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Presteigne Festival 2017

In its thirty-fifth year, the Presteigne Festival (24-29 August 2017, based around St Andrew's Church, Presteigne, Powys, Wales, UK) celebrates music, musicians and very much more with a wide variety of vibrant events. There is a huge range of repertoire from Bach to the present day, and an enticing feature of Danish music allows for a further look at Nielsen, Langgaard, Holmboe and several contemporary Danes.

The festival marks important birthdays for composers John Joubert (ninety) and Hugh Wood (eighty-five), and also celebrates the sixtieth birthday of George Vass, the festival's artistic director for the last twenty-five years.

In this special year there are new works from Sally Beamish, Michael Berkeley, Martin Butler, Michael Zev Gordon, Christopher Gunning, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Thomas Hyde, Gabriel Jackson, David Knotts, David Matthews, Cecilia McDowall, Robert Peate, Jack Sheen, Matthew Taylor, Huw Watkins, Adrian Williams and composer-in-residence, Edward Gregson.

The music of British composer John McCabe (1939-2015), a former Presteigne Festival Vice-President, is represented by two works - on 26 August 2017 at St Stephen's, Old Radnor, Katherine Baker performs his short March Sonatina for solo flute, in a morning flute and harp recital with Suzy Willison-Kawalec. Two days later, on 28 August at St Andrew's, Presteigne, members of the Leonore Trio will include his 1999 Sonata for Cello and Piano, in their Memorial Concert for Mary Nolan. This Sonata was originally commissioned by the Presteigne Festival for performance by Alice Neary and Gretel Dowdeswell. The material for the work is drawn to some extent from the music for the ballet Edward II, in which at two important points the cello becomes the 'voice' of Edward. However, in his programme note John McCabe explains the relationship between the music of these sections and the Sonata is more complex than is usually the case with a concert piece deriving its fundamental ideas from a music theatre work. Indeed the opening idea of the Sonata occurred to him some years before the ballet was thought of. He mentions that, in addition, other themes heard in the ballet have strong connections with the opening of the work - 'so there is a strong familial relationship between the two pieces, and the flow of ideas goes back and forth between them'.

A consortium of living composers - Sally Beamish, Michael Berkeley, David Matthews, Christopher Gunning, Thomas Hyde, Matthew Taylor, Huw Watkins and Adrian Williams - has been commissioned by the festival to write a set of variations on the English folk song Lovely Joan, and the result will be performed during the evening orchestral concert on Friday 25 August.

The festival presents an extended programme of supporting events, marking the Sidney Nolan centenary with talks, a film and a major exhibition at The Rodd. There is a spotlight on the counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s, with a talk by writer and broadcaster Ian Marchant and a series of iconic films: Breathless, Performance and Bonnie and Clyde, introduced by distinguished film editor, Tony Lawson.

French pianist Anne Lovett joins actor Christopher Good for a late evening performance of Meurig Bowen's witty portrait of Erik Satie's life and times - Memoirs of a Pear-Shaped Life - in the year of Satie's 101st birthday.

The artist line-up features the Gramophone award-winning Nightingale Quartet, the Leonore Trio, outstanding Welsh mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, violist Rachel Roberts, prize-winning guitarist Laura Snowden and very many more.

The resident Festival Orchestra features in three events, joined by Sine Nomine International Touring Choir for performances of recent works by Cecilia McDowall and Tarik O'Regan. The opening concert includes works by Maxwell Davies, Poulenc and Michael Berkeley, concluding with Judith Weir's extraordinary music drama The Consolations of Scholarship - the innovative Berkeley Ensemble being joined by Welsh mezzo, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones.

Visit the Presteigne Festival in its special year and immerse yourself in the culture and countryside of Radnorshire's favourite Festival town.

Information: www.presteignefestival.com

Posted: 12 July 2017

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