More Things To Do in York and beyond from festive folk to hot Chilean rhythms. Hutch’s List No. 33 for 2023, from The Press

The Magpies: Hosting their folk festival at Sutton Park today

ART and cinema outdoors, folk and classical festivals, nostalgic gigs and ant adventures on a theatre terrace prompt Charles Hutchinson into arts action.

Heading to the park: The Magpies Festival, Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest, near York, today. Gates open at 10am; live music from 12 noon

TRANSATLANTIC folk trio The Magpies head into the final day of their open-air festival of music, activities, stalls and food and drink. They will be among today’s main stage acts (at 8pm), along with Liz Stringer, Honey & The Bear, Blair Dunlop, Rachel Sermanni and Edward II.

The Brass Castle Stage plays host to Jack Harris, Megan Henwood, Tom Moore & Archie Moss, Gilmore & Roberts and Bonfire Radicals, concluding with a Ceilidh with Archie Moss. Box office:

York River Art Market: Up to 30 artists and makers per day down by the riverside

Art in the open air: York River Art Market, Dame Judi Dench Walk by Lendal Bridge, York, today and tomorrow, then August 19 and 20, 10am to 5.30pm

YORK River Art Market returns for its eighth summer as York’s answer to the Left Bank in Paris. Organised by founder, director and artist Charlotte Dawson, the weekend event showcases a different variety of more than 30 independent artists and makers from all over Yorkshire and beyond each day.

Boom, by Evie Measor, from New Visuality’s exhibition project, Colour, at Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre

Easels at the ready: Sketching in the Garden, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, until September 23, 10am to 5pm daily

THE Bar Convent invites artists and those who would like to give it a go to use its easels free of charge in the garden, where art and heritage combine to create an outdoor sketch space.

This opportunity coincides with the Bar Convent’s exhibition run of Colour, featuring works by young York artists, who have used photography skills and innovative AI technology to reinterpret York’s heritage buildings and landmarks. Why not draw inspiration from the exhibition to create your own artistic interpretations?

The Greatest Showman Sing-A-Long: Part of the Outdoor Cinema season at Castle Howard

Screen on the green: Outdoor Cinema at Castle Howard, near York today and tomorrow

THIS outdoor cinema experience in the grounds of Castle Howard presents Matilda The Musical (PG) today at 2pm, Grease (PG) tonight at 8pm, The Greatest Showman (PG) Sing-A-Long tomorrow at 2pm and Top Gun: Maverick tomorrow at 7pm.

Gates open at 12 noon for the afternoon screenings; 6pm for The Greatest Showman; 5pm for Top Gun: Maverick. Picnics and drinks are welcome at all screenings but no glassware. Blankets and camping chairs are allowed. Under-16s must be accompanied by an adult. Box office:

Pianist Katya Apekisheva: One of 30 international musicians playing at North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Classical festival of the week: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, Welburn Manor marquee, near Kirkbymoorside, and assorted churches, Sunday to August 26

THE 15th North York Moors Chamber Music Festival ventures Into The Looking Glass for a fantastical fortnight with 30 international musicians, including pianist Katya Apekisheva, French horn virtuoso Ben Goldscheider and violinists Charlotte Scott and Benjamin Baker.

Directed by cellist Jamie Walton, the festival takes inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s 1872 novel to “explore the psychology of the mind through the prism of music, conveying its various chapters with carefully curated music that takes the audience on an adventurous journey through many twists and turns”. For the programme and tickets, head to: Box office: 07722 038990.

The Searchers & Hollies Experience: Sixties’ nostalgia at the double at the JoRo

Tribute show of the week: The Searchers And Hollies Experience, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

IN The Searchers & Hollies Experience: The Best Of Both Worlds, The FOD Band celebrate the magical, haunting hits of these legendary Sixties’ harmony bands from Liverpool and Manchester respectively. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Newen Afrobeat: Chile meets Fela Kuti at The Crescent

Chilean gig of the week…in York: Newen Afrobeat, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

NEWEN Afrobeat, a 13-piece Chilean orchestra, make music inspired by the legacy of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. Applying a Latin stamp, they unify the African rhythms with a colourful and energetic staging, embedded in a deep social message that talks about their roots and cultural awareness.

