. The unfamiliar but beguiling music emerging from musicians barely visible in the darkness will not easily be forgotten. There is room for only one other brief concert review and I chose this because it contains one of my favourites, Schubert’s String Quintet, a work I was introduced to many years ago by the late Lord Harewood, not personally you understand: he chose it as one of his eight discs for his desert island.

The performance was a deeply moving one, contrasting as it did with the relentless and even aggressive First Chamber Symphony of Schoenberg arranged by his pupil Anton Webern for piano quintet, which featured in the first half. Wonderful skill but also musicianship and emotional power was displayed throughout as it was in every performance during an all-too short weekend.

I have omitted many, many beautiful and moving things which deserve notice and great praise as there is limited space. To experience the full glory of the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival you have to go to it; put June 25 to 28, 2020 in your diary now!

Image Credits: Walter van Dyk.

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