Festival boasts superb line-up

Beatrice Philips
Beatrice Philips

Lewes Chamber Music Festival offers a feast of music and food as it returns to the town for a third year.

Artistic director and violinist Beatrice Philips, who grew up in Lewes and founded the festival in 2012, is delighted at the programme, which she has been able to bring together.

Running from Friday, June 27-Sunday, June 29, it boasts a stellar line-up of leading young performers for a weekend of summer concerts around the historic town, in collaboration with Local Sauce chef Sheba Anvari.

Returning to the festival are distinguished pianists Alasdair Beatson and Tom Poster, singer Jonathan McGovern, and the Celan Quartet, alongside newcomers, including cellist Robin Michael and the Barbican Piano Trio. There is also a world premiere from composer Kate Whitley as she unveils her new work, Piece for Piano, Clarinet and String Trio.

More than 20 artists are performing across Lewes as part of the festival, which combines music-making with food and drink.

The programme caters for a variety of musical tastes with chamber music classics by Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms, alongside more contemporary works by composers including Stravinsky, Taneyev and Catoire.

To complement these performances, musician-turned-chef Sheba Anvari from Local Sauce is offering audience members a two-course meal as part of the opening night celebrations, while local bed & breakfast Dubois is providing home-made cakes and biscuits for the Afternoon Stories concert.

“I am really passionate about chamber music,” says Beatrice, “and I had been to a number of other festivals. I had also attended the open chamber music sessions down in Cornwall. Since graduating and working as a freelance, I wanted to create a similar musical community in Lewes. There wasn’t a chamber music festival there already, and I thought it would be a good place to start one.

“I have just built it up from there. The first year we had eight musicians and six concerts, three on the Saturday and three on the Sunday in the same weekend in the three venues that we still use. The second year we built it up so that we had twice the number of musicians, and we had extra concerts so that it was eight in all.”

Now in the third year, Beatrice can enjoy the feeling that the event is well established: “There are certain people that came back for the second year, which is very encouraging. There is quite a lot of pressure because we are still a new outfit, and these small endeavours are always trying to catch up with themselves, but we are a registered charity now, which is exciting. It is an important step for fund-raising generally. We don’t have any major funding at the moment, and now we can apply to the Arts Council. It’s very handy to have a few festivals under your belt before applying.

“Over the past couple of years I have been thrilled by our audiences’ enthusiasm and appetite for chamber music of all kinds – from great composers to newly-commissioned works. My aim this year has been to create programmes that will continue to excite and enthral those who wish to make more new discoveries.”

As last year, the main venue will be St John Sub Castro Church in the heart Lewes, with additional concerts at the Westgate Chapel and one at St Peter’s Church in nearby Firle.

Friday June 27

n Opening Concert – St Johns Sub Castro, 6:30pm. To launch the 2014 edition of Lewes Chamber Music festival, pianist Tom Poster joins violinist Hélène Maréchaux and cellist Hannah Sloane for a performance of Haydn’s Piano Trio in C major. This is followed by Russian composer Sergei Taneyev’s Sixth String Quartet, played by violinists Catherine Manson and Tom Hankey, violist James Boyd and cellist Robert Max. Completing the programme is pianist Alasdair Beatson, violinist Beatrice Philips and cellist Robin Michael performing Beethoven’s Archduke Piano Trio Op. 97.

n Late Night Brahms – Westgate Chapel, 10pm (supper from 8.45pm). Special supper tickets available for a pre-concert dinner by Local Sauce (festival chef). Westgate Chapel’s Hibbert Room is transformed into a pop-up restaurant as Local Sauce chef Sheba Anvari serves up a two-course meal for concert-goers, prior to a performance of Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet with clarinettist Matt Hunt, violinists Katharine Gowers and Tom Hankey, violist Timothy Ridout and cellist Hannah Sloane.

Saturday, June 28

n Lunchtime Concert – St Peter’s Church, Firle, 1pm. Members of the Celan Quartet join clarinettist Matt Hunt in Mozart’s own arrangement of his B flat Violin Sonata K317, followed by a romantic Russian masterpiece by Arensky.

n Festival Extravaganza – St Johns Sub Castro, 7pm. A highlight of this year’s festival is the world premiere of Piece for Piano, Clarinet and String Trio by award-winning composer Kate Whitley, performed by Tom Poster, Matt Hunt, Beatrice Philips, Tom Hankey and Hannah Sloane. Tom Poster will also join fellow pianist Alasdair Beatson for Mozart’s Sonata for four hands in D major K381, followed by Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op. 70 No. 2 and Taneyev’s G minor Piano Quintet, performed by the Barbican Piano Trio, with James Boyd and Beatrice Philips.

n Late Beethoven – Westgate Chapel, 10pm. The talented young Celan Quartet perform a late-night concert of Beethoven’s late String Quartet Op. 127.

Sunday, June 29

n Coffee Concert – Westgate Chapel, 11am. Before performing Schoenberg’s String Trio with violinist Tim Crawford and cellist Robin Michael, violist James Boyd will give a brief talk on the work – the majority of which was composed just weeks after Schoenberg suffered a severe heart-attack and reflects his psychological and physical suffering. This piece is followed by Mozart, with a performance of one of his most-loved chamber works, the D major Quintet.

n Afternoon Stories – St Johns Sub Castro, 2.30pm. This concert explores music at the start of the 20th century, with wartime stories told by Ravel and Stravinsky – his Soldier’s Tale – and a performance of Janáček’s dark and troubled Sonata for Piano, written in response to the cruel death of a labourer in 1905 at a demonstration outside a Czech university. Returning to Lewes is award-winning baritone Jonathan McGovern, who performs a set of songs written by Ravel, based on the story of Cervantes’ hero Don Quixote.

n Festival Finale – St John Sub Castro, 7pm. Many of the festival’s leading artists come together for the concluding concert, which includes works for piano, voice and strings by Brahms, as well as Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 5 Op. 53 arranged for string quintet by Robin Michael, Quatre Morceaux pour piano Op.12, Nos. 1 and 3, by Catoire.

For tickets: download a booking form from www.leweschambermusicfestival.com or email leweschambermusicfestival@gmail.com or call 01273 479865 or buy in person from Lewes Travel. Half-price tickets are available for full time students, while those aged 16 and under go free.