In a ten-year career of four albums and eight international tours, Newen Afrobeat have performed at Montreal International Jazz Festival, WOMEX, Africa Oyé and Felabration Lagos. Box office:

Janet Bruce, left, and Cassie Vallance: Hosting Story Craft Theatre’s The Secret Life Of The Garden

Children’s event of the week: Story Craft Theatre in The Secret Life Of The Garden, Friday, 11am and 1pm

HAVE you ever imagined shrinking down to the size of an ant to go on an awesome adventure through a garden? York company Story Craft Theatre’s Janet Bruce and Cassie Vallance provide that opportunity in their magical new show, packed full of fun and wonder on the Theatre Royal patio.

This interactive production for two to eight-year-old children combines visual storytelling tools, such as puppets and Makaton signs and symbols, with games and dancing, plus crafting and colouring sheets beforehand. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Herman’s Hermits: Hits, hits, hits at Pocklington Arts Centre

Retro gig of the week: Herman’s Hermits, Pocklington Arts Centre, August 19, 8pm

FORMED in 1964, Manchester band Herman’s Hermits chalked up 23 hits, hitting the peak straightaway with the chart-topping I’m Into Something Good.

Producer Mickie Most oversaw their glory days with such smashes as No Milk Today, There’s A Kind Of Hush, Silhouettes, Mrs Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, Wonderful World, I’m Henry VIII, I Am, Just A Little Bit Better, A Must To Avoid, Sleepy Joe, Sunshine Girl, Something’s Happening, My Sentimental Friend and Years May Come, Years May Go. Box office: 01759 301547 or

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival ventures Into The Looking Glass for fantastical fortnight with 30 musicians

Jamie Walton: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival artistic director and cellist, performing at the 2022 event. Picture: Matthew Johnson

EXPECT the unexpected when the North York Moors Chamber Music Festival invites next month’s audiences to peer into the looking glass.

Now in its 15th year, the summer festival will combine daring programming with an inclusive atmosphere in its fortnight run from August 13 to 26.

This year’s theme, Into The Looking Glass, takes inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s 1872 novel to “explore the psychology of the mind through the prism of music, conveying its various chapters with carefully curated music that takes the audience on an adventurous journey through many twists and turns”.

Having forged ahead to play to live audiences through the height of the Covid pandemic by hiring an open-sided, 5,000 sq.ft marquee, the festival retains the format this year in the grounds of Welburn Manor, near Kirkbymoorside.

Violinist Alena Baeva: Making her North York Moors Chamber Music Festival debut. Picture: Andrej Grilc

In addition, a series of lunchtime concerts will be presented in North York Moors National Park churches at St Michael’s, Coxwold; St Hilda’s, Danby; St Hedda’s, Egton Bridge, and St Mary’s, Lastingham.

From his North York Moors home, the festival’s artistic director, cellist Jamie Walton, has gathered around 30 international artists, such as pianist Katya Apekisheva, French horn virtuoso Ben Goldscheider and violinists Charlotte Scott and Benjamin Baker.

Award-winning Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko and Russian-born, Luxembourg-based violinist Alena Baeva will make their festival debuts.

Works by Bach, Schubert, Strauss, Schumann, Debussy and Mendelssohn, among others, will be performed.

Walton says: “Although the festival is primarily chamber music in the classic sense, the success of last year’s appearance by folk singer Sam Lee and his band opened up our audiences to new styles and acts, while attracting Sam’s own fanbase to the world of classic music.

Jazz pianist and singer Alice Zawadzki : Undertaking Adventures Through Song at her Wonderland concert on August 19 at 6pm in the Festival Marquee at Welburn Manor

“This year, we’re delighted to welcome eclectic singer/violinist Alice Zawadzki and her jazz-infused trio for a concert entitled Wonderland, specially developed for the festival.

“Throughout this festival, audiences can expect the unexpected in a fantastical fortnight that showcases great talent, sublime music and spectacular locations. There’ll be loads of vitality and we’ll be pushing some boundaries.”

For the full festival programme, head to: Tickets for each main festival concert cost £15, free for under-30s. A season ticket for all 14 concerts is £150.

To book, email, call 07722 038990 or visit Welburn Manor is sited west of Kirkbymoorside en route to Helmsley, off the A170, at YO62 7HH.

