It's almost time for Cambridge Summer Music to fill the city with sound – showcasing the best of classical, jazz and world music – it’s time to earmark your favourite concerts and secure your seats before they sell out.
First week highlights during the 2019 Cambridge Summer Music Festival
This year’s Festival delivers some exciting and original programming, focusing on music by women composers and music by (and inspired by) JS Bach – and of course its usual winning mix of lunchtime and evening events, theatrical fun, outdoor entertainment, and rising stars to spot alongside more established names.
The excellent acoustics of West Road concert hall provide the ideal setting for an exceptional opening concert. Bach’s great oratorio St John Passion is presented by the English Voices and the Orchestra of English Voices, in a historically-informed performance conducted by Tim Brown. They are joined by Nicholas Mulroy as the Evangelist and Richard Latham as Christ (13 July).
To herald the official start, there are a couple of the ever-popular Sounds Green outdoor concerts to enjoy. Held in the University Botanic Garden, they feature local band AfroTema with its toe-tapping blend of Senegalese salsa, mbalax, afro-rock and roots reggae (3 July); and the seven-piece swing combo Organised Chaos fronted by Martin Kemp, performing favourite jazz standards (10 July). There’ll be food, ice creams and drinks on sale, or you can bring your own picnic. The music starts at 6.15pm. Sounds Green continues throughout the Festival with the duo Truly Medley Deeply in week one, a novel hybrid of live band, DJ and jukebox (17 July). Note that advance sales for garden tickets have been introduced this year for all Sounds Green events via the Botanic Garden website. Tickets may be available at the gate but this cannot be guaranteed. Friends of the Garden and Cambridge University students do not need tickets.
Several concerts cover both Festival themes. The talented young players of Junior Prime Brass perform Bach chorales and works by Judith Bingham, Hildegard von Bingen and Maria Theresia von Paradis (14 July). Then two of the country’s finest instrumentalists, violinist Jennifer Pike and pianist Martin Roscoe have chosen a Bach sonata for violin and keyboard and a caprice by Poland’s most successful female composer, Grażyna Bacewicz. They will also perform two of the repertoire’s best-known works, Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending and the Violin Sonata by Edward Elgar (17 July). And in his lunchtime recital the same day, versatile and entertaining pianist Ben Comeau explores the dance-like quality of much of Bach’s music, and works by later composers that take inspiration from dance (17 July).
Songs by Alma Mahler and Rebecca Clarke feature in a song recital by soprano Lucy Taylor and pianist Jeremy Thurlow, exploring the jubilation and heartbreak of the lovers’ tryst, together with works by Debussy, Strauss, Grieg, Sibelius and Schoenberg (18 July). Then the great nineteenth century pianist and composer Clara Schumann is the subject of a captivating evening of words and music, presented by well-known actor Crawford Logan with Japanese/British virtuoso Reiko Fujisawa at the keyboard (18 July).
There is also a smattering of concerts and events that depart from the main themes, such as the Danish choir Lille MUKO performing Scandinavian music (14 July); a ‘Come and Sing’ event with Bob Chilcott, one of the world’s most inspirational choral composers and conductors (14 July, advance booking essential); a new theatrical take on the epic tale of Beowulf for the whole family (16 July); and renaissance polyphony juxtaposed with contemporary choral repertoire, performed by the exceptional Gesualdo Six (19 July).
The first week ends with two great treats for Bach lovers. First, organist Stephen Farr’s lunchtime recital includes music by Bach, music inspired by Bach, and two pieces by women composers – Cecilia McDowall and Judith Bingham – written for the long-running international project to complete Bach's Little Organ Book (20 July). Then the complete Brandenburg Concertos are performed by the outstanding period instrument ensemble Florilegium. Unusually, they’ll play the works in reverse order, ending with the triumphant first concerto combining wind, strings and brass (20 July).
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CAMBRIDGE SUMMER MUSIC was founded in 1979. It exists to promote live classical music of the highest calibre in Cambridge and the surrounding villages. It supports young artists at the beginning of their careers as well as the highest quality soloists, chamber ensembles and orchestras. It brings the works of living composers as well as the best of familiar and less familiar repertoire to both the local community and visitors to our great city.