Chipping Campden International Music Festival (12-26 May 2018) offers a rich programme of performances by world-class classical artists and outstanding young musicians in one of Britain’s finest concert settings
Gloucestershire’s power to evoke timeless images remains as strong today as ever, drawing countless visitors to the Cotswolds to experience what so many poets and painters have portrayed as the heart of England. Chipping Campden International Music Festival, which runs from Saturday 12 – Saturday 26 May 2018, has grown to become part of the local scene, an emblem of the region’s rich heritage and vibrant cultural life. In the best tradition of international festivals, it offers a compelling mix of performances by leading classical artists and young musicians, a programme built from great landmarks of the chamber, piano and song repertoire, and an audience comprising local people, loyal followers from across the UK and a growing number of overseas visitors.
Festival President Paul Lewis is set to join the Chipping Campden Festival Academy Orchestra and conductor Thomas Hull as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major K503 for the fortnight’s closing concert. He will also perform the highly original, forward-looking music of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B flat major K595 with the Festival Academy Orchestra on 24 May. Ruth Rogers joins the orchestra on 22 May as soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1, part of a Festival Academy programme that also includes Paul Lewis’s interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major K414.
Chipping Campden International Music Festival opens with Elégie, a programme of music and words exploring the life and art of Sergei Rachmaninov, played by Lucy Parham and narrated by Henry Goodman. Other highlights include Bach’s Mass in B minor, performed by Tenebrae and the Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Nigel Short (17 May); piano recitals by Steven Osborne, Imogen Cooper and Stephen Hough (15, 19 & 23 May); an evening of violin sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms from Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (14 May); Alfred Brendel’s reflections ‘On Playing Mozart’ (19 May); and chamber music performances from the Nash Ensemble, the Aquinas Trio, the Jerusalem String Quartet and London Winds (16, 18, 20 & 21 May). Christopher Maltman and Julius Drake will give a late-night performance of Schubert’s Winterreise at St James’ Church on 25 May, evoking its supernatural mystery in a setting lit by candles.
“I have always been determined to book the very best artists possible,” notes Charlie Bennett, founder and Artistic Director of Chipping Campden International Music Festival. “We aim to raise the bar higher every year, which is why we’re so delighted with the performers who are part of this year’s programme. Demand for most concerts usually outstrips the supply of tickets. Now we want to spread the message about the international quality of a festival that is rooted in the life of this part of the country.”
Charlie Bennett studied piano at the Royal College of Music in the 1970s. He then went on to teach piano privately for a while, eventually moving into the wine trade and building a successful business in the small market town of Chipping Campden, about 100 miles from London. He began promoting concerts there in 1999 after a former music teacher at Chipping Campden School called from Hungary to ask for help with hosting a choir from the Kodály School in Kecskemét. “I said yes,” Bennett recalls. “They gave an incredible concert and returned the following year for a Messiah with local choirs. I thought it might be possible to start a music festival in Chipping Campden, called in a few favours from old college friends, and it took off in 2002.” The festival gathered momentum after Bennett formed a lasting collaboration with arts manager and freelance conductor, Thomas Hull. He accepted the festival’s offer of a date for his client Paul Lewis, who in turn became festival President and has been a regular performer at the festival since 2003. “Tom used to bring his City of London Chamber Orchestra here, but we both decided to create the Chipping Campden Academy Orchestra in 2008 as a side-by-side mentoring scheme for advanced conservatoire musicians. Students sit alongside professional players on all the string desks – we don’t hide our young musicians at the back of the band! The Academy, with Tom as its conductor and Ruth Rogers as its leader, has become a huge part of the festival.”
Educating young musicians and broadening classical music’s reach are central to the festival’s ethos. Students and recent graduates from UK conservatoires can be heard throughout the festival fortnight in a series of lunchtime concerts. All students are eligible for a free pass to the midday series and can join the audience for evening concerts for a flat-rate fee of £1. School-aged musicians have gained invaluable practical experience with the Chipping Campden Academy Youth Orchestra since its foundation in 2015, while others will be served this year by the North Cotswold Youth Orchestra (NCYO), launched under the festival’s care in January 2017.
Both youth orchestras, encouraged by the festival’s Patron of Education, Julian Lloyd Webber, aim to recruit the greatest number of members from state schools: 85% of their secondary school-aged players come from the state sector. The festival has also connected with older participants, notably through Chipping Campden Festival Chorus, which has drawn around 90 to 100 amateur singers each year since 2013. “We have always given a platform to young musicians,” recalls Bennett. “There has been a strong emphasis on education from the start, which continues to develop and grow. We’ve pushed hard into state schools and are persuading young musicians to join the NCYO for its spring and autumn courses.” The new youth orchestra, he adds, will serve as a feeder organisation for the Chipping Campden Academy Youth Orchestra.
The Chipping Campden International Music Festival’s assets, from its Cotswold setting and tireless director to its Steinway D concert grand and majestic principal venue, have drawn many of the world’s leading classical artists. “We know that performers return because of our terrific instrument and the outstanding acoustics of St James’ Church,” notes Charlie Bennett. “It’s great to see so many artists returning to Chipping Campden this year and to welcome such distinguished festival debutants as Stephen Hough, and the Jerusalem Quartet.” http://campdenmusicfestival.co.uk/