More than twenty years ago, Anthony Marwood, local resident and the violinist of the world-famous Florestan Piano Trio, entered Peasmarsh Church, loved its setting and atmosphere and, happening to have his violin with him, used it to test the church’s acoustics. He immediately determined that this was an ideal place for a music festival, which, with his Florestan colleagues Richard Lester (‘cello) and Susan Tomes (piano) and local support, he duly began in 1998.
The twentieth festival took place last weekend, having grown from five performers and three concerts over two days to nine concerts, one for orchestra in St Mary’s, Rye and one educational, with dozens of musicians, over four days. Originally named the Florestan Festival at Peasmarsh, it has been known, ever since the disbandment of the original Florestan Trio in 2011, as the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival.
From the start, the event has been significant and grew rapidly to be one of the finest, if not THE finest, of its kind, in the South East, attracting musicians and audience members from around the world; it has maintained a unique and intimate aura, being still small enough for many to attend all nine concerts and to meet each other and many of the musicians from year to year. Two of the original founders, Anthony Marwood and Richard Lester, play frequently and direct proceedings with a loving care that makes this Festival an indispensable adornment to our area. Standards are of the highest and some of my highlights from last weekend, all, apart from the third, in Peasmarsh Church, are briefly set out below:
Festival Opening June 22: Wonderful interplay between pianist Ellen Hwangbo and ‘cellist Richard Lester in Prokofiev’s sonata in C major
Education Showcase June 23: Sam Glazer works inspirationally with classes from Beckley and Peasmarsh Primary Schools to elicit brilliant songs suggested by the theme of ‘Summer’. All this is enthusiastically supported by the members of the Doric String Quartet and is made possible by sponsorship from the Rudi Martinus van Dijk Foundation.
Orchestral Concert June 23: Dazzling team work from violinist Anthony Marwood, ‘cellist Richard Lester and pianist Aleksandar Madzar in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the magnificent Britten Sinfonia.
Morning Concert June 24: Remarkable fifteen year old Benedict Lim creates wonder by his playing of Ysaye’s E minor solo violin sonata and the beauty and mystery of the Doric String Quartet’s playing of Schubert’s D.887 makes many listeners cry, including me.
Early Evening Emotion June 24: Magical Mozart G minor string quintet and Anthony Marwood and
Aleksandar Madzar electrify in Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.
Late Night Lyricism June 24: Actor Walter van Dyk introduces, with a beautifully judged reading of the composer’s letters, Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite, played with emotional intensity by the Doric Quartet.
Sunday Morning Sonatas June 25: Titanic performance by Aleksandar Madzar of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata
Tales of Offenbach June 25: An unforgettable riot of joy and beautiful tunes, with a serious interlude for the moving Prayer of Moses. Walter van Dyk speaks beautifully, sings musically and makes a fool of himself with the greatest elegance.
Finale June 25: A Glazunov string quintet, a Prokofiev violin and piano sonata and a Brahms piano quartet bring the Festival to an end in glorious style.
Don’t miss the next one: June 21st -24 2018, in what the programme rightly calls a ‘poetic, ancient landscape.’
Photos: Walter van Dik