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Music at Paxton Festival 2017

Music at Paxton Festival

14 – 23 July 2017


“Intimate festival presenting the finest international chamber music in a stunning backdrop of works from the National Galleries collection.”

  • Mahan Esfahani plays the Goldberg Variations
  • Promenade concert taking in main reception rooms
  • Carducci Quartet play Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro with young Scottish musicians
  • Cello Masterclass with Pieter Wispelwey
  • Sunday morning concerts
  • Continuing this year: two FREE ‘Music at Paxton…Plus’ concerts

Music at Paxton, a summer festival of top class international chamber music, takes place in Paxton House on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders from 14 – 23 July 2017. The daily concerts offer an intimate, friendly and relaxed experience and take place in Paxton House’s splendid Picture Gallery. With its large, domed roof-light that lets in the summer sun, and walls hung high with paintings from the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection, it is an idyllic setting for chamber music.

The string quartet features prominently and the festival welcomes three this year: the Elias Quartet (Saturday 22 July, 7.30pm) who make their Paxton debut with two pillars of the chamber music repertoire Schubert’s String Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the Maiden’ and Schumann’s Piano Quintet; the Carducci Quartet (Saturday 15 July, 7.30pm) with a programme of Shostakovich, Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and Ravel’s gloriously sunny Introduction and Allegro; and the Quatuor Zaïde from Paris, (Tuesday 18 July, 7.30pm) who open with the glittering sonorities of Debussy, followed by Schubert’s towering G major Quartet.

Harpsichord virtuoso Mahan Esfahani returns to Music at Paxton with two recitals this year. Renowned for his championing of the instrument, from the Baroque to the 20th century, Mahan Esfahani’s morning concert features music by Rameau, Martinů, and Swiss composer Pieter Mieg (Sunday 16 July, 11.30am). He returns that evening (Sunday 16 July, 6pm) to perform J S Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

No stranger to Music at Paxton, pianist Steven Osborne (Friday 14 July, 7.30pm) performs his critically acclaimed interpretations of Rachmaninov’s virtuosic tonal studies Études Tableaux Op 33 and Études Tableaux Op 39 alongside Debussy and Brahms.

Following his visit last year, the renowned cellist Pieter Wispelwey returns to complete the set of Suites for Solo Cello by J S Bach (Sunday 23 July, 6pm), with a public masterclass immediately beforehand (Sunday 23 July, 1.30pm).

On Thursday 20 July at 7.30pm, Baroque violinist Bojan Cicic brings his star-studded Illyria Consort (Bojan Cicic violin and viola d’amore, Susanne Heinrich viola da gamba, David Miller theorbo and baroque guitar, and Steven Devine harpsichord) for a feast of Baroque music in this celebration of Handel and his London contemporaries including Handel, Carbonelli, Ariosti and Corbetta. Former BBC New Generation artist, soprano Ruby Hughes makes her debut at the Festival, performing Schubert, Schumann and Mahler, with pianist Joseph Middleton (Friday 21 July, 7.30pm).

Presenting musicians earlier in their careers and integrating them into the programme remains of key importance to Music at Paxton. The Festival proudly continues its relationship with Live Music Now Scotland and this year sees the return of many of their alumni, some sharing the stage with leading international artists, in addition to those currently under their wing. Featured artists in this year’s Festival are Sirocco Winds, Emma Wilkins (alumni), and Calum Robertson, Marco Ramelli and Aonach Mòr (current).  New this year will be the Promenade Concert, taking in some of Paxton House’s reception rooms and featuring music from Emma Wilkins (flute), Esther Swift (harp) and Calum Robertson (clarinet) (Saturday 15 July, 4pm).

Aonach Mòr combines the talents of Claire Hastings, Grant McFarlane and Ron Jappy to create an exciting blend of songs and tunes (Sunday 16 July, 3.30 pm) featuring accordion, fiddle and guitar. Sirocco Winds, a brilliant young ensemble of current Masters students and graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, perform Ligeti, Berio, Barber, Schifrin, Gershwin and Piazzolla (Wednesday 19 July, 7.30pm).

Young Milan born guitarist and composer Marco Ramelli performs works from Spain and South America (Saturday 22 July, 4pm) in the intimate surroundings of the Dining Room at Paxton House and Benjamin Frith brings a lyrical programme of Scarlatti, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Stanford, designed for a relaxing hour on a Sunday morning (Sunday 23 July, 11.30am).

Once again, in conjunction with Live Music Now Scotland and Paxton House, the extremely successful free one-hour taster concerts ‘Music at Paxton…Plus’ return to the festival. On Sunday 14 May at 2.30pm, guitarist Marco Ramelli performs works by Tarrega, Albéniz and Paganin and Calum Robertson (clarinet) and Juliette Philogene (piano) join forces on Sunday 4 June at 2.30pm for a programme of Jean Françaix, George Gershwin and Edward Gregson.

Helen Jamieson, Artistic Director for Music at Paxton, said: “This year’s festival is more ambitious than ever and we will be using every available space – from the marquee to the magnificent Dining Room – and every minute of these wonderful musicians’ time to provide the best and most varied event possible. There will be music from Bach to Beamish and from Scottish Traditional to Philip Glass. New this year is a cello masterclass by the renowned Pieter Wispelwey, a Promenade concert, for which Paxton House will open its main reception rooms to our musicians and audiences and two Sunday morning concerts for the early risers.”

