The First Concert was
recorded by the BBC for broadcast on 17 June, 2012.
Pictured LtoR: Alastair Ross (Harpsichord), Rachel Brown (Flute),
Catherine Bott (BBC Presenter for the event),
Katherine Sharman (Cello) and Adrian Butterfield (Violin and Director)
The opening concert of Tilford Bach Society’s Diamond Jubilee Festival was a right royal event appropriately set in the Great Hall of Farnham Castle. The London Handel Players transported the audience to the court of Frederick the Great whose tercentenary is being celebrated this year. The occasion was made even more special as it was recorded by the BBC for transmission on 17th June and introduced by well-known Radio 3 announcer Catherine Bott.
Works by CPE Bach, Franz Benda, Quantz and King
Frederick himself were performed on authentic instruments by the London Handel
Players. Rachel Brown, flautist,
explained how she had researched and revived the music of Quantz who had
The second half of the concert consisted of a performance of JS Bach’s Musical Offering, sent to the King after the composer had visited his court and succeeded in an improvisation challenge set by His Majesty. Harpsichordist Alistair Ross was masterly in the intricate and substantial set of canons and cellist Katherine Sharman shone with her expressive playing in the final Trio Sonata. And how did His Majesty respond to this gift from the greatest composer in the world? Apparently there is no evidence that he ever opened it.
The Second Concert was given by Lutenist William Carter who performed works by JS Bach. William played his selection on a remarkable overstrung lute. The pieces were the Adagio and Fugue in G minor BWV1011, Suite in G minor BWV995 and the Ciaconna in D minor BWV1004. It was explained that Bach wrote some of his chamber pieces for several different alternative instruments and seemed to have a special affection for the lute. Unusually the crescendos occurred in the middle rather than the end of some pieces.
The Third Concert featured
the London Mozart Players, joined for one work by members of the LHP.
They performed pieces by Mendelssohn and JS Bach under the direction of Adrian Butterfield.
From the very opening moment it was clear that this promised to be a great occasion, and it was. It was the third concert in the Festival, given by the excellent London Mozart Players, directed by Adrian Butterfield on the violin.
The first item was the ninth of the 13 string symphonies composed by the precocious Felix Mendelssohn before he reached his 15th birthday. The amazing mastery of form displayed by this 14-year old boy was matched by the drive and panache of the players – so much that the audience were not able to refrain from applauding at the end of the first movement. The performance of the whole symphony was marked by the freshness and vitality of the young composer.
And so to the first Bach piece: the E major violin concerto. You can play this concerto in so many different ways, using old or modern instruments, in different venues, with different size orchestras and so forth; but the main point is that it should sound right. And did it! Under Adrian’s leadership as soloist (and what a soloist!), using modern instruments in the generous acoustic of All Saints Parish Church, Tilford, the players gave a lively, vital performance as though their lives depended on it.
The third Brandenburg Concerto is written for 10 stringed instruments (three violins, three violas, three cellos and double bass) plus continuo and so it sounds ideal in the hands of a small group, one instrument to a part – chamber music, of course – and that is what we got. A point of great interest is the middle movement, which in the score is marked as two minim chords and nothing else, which most performers fill out in some way. And, sure enough, this time we had an exquisite violin solo with cello and harpsichord continuo, leading to the two chords, played adagio. Now comes a moment feared by all viola players, who have to come in with the first violin at the exact moment in the correct, very fast, tempo of the third movement. And it worked perfectly.
Finally we were given another of Mendelssohn’s early
string symphonies, no. 12 in G
Throughout the concert it was clear that the players were
very used to being led from the first violin and that
So there were two very well-known pieces and two which were new to most of the audience – a carefully-judged and satisfactory balance. Throughout the concert the London Mozart Players and Adrian Butterfield played with exemplary, inspirational musical vigour.
Orchestra, Soloists and Choir were under the direction of Adrian Butterfield
The first Tilford Bach Festival ended with a performance of Bach’s St John Passion so it was appropriate for the 60th Festival to close on Sunday with the same great dramatic work, sung in the original German. After a short orchestral introduction it opens with a chorus like an impassioned cry, drawing the audience into the drama before plunging into the action of the days leading up to the crucifixion. The power of Vox Cordis Choir belied the fact that it comprises only fifteen singers and their precision and expressiveness were notable throughout the performance.
The story was narrated in a masterly way by tenor Charles
Daniels as Evangelist, with some heart-rending moments such as Peter’s
bitter weeping at having denied Christ. The veil of the temple was rent in
twain to the terrifying accompaniment of organ and double bass. Peter Harvey (bass) was a moving
Christus and Daniel Lichti convincingly played several dramatic roles besides
singing two arias. The soprano and
alto solos were beautifully sung by Julia Doyle and Daniel Taylor, the latter
paying a very welcome return visit from his native
It was a joy to hear the full London Handel Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Butterfield, playing a wide variety of baroque instruments, some rarely heard such as the viola da gamba, viola d’amore, viola da caccia, oboe d’amore and oboe da caccia. Every aria is accompanied by a different combination of instruments, adding great colour and expressive value to the music. The Passion ends not in lamentation but in an affirmative chorus of contemplation on the coming Resurrection. After a short reflective silence the audience broke into rapturous applause. The 60th Tilford Bach Festival had been a resounding success.