Who will be playing at the 2023 North York Moors Chamber Music Festival?

Daniel Lebhardt on the piano at the 2022 North York Moors Chamber Music Festival. He returns for this summer’s Into The Looking Glass programme. Picture: Matthew Johnson

Violin: Alena Baeva; Benjamin Baker; Rachel Kolly; Emma Parker; Victoria Sayles; Charlotte Scott.

Viola: Sascha Bota; Meghan Cassidy; Scott Dickinson; Simone van der Giessen.

Cello: Rebecca Gilliver; Jack Moyer; Alice Neary; Tim Posner; Jamie Walton.

Double bass: Siret Lust; Frances Preston.

Piano: Katya Apekisheva; Christian Chamorel; Vadym Kholodenko; Daniel Lebhardt; Nikita Lukinov.

Clarinet: Matthew Hunt.

French horn: Ben Goldscheider.

Plus. . .

Alice Zawadski, singer/violinist; Misha Mullov-Abbado, bass, and Bruno Heinen, piano.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Aurora, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Daniel Lebhardt: “Characteristic fervour”

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: Aurora, Welburn Manor Marquee, August 27

SO to the festival finale. We had no less than 11 players here, spread over three pieces, which gave a very full audience the chance to bid au revoir to most of their favourites.

Schumann’s Piano Quintet was followed after the interval by Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes and Dohnányi’s Sextet in C. It was a joyous occasion.

The Schumann was led from the piano with characteristic fervour by Daniel Lebhardt, although its Allegro brillante was bursting with positivity on the part of all five players, a thrill undoubtedly felt by the audience.

Its yearning second theme, alternating between a light viola and a stronger cello,
counterbalanced the opening excitement. Indeed, Alice Neary’s cello offered a firm foundation throughout the work.

Similarly, the gently rocking second theme in the slow movement made a tender
contrast to the opening march. It came to an impeccably hushed, long-breathed close.
There were strong gypsy connotations in the trio and a vital coda to the scherzo.

Not so vital was the start of the finale which was heavy. But it was deceptive. When dialogue returned, Lebhardt dabbed in some nice pianistic touches, not least in his playing with rests, and when the counterpoint got going, there was no looking back. In perhaps the most ingenious movement Schumann ever wrote, the coda’s double fugue built into an immense climax, hugely satisfying here.

Prokofiev was hardly going to equal Schumann, but his clever take on klezmer – Jewish non-liturgical music – sounded like the real thing here, with Matthew Hunt’s clarinet taking an eloquent, agile lead.

Katya Apekisheva: “Often rippling piano chords”

Katya Apekisheva’s often rippling piano chords added a propulsion that was patently balletic, as Prokofiev undoubtedly intended. It made a pleasing diversion.

Dohnányi’s Sextet uses a piano quartet alongside clarinet and horn, which tends to mean that the horn dominates the texture whenever it enters. But Ben Goldscheider’s horn is a subtle instrument and he used it with discretion.

Ensemble was taut right from the start, in an opening theme with a charming little kink in it, illuminated by violin, clarinet and horn. The acceleration towards the close was beautifully

The strings were silent when the funeral march invaded the slow movement but Apekisheva’s piano arpeggios steered all the players back into line and a peaceful conclusion.

Hunt’s clarinet led the scherzo’s engaging lilt, and the trio’s skittering triplets injected a note of sheer fun. When the scherzo returned, the ensemble distilled pure romanticism out of the harmonic stasis near its close.

The festival could not have closed with a more joyful movement than the finale, where
Dohnányi seems to shed all inhibitions and go for sounds that are more Broadway than Brahms. The syncopation was dazzling, but immensely disciplined. It conjured everything that this treasure of a festival is all about.

By Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Spring, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Charlotte Scott: “Sweet-toned violin”

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: Spring, Welburn Manor Marquee, August 19

ONCE again it was the ever-reliable, sweet-toned violin of Charlotte Scott that took the lead in this afternoon’s works, Beethoven’s ‘Spring’ Sonata, Op 24 in F, and Schumann’s Second Piano Trio, Op 80 in D.

Up to this point, the piano – a medium-size Steinway – had been the cause of several comments, mainly negative, about its tone. To these ears, it verged on the clangy; others thought it tinny.