Music at Paxton offers Sunday morning keyboard recitals, varied afternoon events including folk music in the marquee, two intimate recitals in the Dining Room, and a musical tour exploring some of the principal reception rooms of the 18th century neo-Palladian mansion.

(source: press release)

Meet the Artist…… Rachel Podger

(Photo: Jonas Sacks)

Who or what inspired you to take up the violin, and pursue a career in music?

Playing or hearing music around me was such a normal occurrence when I was growing up. From an early age I was involved in many concerts a year, whether playing or singing, that I didn’t need to choose whether to do music; the choice was more about which directions within music to take, and also where to study after school in Germany.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Peter Werner, a Eurythmy teacher and conductor at the Steiner school I went to in Kassel, Germany was an important influence on me. He had enormously creative energy which sometimes became feverish. His rehearsal technique was engaging and involved every player in the (big) school orchestra, and he taught me how to listen. I remember hearing Gidon Kremer and Reinhard Goebel in Kassel and being stuck by their different sound worlds and charismata.  And then of course my violin teacher at the Guildhall School of Music, David Takeno, who was much more than a violin teacher, but connoisseur of all musical styles with an uncanny musical intelligence, knowledge and generosity in his teaching.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Apart from playing concerts when I’m jetlagged or ill (!), the hardest thing for me was playing Bach solo recitals after I had my first baby, (15 years ago) when I could hear her screaming backstage because the milk had run out, and all my instincts were telling me to run to her – but I was in the middle of the C major Fugue!!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Tricky one, as there are always things you want to play again when you come off the stage… But I quite like the Biber Passacaglia on my disc the ‘Guardian Angel’ and also the Bach A minor Concerto with my group Brecon Baroque on the Bach Violin concerto disc (both Channel Classics).

Which particular works do you think you play best?

That’s another tricky one to answer… I commit myself entirely to whatever it is I’m playing, and I adore most of what’s on the musical menu. But Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi stand out for me…

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Repertoire choices are often decided by the theme of a festival, or the preferences of a promoter, recording plans and the recording back catalogue, so in the end there actually isn’t that much choice left! Who knows, if I had a completely new season to choose without any strings attached (as it were!) I might come up with Schubert and Brahms!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

There are a few concert halls I’ve played in that seem to make you play like a dream…one of them is the Symphony Hall in Boston, another the Suntory Hall in Tokyo and then I absolutely adore playing at the Wigmore Hall in London.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I adore listening to styles I don’t get to play like polyphony, music from the Renaissance, symphonic repertoire, Jazz…I get to listen to some pop too since I have teenage daughters…I always wake up to ‘Breakfast’ on  BBC Radio 3 and look forward to their ‘Bach before 7’ slot, but am continually intrigued by all I get to hear.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Creative ones! I’ve been lucky to play/work with many of them…Trevor Pinnock, Gary Cooper, Pamela Thorby, Richard Egarr, Phoebe Carrai, Elizabeth Blumenstock, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Jane Rogers, Alison McGillivray, Marcin Swiatkiewicz, Robert Hollingworth, Julian Podger (yes, my brother!), Alfredo Bernadini and many more…and then there’s the amazing Kris Bezuidenhout!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are many amazing moments I’ve been lucky to be part of, and often while performing with a larger group of musicians when there is a sense of unity within the music making.

Once while playing the Biber Mystery Sonatas in concert I was struck by the physicality in the ‘Crucifixion’ Sonata and got so involved in that aspect that I didn’t hear the applause afterwards and just stood there for a while (or so I’m told!) looking like I’d been the one crucified…

Another time playing the ‘Erbarme Dich ‘ aria from the Matthew Passion with Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert when I was pregnant and my unborn baby was utterly still while I stood up alongside the alto and played that heartfelt piece about mercy. Afterwards when I sat down the baby kicked and danced to the rest of the piece!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Practise intelligently, i.e. use your time well and efficiently and set yourself goals, even if it’s within a ten minute time frame, or even within one phrase. The relationship between musical intention and execution is essential, and it’s good to ask yourself how you’ll best get from one to the other. Aimless practice might help some mechanical workings, but is less effective. If your musical intention is unclear or confused, read the score in your head, sing it or parts of it, imagine how it might sound, play one part and sing the other, read it like a book on the train! Self-belief is utterly important, but so is an acute self-awareness. Lastly: try to keep the big picture in view!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Happy, healthy, loving life and playing music.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness is fleeting – I’d like to make sure I never miss one of those uplifting moments that seem to come out of nowhere and are a complete gift.

What is your most treasured possession?

My violin.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Looking at the sunset over the Brecon Beacons sipping a glass of white wine with my partner.

What is your present state of mind?

Looking forward to getting home! (Am writing this on a plane after a concert with EUBO in Regensburg!)

Rachel Podger performs in the Music at Paxton Festival on 21 July 2016. Further information here

Over the last two decades Rachel Podger has established herself as a leading interpreter of the Baroque and Classical periods and has recently been described as “the queen of the baroque violin” (Sunday Times). In October 2015 Rachel was the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Prize. She was educated in Germany and in England at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she studied with David Takeno and Micaela Comberti.

Rachel Podger’s website