Purbeck International Chamber Music Festival



Now in its eighth year, the Purbeck International Chamber Music Festival is probably the happiest, least self-regarding festival I've attended in 50 years of reviewing events all over the country, Europe and beyond.
Performing in various churches in this lovely corner of Dorset, the festival attracts packed, appreciative audiences of all ages, volunteers who really love doing their jobs (unlike the many jacks-in-office I so frequently encounter elsewhere), and performers who obviously enjoy interacting with each other.
And that was evident from a coterie of musicians who stayed together throughout the festival's four days, bonding with each other and relishing their music-making to the delight of all on both sides of the platform.
The theme of this year's festival was "Solitude", yet this was a solitude dispelled by the joys of empathetic music-making, and by a huge input of improvisation, in effect chamber music without the dots, so attentive do the performers have to be to each other. These improvisations were led by the extraordinary cellist and vocaliser (what a range of tones and clicks) Abel Selaocoe, didgeridoo virtuoso Marvin Dillman, spectacular both visually and in his throbbing undertones, and the amazingly gifted Gareth Lubbe, sometime principal viola with the estimable Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, but also a proficient organist, as well as a most spectacular vocalist, producing sounds no-one had ever dreamed existed.
Among the many highlights I heard were enthralling Purcell songs from mezzo Olivia Ray and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny: a spiky yet lyrical Janacek Violin Sonata from violinist Max Baillie (also hot on the viola in other works) and spirited pianist Katya Apekisheva, she going on to give us a lively Grieg "From the Carnival", then being joined by violinist Jennifer Pike and cellist Natalie Clein, the festival's founder, in a wonderful account of Mendelssohn's D minor Piano Trio.
Samuel Barber's Dover Beach cast its spell, Olivia Ray totally rapt in delivery (though a baritone would have cut through the acoustic with more clarity), with his B minor String Quartet both expansive and driven, Baillie, the exciting young violinist Lana Trotovsek, Lubbe and cellist Guy Johnston the accompanying quartet. Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence was a total joy, the sextet's sound big and well-nourished (from players who had only been together a couple of days), Grazyna Bacewicz' Folk Duets went down brilliantly with the many children in the audience, Kodaly's Duo for Violin and Cello (Baillie and Clein) was perhaps the highlight for me, grippingly delivered with such energy of bowing from both, and Lauterbach's confected and ghastly Boccherini String Quinter in C major made a well-played conclusion to my listening.
Natalie Clein introduced the piece by announcing this was the first piece she ever performed in a public concert, at the age of 10, in this very church (St James', Kingston) -- "and it hasn't got any better!", she added. But what a lovely festival she has launched, and long may it continue.
Christopher Morley

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