Certainly James Baillieu, the admirable pianist here, had appeared to struggle to produce the kind of sound he wanted. But by now, something had changed, adjustments made no doubt, and the piano returned to something like mellowness.

F major has often been a key indicating the joys of nature, especially for Beethoven. Think of his Pastoral Symphony or the last string quartet. All that was here, in the nuances delivered by both players.

Cellist Jamie Walton. Picture: Matthew Johnson

The exposition was given a full repeat, just as it should be (but isn’t always). The mood music continued in the daydream of an Adagio, with the violin tone now more intimate and the pair enjoying gentle dialogue in the third of its three variations. After the comic Scherzo, with the violin intentionally lagging a beat behind, the rondo found the pair in wonderful harness, melting teasingly back into repetitions of the theme.

They were joined by cellist Jamie Walton for the Schumann. The early tremolos in the strings became tempestuous, but clarity never suffered, even through the long acceleration into the final climax of the first movement.

The cello was the first to break out of the introspective ruminations of the slow movement and Baillieu’s piano became a little over-dramatic before the return of the theme. But there was a delightful ebb and flow as little motifs were tossed around in the succeeding dance. The finale was lent an attractive urgency by the lightness of the semiquavers in all three voices, as the counterpoint fizzed.

Smiles all round.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Towards The Flame, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Pianist Daniel Lebhardt: “Carried the lion’s share of the first half”

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: Towards The Flame, Welburn Manor Marquee, August 23

THIS was the most modern of this year’s programmes – 20th century music bar two Dowland lute songs – yet there was no falling-off in attendance, a mark of how dedicated this audience is. Dowland, indeed, was the focus of the first and the last two works on this programme, with two Russian pieces in between.

The pianist Daniel Lebhardt carried the lion’s share of the first half. He opened with Darknesse Visible, written by Thomas Adès in 1992 for solo piano, and inspired by Dowland’s song ‘In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell’ (in the original spelling).

Adès uses only notes from the song, nothing added, but he “explodes” it – his word – so that it occurs at the extremes of the piano, often heavily accented. Snatches of the original are glimpsed fleetingly in the middle of the keyboard, more so towards the end of its seven intriguing minutes. Lebhardt played it without a score, a mark of his diligence.

Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata, in which Benjamin Baker joined Lebhardt, is one of his most tortured and tortuous. It took him eight years to write, finishing in 1946. While the first movement meandered darkly, a low-lying slow march in the piano, the violin nervously double-stopped before rushing into ghostly semiquavers.

Lutenist Matthew Wadsworth: “Intimate reading of Dowland’s Flow My Tears and If My Complaints Could Passions Move”

The clarity this duo brought to the work was enhanced by the contrast they brought to the two themes of the succeeding Allegro Brusco. Once again, Baker’s violin grew more frenetic, until the eventual collision of the themes seemed entirely logical.

He allowed a touch of lyricism into the slow movement melody, before a skittish finale, mainly staccato and strongly syncopated. Here the intrusion of the nursery-style melody was served up as a red herring, before the ghostly tones of the very opening restored the sense of menace that hovers around this work. It all sounded very logical in this account.

Lebhardt returned to give Scriabin’s Vers La Flamme – the evening’s title – where he relished the mounting urgency and heavy accents that surround an insistent tremolo. Scriabin’s apocalyptic vision requires considerable pyrotechnics, but Lebhardt tackled them with near-missionary zeal, again by rote.

Lutenist Matthew Wadsworth appeared after the interval in company with viola player Scott Dickinson and pianist Katya Apekisheva. He gave an intimate reading of two Dowland lute-songs, ‘Flow My Tears’ and ‘If My Complaints Could Passions Move’. Britten quotes both of these in his Lachrymae for viola and piano, but uses the second as the basis for a theme and variations in reverse; the theme appears at the very end.

Viola and piano treated the work lovingly, although in its Appassionato section – where part of the first song appears – they turned up the drama. When the theme finally appeared, there was a real sense of catharsis. A satisfying conclusion to what might have been an uncompromising evening.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Daybreak, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, 13/8/2022

Violinist Charlotte Scott

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Daybreak, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: Daybreak, Welburn Manor marquee, August 13

THE 2022 North York Moors Chamber Music Festival got off to a cracking start with this afternoon concert, a Beethoven piano trio followed by a Dvořák piano quartet.

