13 premieres, a focus on Britten, William Mathias at 90: Presteigne Festival 2024

13 premieres, a focus on Britten, William Mathias at 90: Presteigne Festival 2024
The Shire Hall, Presteigne; photographed by Percy Benzie Abery c. 1910s
The Shire Hall, Presteigne; photographed by Percy Benzie Abery c. 1910s

This year’s Presteigne Festival, the 42nd, runs from 22 to 26 August 2024, bringing music and art to the Welsh Marches. For 2024, the festival has a focus on the music of Benjamin Britten, contrasted with works from his contemporaries, his influences and those who, in turn, were influenced by him. But the festival’s continuing espousal of contemporary music remains. Richard Blackford is the composer in residence and the festival features 13 premieres from Blackford,  Michael Berkeley, Nathan James Dearden, Michael Zev Gordon, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Sarah Frances Jenkins, Tayla-Leigh Payne, Joseph Phibbs, Julian Philips, Lynne Plowman, Lara Poe, James B Wilson and James Albany Hoyle (2024 Royal Philharmonic Society composer). There is also a focus on William Mathias who would have been 90 this year

The festival opens with a thoughtful recital from guitarist Paul Galbraith with works by father and son, Lennox and Michael Berkeley alongside Britten, Sally Beamish and John Dowland. Then in the evening there is Walton’s Facade alongside a new work by Julian Philips for actor and chamber ensemble performed by actor Anton Lesser, reciters Sarah Gabriel and Alexander Knox, Presteigne Festival Ensemble, conductor George Vass.

The festival continues with Anne Denholm (harp) in Britten, William Matthias and a new work by James Albany Hoyle, pianist Joseph Tong in The Piano in Nature,  cello sonatas by Britten, Beethoven and Debussy from Alice Neary (cello) and Huw Watkins (piano), music for flute, cello and piano from Daniel Shao (flute), Alice Neary (cello), Annie Yim (piano) including Hilary Tann’s In the Theatre of the Air.

The Piatti Quartet have an awayday in Bleddfa performing string quartets by Britten and Moeran along with the premiere of Joseph Phibbs’ String Quartet No. 4. There is more Phibbs, plus Richard Blackford’s The Mirror of Perfection, Britten’s Young Apollo and William Mathias’ Prelude, Aria and Finale from Rebecca Bottone (soprano), Nicholas Mogg (baritone), Huw Watkins (piano), choir of Royal Holloway College, Presteigne Festival Orchestra, George Vass (conductor).

The choir of Royal Holloway College returns for Festival Eucharist including William Mathias’ Missa Aedis Christi and an afternoon concert that includes Richard Blackford’s Three Rossetti Songs, two pieces by Nathan James Dearden and Mathias’ A May Magnificat.

Rebecca Bottone joins forces with Huw Watkins for a recital featuring music by Britten, Bridge, Walton plus Huw Watkins and Cecilia McDowall, then Watkins joins the Piatti Quartet for Britten, Mendelssohn and premieres by Richard Blackford and Michael Zev Gordon. Dr Sue Stuart-Smith’s book The Well Gardened Mind is the inspiration for Annie Yim’s piano recital featuring the premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Dance Suite

The festival ends with another concert from Vass and the festival orchestra featuring premieres of works by Sarah Frances Jenkins and Tayla-Leigh Payne alongside Blackford, Adrian Sutton, Lynne Plowman and very early Britten.

Other events include poetry, literature and music-based talks, a Welsh film season, nature walks and the wonderful Presteigne ‘Open Studios’ weekend.

Full details from the Presteigne Festival website.

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