Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Classical season ahead hits all the right notes

Classical season ahead hits all the right notes

AS fans of classical music well know, the best concerts can be a bit like buses — nothing for a while, then three come along at once. With a new spring season getting under way, TREVOR HOWELL picks out some of the orchestral and chamber music highlights in the run-up to Easter


Full-scale instrumental music is well served in Henley’s catchment area by local amateur, semi-professional and visiting world-class professional orchestras — with most events being accessible by car from Henley in less than 30 minutes.

The earliest event of this quarter is the Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra concert tomorrow night (Saturday, January 21) at 7.30pm in Reading’s Concert Hall. The programme comprises the Tiny Symphony by Max Charles Davies, Concerto for flute and orchestra by Nielsen (soloist, Nicola Loten), The Way of Things by Max Charles Davies and Symphony No1 by Tchaikovsky. For booking details, visit www.aldworthphilharmonic.org.uk/

The West Forest Sinfonia give the first of two orchestral concerts this spring on Sunday, January 29, at 4.30pm in The Great Hall, University of Reading, with Jon Musgrave (piano), in a performance of Holst’s ballet music from The Perfect Fool, Howells’s Piano Concerto No1, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and Bax’s Spring Fire. Tickets are available by calling 0118 978 6189, emailing tickets@westforestsinfonia.org or from Wokingham Town Hall information centre on 0118 978 3185.

One not-to-be-missed event takes place on Sunday, February 5, at 7.30pm in the Hexagon, when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra appears with principal guest conductor and Grammy Award-winning violinist Pinchas Zukerman in a programme of Beethoven and Elgar. Beethoven’s Egmont Overture Op 84 and Violin Concerto in D Major Op 61 (soloist, Zukerman) will be followed by Elgar’s Enigma Variations. There is a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm. To book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com

Henley Symphony Orchestra’s season under music director Ian Brown continues at the Hexagon on Sunday, March 5, at 7.30pm with outstanding pianist Stephen Hough (“The most perfect piano playing conceivable,” according to the Guardian).

Hough is the soloist for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No4, preceded by Beethoven’s overture to his only ballet score, Prometheus, “depicting human creatures being led to joy”. This mythological theme is continued in Holst’s great work, The Planets. To book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com. The HSO box office number is 01235 859210.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will also be visiting the Hexagon on Friday, March 24, at 7.30pm with Julian Wilkins conducting and Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall presenting.

The programme includes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Strauss’s Voices of Spring, Elgar’s Chanson de Matin and Vaughan Williams’s The Wasps. There is a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm. To book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com

West Forest Sinfonia’s second orchestral concert of the spring is at 4.30pm on Sunday, March 26, at St Paul’s Church, Wokingham. The programme comprises Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto (soloist, Caroline Owen), Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Berkeley’s Serenade for String Orchestra and Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Tickets are available by calling
0118 978 6189, emailing tickets@
westforestsinfonia.org or from Wokingham Town Hall
information centre on 0118 978

Reading Symphony Orchestra appear at the Great Hall,
University of Reading,
on Saturday, April 1,
at 7.30pm to perform
Saint-Saëns’s Danse
, Ravel’s
Piano Concerto in
G Major
Robert Cheung was
the winner of the
RSO/ Hickies Young Musicians’ Competition 2014), and Stravinsky’s Petrushka. To book, call the RSO box office on 0118 986 0707 or email tickets@rso.org.uk.

In case, after the RPO, CBSO and Stephen Hough, you thought it couldn’t get any better, the European Union Chamber Orchestra will also be appearing at the Hexagon on Wednesday, April 12, at 7.30pm with violinist Jennifer Pike and award-winning young British violist, Timothy Ridout, for Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat Major for Violin and Viola. The programme will also include Mozart’s Serenade in D Major K185 and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings Op 48. With her “dazzling interpretative flair and exemplary technique” (Classic FM), British violinist Jennifer Pike has taken the musical world by storm. To book, call the box office on 0118 960 60606 or visit www.readingarts.com


When it comes to this form of music the main local performance spaces, along with the smaller but no less distinguished venues like St Andrew’s Church in Albert Road, Caversham, give us access to the very best the genre has to offer.

Norden Farm, in particular, is a popular venue for all kinds of small-scale performances, including a smattering of classical chamber concerts.

Described by The Strad magazine as presenting “a masterclass in
            unanimity of musical purpose,
              in which severity could melt
              seamlessly into charm, and
              drama into geniality”, the               Carducci String Quartet             return to the Concert Hall,             Reading, on Thursday           (January 26) at 7.30pm with          Mozart’s String Quartet No17 in          B flat Major K458,                         Shostakovich’s String                            Quartet No11,                            Webern’s Langsamer                            Satz and Beethoven’s                            String Quartet Op 95.                            There is a pre-concert                            talk at 6.30pm. For                            details of Concert                              Hall events and to                               book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com

At Norden Farm on Sunday, January 29, at noon pianist Jianing Kong plays Mozart’s Sonata in E flat, K282, Variations on Unser dummer Pobel meint K455 and Fantasia and Sonata in C minor K457/475. Kong has been a finalist in both the Leeds and Sydney international piano competitions. His exquisite pianistic touch will be heard to perfection in this selection of Mozart’s keyboard works. To book, call Norden Farm’s box office on 01628 788997.

On Sunday, February 12, at 4.30pm in the recital room, South Hill Park, Bracknell, West Forest Sinfonia’s wind and brass sections perform dramatic and virtuoso works from two of the 20th century’s most original masters: Stravinsky’s Octet and Janacek’s Capriccio for Piano Left-hand and Chamber Ensemble. Tickets are available from South Hill Park’s box office on 01344 484123.

At the Concert Hall on Saturday, March 4, at 7.30pm, Steven Isserlis (cello) and Sam Haywood (piano) join forces for works by Chopin, Hummel and Onslow. Acclaimed worldwide for his profound musicianship and technical mastery, Isserlis has had a distinguished career, while Haywood has been praised by the Washington Post for his “dazzling, evocative playing” and “lyrical sensitivity”. There is a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm. For details of Concert Hall events and to book, visit www.readingarts.com or call the box office on 0118 960 6060.

To hear Marcus Farnsworth, one of Britain’s finest young baritones, you need go no further than Norden Farm on Thursday, March 23, at 7.30pm. Farnsworth has sung leading roles at the Royal Opera House and now returns to Maidenhead to sing Schubert’s song cycle Schwannengesang. The Daily Telegraph wrote of Farnsworth, whose career embraces oratorio as well as lieder, that, “the award-winning baritone is electrifying and has an instinctive musicality”. To book, call the venue’s box office on 01628 788997 or visit www.nordenfarm.org

l Next week: Trevor Howell previews the spring season’s choral music and opera highlights.

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