The festival’s umbrella title is Soundscapes, with the various subtitles moving gradually through the day and the seasons. Appropriately, this was Daybreak.

For anyone new to this wonderful festival – one of the best-kept secrets of the chamber music world anywhere in this country, let alone in Yorkshire – the names of the musicians taking part are only revealed at the event.

All you know ahead of time are the works on the programme. But have no fear. Nobody makes it onto the Welburn stage without the highest pedigree: concerto soloists, orchestra leaders, competition winners, from all over Europe, all with a shared love of chamber music which their careers normally prevent them playing.

So, they come here on holiday, often with families in tow, and indulge themselves for our delight. The results are often astounding – and at £15 a pop, extraordinarily good value.

Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Op 11 in B flat, dates from the late 1790s when he was fairly new on the Vienna scene and still trying to make an impression. Wisely he based his writing on ‘Papa’ Haydn’s example. In these works you find Beethoven at his most witty, which did not escape our threesome here, violinist Charlotte Scott, cellist Rebecca Gilliver and pianist Christian Chamorel.

The opening Allegro was extremely light on its feet, with the downward part of the theme given a keen staccato. The semiquavers in the development section were particularly energetic.

The centre of the slow movement, which involves cello and piano alone (because its remote keys were inaccessible at the time by the clarinet for which the violin role was originally written), was soulful indeed.

The finale, nine variations on a wildly popular song by Joseph Weigl (Before I Start Work, I Need Something To Eat! – one knows the feeling) were sombre, dramatic and martial in turn. They are followed by a crazy little piano cadenza that goes off at a tangent, which Chamorel relished to the full, before his colleagues were allowed back to restore order.

The second of Dvořák’s two piano quartets, Op 87 in E flat, brought in a completely new group of players – something that ordinary economics would not normally make feasible – violinist Benjamin Baker, viola player Meghan Cassidy, cellist Jamie Walton and pianist Daniel Lebhardt. All are regulars at the festival, while Baker and Lebhardt are also frequent collaborators which undoubtedly helped cohesion.

Its dramatic opening was made more so by Lebhardt’s insistent piano, which drove his colleagues a little harder than they might have wished. It did however make the calm appearance of the second theme during the development especially beautiful.

Walton’s cello gave an ultra-lyrical start to the slow movement, so that the arrival of its stormy centre came almost as a shock. The return of the cello’s theme was almost remorseful, as if the disturbance had been too much, and it came to a serene, penitent close.

There was a pleasing sense of dance to the scherzo – almost an old-fashioned minuet – and the finale’s main theme matched the forthright opening of the whole work. The ensemble seemed particularly to savour the moments of repose that Dvořák throws in strategically. The enthusiasm of both ensembles was infectious: it bodes well for the rest of the festival.                                                                                                

Review by Martin Dreyer

Folk musician Sam Lee’s band to play at North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Sam Lee: Ground-breaking concert at North York Moors Chamber Music Festival. Picture: Andre Pattenden

FOLK pioneer Sam Lee will bring a new perspective to this summer’s North York Moors Chamber Music Festival when performing his Songlines set of folk songs in the Welburn Manor marquee on August 22 at 7pm.

Now in its 14th consecutive year – it was one of the very few arts festivals to go ahead during the pandemic in both 2020 and 2021 – the 2022 festival runs from August 13 to 27, when its roster of world-class classical musicians gathers to perform dazzling repertoire around the theme of Soundscapes.

This year they will be joined by folk singer, song collector and conservationist Sam Lee and his band. Lee met the festival’s director,  cellist Jamie Walton, when he spent time at the newly opened Ayriel Studios in Westerdale, near Whitby, late last year.

Walton, a founder and artistic director of this new state-of-the-art facility, explains: “Sam spent time up at Ayriel Studios writing songs, and we got on so well that I joined him back in May to perform live with nightingales as part of his Nest Collective project.

“This year’s festival theme, Soundscapes, takes inspiration from the landscape and music inspired by nature.  Sam’s song set will fit in perfectly, as he is a conservationist, collector of songs and a real champion of nature.”

