Travels in Time and Place at the East Neuk Festival, Scotland

Monumental Works Written in Remarkable Times Featured Composer Benjamin Britten Plus a Star Turn for the East Neuk itself

“You can hear the swing of the sea….East Neuk Festival is special because it’s not in the city, not in concert halls, not in tents – it uses the local living landscape.” (Dr Richard Holloway at the East Neuk Festival 2009)
Despite leaner budgets this year the East Neuk Festival’s persistently ambitious artistic director, Svend Brown, has again engaged a host of world class musicians for five days of music-making in the Kingdom of Fife, including the Belcea and Elias Quartets, Tallis Scholars, London Winds, Russian virtuoso pianist Alexander Romanovsky, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, French jazz star Renaud Garcia Fons, and pianist Malcolm Martineau with young singers Katherine Broderick and Robin Tritschler. Monumental works such as the Victoria Requiem and Spem in Alium for 40 voices anchor the ‘ancient’ programme, while a central strand of Benjamin Britten’s themes and inspirations spans the centuries from Purcell to Schubert. The East Neuk itself is the subject of a specially commissioned film and exhibition. MUSIC - Renaissance Polyphony to Jazz Combo Benjamin Britten is the featured composer of the 2010 festival presented alongside his musical idols Schubert, Mozart and Purcell. “I sense a strong kinship between Britten’s beloved Suffolk and the East Neuk – and being in this lovely stretch of Scottish coastline can only enhance your pleasure in hearing his music” comments Svend Brown. He has programmed the Festival with Britten’s folk song arrangements and the string quartets, which stretch across the full scope of the composer’s career from the early first two created in the 1940s to the poignant last in 1975 just before his death. The Elias String Quartet takes on this repertoire (which they are also releasing on CD in Spring 2010 on the Sonimage label), pairing each quartet with appropriately influential works by composers Schubert, Purcell and Mozart. Britten’s much loved arrangements of British folk songs are performed by one of his finest interpreters, pianist Malcolm Martineau, with multi award winning young singers Katherine Broderick and Robin Tritschler.

Britten is also obliquely laced into the Festival’s centerpiece concert in the imposing Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews. Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten opens an evening of monumental works written in remarkable times including Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, a pinnacle of Renaissance polyphony Spem in alium for 40 solo voices and Strauss’s Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings. The legion of superior soloists required for this programme comes from the peerless Tallis Scholars joined by the East Neuk Singers (assembled and trained by James Waters), the renowned Belcea Quartet and Scottish Chamber Orchestra directed by violinist Alexander Janiczek.

Chamber music remains at the very heart of the East Neuk Festival, being entirely suited to the uniquely atmospheric churches in which it is performed. The esteemed Belcea Quartet follows in the venerable footsteps of previous East Neuk visitors such as the Alban Berg and Skampa Quartets with a concert featuring some of the brightest jewels of the classical repertoire including Haydn, Szymanowski and Mozart. They also team up with the London Winds for the Festival’s richly Romantic opener which pairs Brahms’s second String Quartet with Schubert’s Octet in F major.

Another monumental work, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, is showcased in splendid isolation by another young star of the piano world, young Russian virtuoso, Alexander Romanovsky who has already attracted the attention of Gergiev, Pletnev - and the Pope. His other recital delivers another single masterpiece, Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux, Op 39.

Opening the window on the 21st century is the charismatic French bassist Renaud Garcia Fons and his ensemble of accordion, flamenco guitar and percussion. Linea del Sur is his latest project, a piece that reflects the many musical styles – Latin, Mediterranean, flamenco and jazz - that illuminated his childhood. With his customized five string bass he wraps up heart and soul with virtuosity and generous melodies, shared with his equally inspiring and individual fellow instrumentalists.

For more information on this delightful music festival in Scotland, visit www.eastneukfestival.com

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