Bromsgrove Concerts preview


by Christopher Morley

Year on year, Bromsgrove Concerts continues to provide a refreshing mix of established and contemporary music in its annual seasons, an exemplar to other societies with its lightness of touch mixing the old and the new.
Pianists and strings are the thread running throughout Bromsgrove's 2019-2020 prospectus, with plenty more besides, and Luke Jones kicks off the season on Friday 27 September. This young pianist was winner of the Bromsgrove Competition in 2018, and he returns to the town with a challenging programme of Debussy's Images Book I, Ravel's Miroirs, Schumann's Waldszenen and Prokofiev's wartime Sonata no.8, with one of the most gracious slow movements ever written.
The recital is given in the splendid Routh Hall at Bromsgrove School (8pm), and events for the rest of the season revert to the equally-accommodating Artrix (with its splendid free car-park) for 7.30pm starts.
Latvian composer Peteris Vasks' String Quartet no.4 launches the concert from the Navarra String Quartet on October 11, followed by Janacek's harrowing Quartet no.1 (the "Kreutzer Sonata", after a novella by Tolstoy), and Schubert's D minor "Death and the Maiden" Quartet.
Another Bromsgrove Competition winner, this year's Hyungi Lee from South Korea, and winner of the percussion category final of the BBC Young Musician Competion in 2012, brings a glittering display to the Artrix on November 8.
Mark Bebbington, long a Bromsgrove favourite, returns on November 22 with an enticing programme of piano music by French and nearly-French composers. The nearly French are Chopin (the gripping B minor Sonata) and Cesar Franck (his mighty Prelude, Chorale and Fugue), the French are Faure (the D-flat Nocturne) and Poulenc, for whose Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon Bebbington is joined by Jenny Wood and Richard Tattam.
The Callino String Quartet concert on January 17 brings a world premiere with John Woolrich's Kleine Wanderung, the latest in a sequence of ten short string quartets forming his "A Book of Inventions", and preceded here by Scamander, which the Callino premiered at the Barber Institute in May. Framing these two Woolrich works are Mozart's D minor Quartet K421 (composed while his wife Constanze was in labour in the next room) and Beethoven's F major "Razumovsky" Quartet.
Returning from Bucharest after a performance of his Violin Concerto, John tells me about the thinking behind "A Book of Inventions".
"I haven't been writing the Book of Inventions quartets with the aim of joining them up into one huge piece. They are all about 10 minutes long, so short enough for me to assemble them in groups of two or three if the opportunity arises. I've written 10 now, so it would be a bit of a marathon to get through the lot in one go!

"They're all abstract pieces and the titles have come last. They aren't hugely significant, but seem to fit.

" Scamander was a river-god, son of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys, and the
personification of the eponymous river that flowed across the plain of Troy. This mythological
background suggests the idea of a river journey, whose bends enable views of the same landscape
features from different perspectives.

" As for Kleine Wanderung, I've borrowed the title for this quartet from a prose piece ('a little ramble') by the Swiss writer Robert Walser. The views on my little ramble include several recurring features, particularly big unisons and a pizzicato refrain which changes as the perspective changes, like a mountain seen from different points of view along the way. My quartet is a short shaggy dog story"

"The programme was determined to a large extent by what's in the Callino's autumn repertoire. It's always a problem to programme a quartet concert- on the grounds that the repertoire is so huge and so wonderful. I think I just went for the greatest pieces to frame mine (and hope my piece survives in their company)."

There is more Beethoven (the String Trio in G) and Mozart (the amazing Divertimento in E-flat K563) when the Karolos String Trio come to Bromsgrove on February 7. Sandwiched between is Stephen Dodgson's First Trio, premiered in 1951.
February 28 brings the locally-based Orchestra of St John Chamber Ensemble, playing Mozart's Wind Serenade in E-flat K.475, Malcolm Arnold's Divertimento for Wind octet and Beethoven's Septet, one of the composer's greatest hits during his ttlifetime.
Concluding the season is a concert from the Fitzwilliam String Quartet on March 20. They bring a meaty programme, replicating the one they gave in North Bromsgrove High School in October 1980: Wolf's Italian Serenade, Shostakovich's String Quartet no.2, and Beethoven's mind-blowing A minor Quartet, op.132.
*All details of Bromsgrove Concerts on

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