Ayriel Studios is also serving as a rehearsal space for many of this year’s other festival artists, which includes international musicians such as violinists Charlotte Scott, Benjamin Baker, Rachel Kolly, Victoria Sayles, Irena Simon-Renes and Irene Duval; cellists Alice Neary, Rebecca Gilliver, Tim Posner and Jamie Walton and pianists Katya Apekisheva, James Baillieu; Daniel Lebhardt, Christian Chamorel and Anna Tilbrook.

Taking part too are Ben Goldscheider (French horn); Matthew Hunt (clarinet); James Gilchrist (tenor); Alison Buchanan (soprano, Matthew Wadsworth (lute and theorbo) and young artists The Jubilee String Quartet and Cristian Grainer de Sa.

They will perform works by composers including Beethoven, Debussy, Fauré, Dvořák, Elgar, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Chausson and many others.

All the main festival concerts will take place once more in an acoustically adapted marquee in the grounds of Welburn Manor Farm, near Kirkbymoorside. This is likely to be the last time the festival utilises this format before returning to churches, three of which – at Coxwold, Egton Bridge, and Danby – are featuring as part of this year’s festival.

Tickets for each main festival concert cost £15; free for under-30s. A season ticket for all 15 concerts costs £150.

To book, email, call 07722 038990 or visit

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival director Jamie Walton. Picture: Matthew Johnson

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Post War Paris and Trio Mazzolini, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Nicholas Daniel: “Restrained crescendo”

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: Post War Paris; Trio Mazzolini, Welburn Manor Marquee, August 19 and 20

POULENC was the chosen representative of Paris in the eras after the two World Wars, with Prokofiev in his neo-classical prime characterising the Roaring Twenties. But last Thursday evening’s programme was given in more or less reverse chronological order.

Poulenc’s only three sonatas for solo wind instruments date from the last five years of his life. All were written in memory of friends as he began to contemplate his own demise. But they are far from elegiac, combining reminiscence with levity: Poulenc is rarely able to keep a straight face for long.

The Oboe Sonata of 1962, the last to be written, is the most outwardly mournful of the three and remembers Prokofiev. Nicholas Daniel’s oboe took a leisurely approach to the opening Élégie, describing a giant arch that reached a restrained crescendo before subsiding placidly, accompanied every step of the way by Katya Apekisheva’s sensitive piano.

The scherzo was typically flippant, but more than balanced by a pensive finale, where the action was mainly in the piano while the oboe wept.

Five years earlier, Poulenc had written his Flute Sonata, formally in memory of his patron
Elizabeth Sprague but fired by the spirit of his friend Raymonde Linossier. Thomas Hancox brought verve to the puckish opening, with smooth legato in the central Cantilena. He was even lighter on his toes in the finale – which is briefly interrupted by an elegy when Poulenc remembers to be serious.

Hancox brought a trigger-jerk to the start of every phrase, which was fine at exciting moments but distracting when the going was supposed to be calmer.

The sounds of Paris were much more apparent in the Clarinet Sonata, where Matthew
Hunt was soloist, partnered by Alasdair Beatson’s piano. Although in memory of Honegger, it was written for Benny Goodman, hence its several nods towards jazz. Its central Romanza was especially affecting but the shrieks in the finale were pure Benny. This duo mixed flair with finesse.

Prokofiev’s Quintet in G minor, Op 39 began life as a ballet, Trapeze, written in 1924, using the unusual combo of oboe and clarinet, with violin, viola and double bass. It reeks of circus life. The winds are so dominant in the opening that one feared for balance, but the double bass led the way in the following movement, often made to sound like a cello, with quirkily dissonant outcomes.

Similarly later, rapid bass pizzicato, imitated by the other strings, led to a crazy ending in the Allegro Precipitato. Straight out of the Twenties, the finale, although in three-time, was more Charleston than waltz. Nikita Naumov’s bass was the star of this show.

Poulenc’s Trio, Op 43, written only two years after the Prokofiev, was much more backward-looking, even nostalgic in its romanticism. It linked Daniel’s oboe and Beatson’s piano to Amy Harman’s bassoon. Its long-limbed Andante might almost have been late Brahms; it was lovingly presented.

The trio made teasing use of the many rests at the end of their jaunty Rondo, probing Poulenc’s wit to its limits.

