3 April 2017
Looking forward to the forthcoming term of concerts in May
Justin Lee, Chamber Concert Programmer
When I was young, my father used to talk of kicking shrapnel in the streets at my age. Or being taken out to watch the docks burn, or the whistling sound of doodlebugs – and worse, when the whistling stopped, not knowing where they would land. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, my mother was practically untouched by war – only to travel to England in 1945 and struggle to get a passport. These were everyday concerns for people of my parents’ generation, and we know millions more experienced far, far worse.
The forthcoming concerts at Kettle’s Yard this May bear testament to the extraordinary capacity of people, and of artists to create great music from unimaginable experiences.
I think of Messiaen performing his Quartet for the End of Time in a prisoner of war camp, outdoors in the rain. Of Shostakovich writing his Piano Trio No.2 in the dying days of the siege of Leningrad during which a million lives (including his closest friend and the dedicatee of this work) were brutally lost through war and starvation. Both these works will be performed by Tamsin Waley-Cohen, James Baillieu, Annelien Van Wauwe and Nathaniel Boyd on 11 May.
On 18 May, Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins will present to us a snapshot of music from across Europe in 1917, performing four contrasting works by composers at very different stages in life – from Elgar and Debussy, each with a note of melancholy, to the prolific Sibelius and youthful optimism of Respighi.
For the closing concert of the season on 25 May with pianist Llŷr Williams, we will hear Beethoven at the height of his powers while suffering his own private hardships. Now deaf, shut off from the world and in poor health, he created some of his finest work in the last three Piano Sonatas Opp 109 – 111.
But what strikes me about all these programmes is that, alongside the inevitable sadness, there is music of radiant beauty and warmth. And to bring this music to life, we are delighted to welcome back our violinist-in-residence Tamsin Waley-Cohen and a roster of fine artists. All are from the younger generation, all are prestigious prize-winners, and all have been garnered with praise for the maturity of their performances and interpretations.
I do also hope you can join us for the opening concert of term on 4 May with the award-winning Tesla Quartet (USA) in a programme that follows our Spring term concerts in exploring folk music: Haydn (with a ‘Zingarese’, or Gypsy, minuet), Bartok and one of Dvorak’s American string quartets.