What’s coming up at MBNA Chester Music Festival?

picThis June, Cheshire will be lifted to new cultural heights by its county town’s impending music festival. Chamber-music fans will congregate on the city to enjoy a carnival of classical fun, in which breathtaking talent will be showcased in some of the grandest settings the city has to offer.

We’ve taken a look through the itineraryand a few items in particular have jumped out at us.Let’s take a look at some of them.

Gustav Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer

One of the more eye-catching items on the festival’s schedule is this performance on the 9th of June. Gustav Mahler is now known more for his later, more bombastic, work. But Chamber ensemble ‘Ensemble Deva’ (named after the roman settlement upon which Chester is built) are at hand to lend it their unique, intimate perspective, as part of an evening in which they will perform works by Berg, Schoenberg and Claude Debussy alongside Mahler’s song-cycle.

The story behind Songs of a Wayfarer is a familiar one. In the mid-1880s, Mahler was conductor at an opera house in Kassell, in Germany. During his tenure there, he met a soprano name Johanna Richter, and developed a strong (though ultimately doomed) fondness for her.

Like any good artist, Mahler swiftly set about putting his heartbreak into his work and composed a series of poems, and then later a four-song cycle known as Lieder einesfahrendenGesellen, (or ‘Songs of a Wayfarer’).

This work charts the feelings of a man whose heart has been broken and whose misery renders all the world’s beauty insignificant. We imagine that ‘Songs of a Wayfarer’ would be the sort of thing The Smiths would have released, had they been around a hundred years earlier.

While most of the events at this year’s festival are set to take place in the Town Hall, this is one of a handful of performances to take place in the city’s thousand-year-old cathedral. In this setting the performance promises to be unique experience.

Purcell’s ‘Welcome to all the Pleasures’

‘Welcome to all the pleasures’ was a libretto by a poet named Christopher Fishburn, first set to music for a celebration of St Celia’s day in 1683, by a twenty-four-year-old Purcell. Such a tribute was particularly fitting for St Celia, a roman martyr who is now widely-regarded as the patron saint of musicians.

This patronage is largely based on the story of Celia’s demise. Shortly before being executed by the Roman authorities for spreading Christianity, she is said to have sung praises to God. Since her death, St. Cerlia’s talents have expanded considerably. Since that time, artists have depicted her playing a whole host of different musical instruments, including flutes, harps and lutes.

The event promises to be a glimpse at things to come, as it exhibits the talents of the Deva Academy, alongside those of Ensemble Deva itself. The performance will also bring to the festival, for the first time, the internationally celebrated talents of Harpsichordist Roger Hamilton and violinist Thomas Gould. The performance is set to take place inside St. John the Baptist Church in Chester, a church first founded in 689. There are surely few better settings for a performance of this work. It is due to take place on the 11th of June.

Darius Milhaud’sLa Creation du Monde

GwilymSimcock is a pianist who has attracted a great deal of critical approval recently; he has been described as ‘breathtaking’ by publications as esteemed as Mojo.To listen to him play is to understand why.This performance is set to take place in Chester’s Town Hall.Simcock, along with a sizeable posse of talented co-conspirators, will be performing Darius Milhaud’s to twenty-minute tribute to African creation mythology.

The piece was composed in 1923 and owes as much to America as it does to Milhaud’s native France.Having visited Harlem in the previous year, Milhaud had developed a keen interest in jazz, and the possibilities it presented for its work.This influence is obvious in the piece, which has been compared to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which it predated by some months.

Accommodation in Cheshire

Those seeking to venture to the festival from outside the county may first wish to find themselves accommodation. Within and nearby are some of the foremost Country Hotels in Cheshire, along with some of its leading golf courses and wedding venues.Near Chester, a great deal of culture is set to take place this year, with the festival serving as a particular highlight.

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