Last Friday lunchtime, it was the turn of the Trio Mazzolini to take their place as the last of the Young Artists in the festival, an initiative, incidentally, that has been a great success by all accounts.

Piano trios by Haydn and Mendelssohn framed the 1998 trio by Judith Weir. This is a work of refreshing directness and clarity that wears its heart on its sleeve. The bells of St Mark’s, Venice ring through the opening movement which radiates exotic tints of the barcarole that is Schubert’s Gondelfahrer, its inspiration.

The strings handled the harmonics of the Scherzo deftly, and the taut curlicue motif in the
finale was positively crystalline here. The Mazzolinis clearly revelled in this idiom.

The Haydn, a late work in C major, was notable for the ensemble’s use of rubato, which carried more than a hint of signposting that the music does not need. Still, Harry Rylance’s piano passagework in the finale was impressive, even if his partners struggled to achieve a good balance.

We heard more from the strings in Mendelssohn’s Trio No 2 in C minor, although Yurie Lee’s cello could have afforded to project even more. The highlight was the Andante, the trio negotiating its rolling acres beautifully together and bringing it to a lovely close.

There was exciting propulsion in the Scherzo and the sweeping piano chorale in the final Allegro heralded a sweet-toned outpouring from Jack Greed’s violin. This is a
talented trio, with Rylance an exceptionally agile pianist, even if one could not always be sure that he was listening to his colleagues as keenly as he might.

This brought an end to my festival, which has been even more satisfying than last year’s – and that is saying something. The Welburn Marquee must surely become a fixture. Even allowing for a few bleating lambs and the odd passing tractor, it has an intimacy that is somehow exactly suited to chamber music and the audience this year has exulted in the many treasures it has heard. The rapport between listeners and players has been second to none.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Turn Of A Century/Through War, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

James Gilchrist: “As always, he brought intensity to every phrase, delving well below the surface of the

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: Turn Of A Century/Through War, Welburn Manor Marquee, August 16 and 17

FESTIVALS would not be festive if they delivered only run-of-the-mill fare. From time to time, as here, it is absolutely right that they plough new furrows.

Turn Of A Century looked at two works written by composers before they had become famous, Richard Strauss and Béla Bartók.

Strauss was a mere 20 years old when he finished his Piano Quartet in C minor (1884). It is the work of a young man striving hard to make an impression but by and large falling short.

Neither of the opening themes has much character and sound like Brahms on an off day. The Scherzo is even more bombastic while its trio has a pallid melody that lacks definition. The Andante might have been written by Schumann, but with a whiff of the salon about it. The finale uses motifs in a series of sequences that are ultimately repetitious. In short, not exactly vintage Strauss.

Daniel Lebhardt, no doubt in an effort to ‘help’ the music, brought considerable aggression to the piano role; too many of his fortes were fortissimo or louder. It put the strings at a disadvantage, although they – Charlotte Scott, Meghan Cassidy and Alice Neary – dug in and answered as best they could. There was a brief oasis of calm near the end, but otherwise it was a harum-scarum affair, good to hear once, but no more than that.

Bartók’s youth was altogether more disciplined, on the evidence of his Piano Quintet in C,
composed at the age of 23. Here there were genuine precursors of his mature style, with strongly Hungarian flavours throughout.

The richly Romantic opening contrasts a lovely viola melody – played here by Timothy Ridout – with a nervy, urgent dance, which returns even more balletically in the coda.
An ethnic-sounding Scherzo is paired with a Viennese-style trio, before the menacing opening of a slow movement that turns quite lush and ends with strings muted.

The finale, following immediately, starts in folk-dance style very slowly, gathering pace wittily. There are some spaces for ruminative solos, but eventually a fugal finale boils up from the piano – crisply delivered by Katya Apekisheva, on peerless form at this festival.

But all the players deserve praise for their devotion to a work not often heard: violinists Maria Włoszczowska and Vicky Sayles and cellist Jamie Walton, along with Ridout and
Apekisheva as mentioned. Their teamwork was exceptional.

The following evening’s Through War heralded an English programme that required the services of tenor James Gilchrist and a dozen players. The undoubted highlight was Gilchrist in On Wenlock Edge, Vaughan Williams’s evocative setting of six poems from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, with piano quintet accompaniment.

