Cambridge Music Festival celebrates music, education and technology


Next month (12-22 November 2013), Cambridge Music Festival celebrates three areas for which the city is universally renowned: music, education and technology, in a programme of concerts and events in venues across the city.

This year is the second annual festival under Director Justin Lee and it continues to celebrate world class orchestras, instrumentalists, singers and chamber music as well as the rising stars of tomorrow.

Highlights include:

·         Nigel Kennedy presents a programme of Bach and his own arrangements of the music of Fats Waller

·         Andreas Scholl returns to Cambridge Music Festival with the Choir of King’s College and Florilegium.

·         Murray Perahia returns to the festival directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a performance of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto

·         Britten Sinfonia and Mark Padmore close the festival with a performance of Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings

·         Chamber music from The Nash Ensemble, the Escher Quartet & Tenor James Gilchrist with pianist Anna Tilbrook

·         Two performances of Grammy-award winning Eric Whitacre’s ‘Water Night’ by Virtual Choir projected onto Senate House

·         The festival collaborates with Aldeburgh Music on Friday Afternoons, a major vocal education project across Cambridgeshire

The opening concert features the world’s best-selling violinist Nigel Kennedy on 13 November at the Corn Exchange. In a rare Cambridge appearance Kennedy performs a typically eclectic programme inspired by his mentors, the violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli. After a selection of JS Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin, he is joined by his quartet to perform Kennedy’s own arrangements of the music of legendary jazz pianist, composer and singer Fats Waller. The quartet is completed by Jarek Smietana (acoustic guitar), Yaron Stavi (double bass) and Krzystof Dziedzic (percussion/drums).

Andreas Scholl and Murray Perahia both return to Cambridge Music Festival in 2013. Countertenor Scholl joins King’s College Choir and Florilegium on 18 November at 7.30pm for a double celebration of Britten’s centenary and the Feast of St Cecilia, conducted by Stephen Cleobury. The programme includes Purcell’s Ode to St Cecilia ‘Welcome to all the Pleasures’ and Ode ‘Come Ye Sons of Art’  as well as Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia and Scholl’s debut performance of Canticle II: Abraham & Isaac  with tenor James Gilchrist.

Murray Perahia performs with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on 20 November directing and performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 ‘Emperor’, as well as Haydn’s Symphony No. 77 and Stravinsky’s Concerto in E flat, ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ at 7.30pm, West Road Concert Hall.

Pekka Kuusisto joins the Britten Sinfonia for the closing concert of Cambridge Music Festival on 22 November.  The programme includes music by Nico Muhly, Bartók, Britten, Erkki-Dven Tüür, Judith Weir, Arne Nordheim, Berg, Arvo Pärt and George Crumb. The programme is completed with a performance of Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with tenor Mark Padmore and Stephen Bell on horn.

Chamber Music

New York-based string quartet, the Escher Quartet, immerse themselves in British music at Divinity College on 14 November at 8.00pm. Previously BBC New Generation Artists and ‘Rising Stars’ residents at Lincoln Centre for three years, the Escher Quartet perform an evocative programme including String Quartet, Op.83 by Elgar, written at the end of the First World War, and Britten’s String Quartet No.3, written in the last year of his life. The programme is completed with quartets from Bridge and Birtwistle.

On 17 November at 6.00pm the festival celebrates British chamber music with the Nash Ensemble who perform R Strauss’ Sextet from Capriccio, Dvořák’s Sextet in A Major, Op.48 and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. The Nash Ensemble has built up a reputation over the last 40 years as one of Britain’s finest and most adventurous chamber groups. Its repertoire is vast and it performs with equal sensitivity and musicality works from Haydn to the avant garde.

Tenor James Gilchrist performs again at Cambridge Music Festival on 21 November, this time joined by pianist Anna Tilbrook for a recital exploring the themes of water, the sea and love and loss with songs by some of the finest setters of words to music; Fauré, Britten, Sally Beamish and Schubert.

Pekka Kuusisto presents a matinee concert on 22 November using traditional and electric violins, improvisation, song and whistle in a quirky exploration of his musical roots at the Mumford Theatre. The programme includes music from Finland’s foremost living composers Rautavaara and Sallinen alongside Finnish ‘tango’ and traditional folk song.

Virtual Choir

The festival opens on 12 November at Senate House where over 3,700 singers from 76 countries come together to form a Virtual Choir. Each singer records themselves singing the vocal line of ‘Water Night’ by Grammy-award winning American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre; the audio-visual files submitted are then brought together to present this worldwide music collaboration. Launched in New York’s Lincoln Center in 2012, this is the first time Virtual Choir will be presented outside. It will be projected with sound and light onto the backdrop of Senate House after dark on 12 & 13 November.

Friday Afternoons

Friday Afternoons is an international singing project led by Aldeburgh Music that aims to get young people singing, culminating in a performance on Britten’s 100th birthday, 22 November 2013. As partners in this initiative Cambridge Music Festival and Cambridgeshire Music will mount a major vocal education project leading to a performance by over 1000 young singers both live, at Cambridge Corn Exchange, and via web streaming at schools across the county. At the heart of the closing performance is Friday Afternoons, a set of 12 songs composed by Benjamin Britten for his schoolmaster brother, Robert, and the boys of Clive House, Prestatyn – a school in which choir practice and singing lessons regularly took place on a ‘Friday afternoon’. This project is conducted by Lynette Alcantara, with Andrew Goldman on piano and Anne Denholm on harp. Choristers of King’s College also perform conducted by Stephen Cleobury.


Tickets are available from the City Centre box office, Wheeler Street, Cambridge CB2 3QB (01223 357 851) or

Booking Fees Apply


Cambridge Music Festival

Cambridge Music Festival originally grew out of a major celebration in 1991 to mark the bicentenary of the death of Mozart. Local music groups, invited artists, schools and many parts of the community came together for a series of over 70 events across four weeks, organised and directed by Gillian Perkins. Such was its success, the festival was formally constituted as a legal entity and a major festival mounted every three years until Gillian’s retirement in 2009. Festival themes in this period have been inspired by composers and aspects of Cambridge life: Elgar & British music; Schubert & Vienna; Architecture; Singing and French music; Mozart, Maths & Music; Music & Evolution. The education and community work has attracted particular acclaim including nominations for national awards such as the Royal Philharmonic Awards in 2006 for the ‘Orchestra in a Village’ project. The new director, Justin Lee, started an annual festival from 2012 based on a framework of Music, Education and Technology – three areas for which Cambridge is renowned worldwide.


Justin Lee

Justin Lee has worked in the music business for 20 years, principally in orchestra management - from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to the Academy of Ancient Music - in a range of roles including General Manager and, most recently, as CEO of Southbank Sinfonia, Britain’s leading orchestral academy. During this time, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and to the board of the Association of British Orchestras (resigned 2011). He became director of the Cambridge Music Festival in late 2011, and was recently appointed to programme the chamber music series at Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge. Justin studied at Oxford (Music) and the London School of Economics (Business).


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Cambridge Music Festival (CMF) is held each year in November. The programme focuses on Music, Education and Technology -- three areas for which Cambridge is renowned worldwide. World-class artists feature in orchestral, choral and chamber music concerts, alongside a programme of education and community events, and outdoor sound/light projections.

Cambridge Music Festival