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‘A Day or More’ at the Cheltenham Music Festival

Cheltenham Music Festival review

The Music Festival at Cheltenham has been well established for decades, and thousands over the years have enjoyed its ‘quality’.

So far this year, I have attended two concerts – both at the Pittville Pump Rooms. The décor and setting is well nigh perfect with the warm colours of the walls and ceiling, offset by the dusky blue colour of the curtains. There are elegant paintings in the gallery, and the chandeliers illuminate the audience and the performers – all this combines to create a restful and charming environment.

My first visit was at 11am on Monday morning the 7th July when Ingrid Fliter gave a piano recital; she started with the 'Four Impromptus' by Schubert. It was a beautiful performance that was truly delightful, sensitive and strong. The second piece, a 'Scherzo' by Chopin that I hadn’t heard before, was also a pleasure to listen to, as the music it surged romantically in that distinctive manner of the composer. There followed more preludes and shorter pieces until the interval.

I then wandered out into the refreshment marquee where Pimms, coffee, tea and cakes were available.The setting of the Pump Rooms in Pittville Park, with all the trees and graceful views is particularly lovely and the facilities, including good car parking space make visits easy and agreeable.

Returning to the second half of the concert, the recital finished with the 'Ballade No 4 in F minor'. The Chopin’s Ballades have always been a particular favourite of mine, and this rendering by Ingrid Fliter was excellent. Alfred Brendel himself has admired Ingrid Fliter’s playing, and the person next to me said at the end of the recital that he thought her playing was ‘awesome’. I was inclined to agree. She is a young talent that we'll be hearing more of in the future.

Ingrid Fliter performed a piano recital of music by Chopin and Schubert, and the Dante String Quartet music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and other English composers.

On Wednesday 16 July, in the evening, I heard the Dante String Quartet play the work of Frank Bridge, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Vaughan-Williams, and Edward Elgar.

With the first three pieces, the sonority of the group’s playing was mesmerizing, with their choice of programme, perfect. This included the world premiere of a young composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s - ‘My Day in Hell’. At this point I must add that the Cheltenham Music Festival is renowned for its innovative approach, allowing so much that is ‘new’ to be included in the two weeks festival.

After the interval the piano was added to the Quartet ensemble for the 'Elgar Piano Quintet'. Although the mood remained English the power of the piece came through strongly and built to an almost ‘orchestral’ finale in the last movement.

The warm response of the audiences, the glorious setting and the excellent facilities always makes the experience so rewarding. There is so much on offer at all the venues of this festival, that to attend even just one concert is guaranteed to provide an occasion to savour and remember. Next year I fully intend getting my box office programme of events as soon as it’s available, and treat myself once more.

That’s not all; we're very lucky to have the Literature Festival; the Jazz Festival; the Science Festival; the Food & Drink Festival; the Cricket Festival; the Folk Festival and not forgetting the National Hunt Festival, which features the famous blue-riband event, the Cheltenham ‘Gold Cup’ - as well as all the other delights which Regency Cheltenham has to offer.

Richard Worth
Explore Gloucestershire
22 July 2008


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