What really made this performance special was his recitation of the poems in advance, loaded with emotional nuance. It made one appreciate even more the composer’s
special feel for the English language, its intonation and rhythm.

As always, Gilchrist brought intensity to every phrase, delving well below the surface of the
poetry. His contrast between living and dead voices in Is My Team Ploughing? reached a spine-chilling conclusion on “whose”.

His change of tone in Bredon Hill was telling. But he was matched every step of the way by the strings, whose orchestral sweep extended from the opening tremolos – “On Wenlock
Edge the wood’s in trouble” – to the muted ending of Clun. Alasdair Beatson’s piano rippled
effectively, while underlining accents. They all got carried away at the top of Bredon Hill, where Gilchrist was briefly submerged. But it was a memorable account.

We had opened with York Bowen’s Clarinet Sonata, with Matthew Hunt dancing light-footedly through the roulades of the title role and Beatson’s piano in tight support. Hunt later cleverly blended his virtuoso instincts into the ensemble in Howells’s Rhapsodic Quintet, where he was joined by a passionate string quartet led by Charlotte Scott.

The tension of the opening slowly dissipated into a lyrical mood that led coolly to a lovely conclusion. The score sounded freshly-minted, beautifully integrated – and thoroughly English.

The Jubilee Quartet, with David Adams bravely stepping into their injured leader’s shows,
revealed its versatility in Elgar’s String Quartet. Adams is widely experienced, currently concertmaster with the orchestra of Welsh National Opera and incidentally husband of the cellist Alice Neary (who played in the Howells).

Nevertheless, the voices took time to settle in an opening that was more calculated than spontaneous. Adams really found his wings in the central movement, guiding his charges
into a nicely controlled ending. Then the quartet reached persuasive heights in a finale that was both rhythmically alert and bouncing with energy. The best had been kept to last.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on La Belle Époque, North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, 10/8/2021

Mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley: “Played her part superbly too, setting the fin de siècle tone”. Picture: Kaupo Kikkas

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival: La Belle Époque, Welburn Manor Marquee, August 10

NO fewer than 11 different musicians took part in what was essentially a song-recital by mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley, devoted to ‘mélodies’ – the French answer to the German Lied – whose heyday was that prosperous period of roughly 35 years up until the First World War.

Among the composers, we enjoyed a fascinating handful of lesser lights jostling with the likes of Debussy, Ravel and Chausson.

Huntley certainly knew her way around this repertory. When singing with piano accompaniment – provided by the keenly attentive James Baillieu – she quite properly used no score. She found pathos at the centre of Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage and sustained a lovely line against Baillieu’s rippling piano. Paladilhe’s Psyché made a pleasing miniature with the voice in a largely secondary role.

Her account of Debussy’s Trois chansons de Bilitis – who was supposedly an ancient Greek poetess but was in reality a fiction created by Pierre Louÿs and fooling many classicists – was equally fluent.

The semi-recitative of ‘La flute de Pan’ and the rueful reminiscence of ‘La chevelure’ was countered by more forceful momentum in ‘Le tombeau de Naïades’. Later we had shapely Chaminade, and Viardot’s Havanaise in operetta style, with Baillieu injecting witty habanera rhythms.

Violinist Benjamin Baker: “Breath-taking finale, barely off the plane from New York”

But the real treats came when she had an ensemble at her side. In Chausson’s Chanson perpetuelle, violin and viola sweetly in turn echoed the vocal line and the full piano quintet helped generate considerable intensity.

Even more of a pleasure was the chance to hear Ravel’s Chansons madécasses with the flute of Claire Wickes (doubling on piccolo), alongside Jamie Walton’s cello and Daniel Lebhardt’s piano. Here was intriguing scene-painting, impressionism with exotic ethnic tints. This group was notably well-knit.

A breath-taking finale came with violinist Benjamin Baker, barely off the plane from New York, in the concertante role in Chausson’s Poème, Op 25. The early elegiac mood turned gradually more upbeat, as Baker’s soaring cantilenas and dizzying arpeggios built towards a protracted final cadence that turned from minor to major at the last gasp. A quintet, led from the piano by Katya Apekisheva, lent energetic support. Another festival gem. But Huntley had played her part superbly too, setting the fin de siècle tone.

Review by Martin Dreyer