Autumn in Malvern preview

FASCINATING EVENTS AT AUTUMN IN MALVERN


AUTUMN IN MALVERN
by Christopher Morley

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Autumn in Malvern, a festival which celebrates not only the arts in themselves but also the culture which springs so bountifully, like the famous water, from these beautiful hills.
Peter Smith has masterminded this heroic enterprise from its inception, quietly calling upon his many contacts to enhance the offering, and the forthcoming programme is a typical mix of the international, the national, and the local.
Various exhibitions offer a permanent backdrop as a Festival Art Trail, beginning with two in Malvern Library Gallery. One is locally inspired, "Colour in Landscape: those Blue Remembered Hills", curated by Carly Tinkler and Jem Waygood, and tying in with their talk on the subject in Colwall Village Hall on September 20 (3pm).
The other exhibition in this venue is based further afield, with Kevin Austin's "Liverpool Post-War Narrative" using a series of oil paintings and writings to take a reflective look at the city's community history in the 1950s and 60s.
Among the other permanent offerings available during this year's Autumn in Malvern is "Malvern in Springtime", on show at The Original Artwork Store in Graham Road throughout September and October.
Autumn in Malvern also offers a series of fascinating talks, and nothing could be more fascinating to any wordsmith than Colin Jackson's talk at St James's Church, West Malvern on Peter Mark Roget, compiler of the famous (and indispensable) Thesaurus. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Roget's death in West Malvern at the age of 90, and flowers will be laid on his grave in the churchyard (September 14, 11am).
On the following afternoon Dr Jerrold Northrop Moore, possibly the doyen of Elgar scholars, gives a musically illustrated talk on "A Secret Source for Elgar -- the Orchestral Music of Arthur Sullivan". This will come as a surprise to those of us who only know of a negative connection between Elgar and Sullivan, the fact that the well-established Savoyard appropriated most of the rehearsal time for one his own pieces when the little-known Elgar was waiting patiently (and then impatiently) to rehearse one of his own.
Among his many books about Elgar, Dr Moore's "Edward Elgar: a Creative Life", published in 1984, has become the go-to reference work for all matters Elgarian. Now he is researching for a new book on Elgar, which will incorporate the recently-discovered material for this afternoon's talk (September 15, 3pm, Elmslie House, Avenue Road, Great Malvern).
"Summoned by Bells" recalls the life and times of the much-loved Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman in prose, verse and music (October 5, 3pm). Paul Vaughan, mastermind behind the wonderful Worcester Festival in 2005 which transformed the musty old Three Choirs Festival is the narrator, and Roy Massey, formerly director of music at Hereford Cathedral, is the organist. The venue, the Church of St Leonard at the Beauchamp Community in Newland, Malvern Link, is a perfect High Anglican location for this affectionate tribute.
Sofya Gulyak, winner of the 2009 Leeds International Piano Competition, gives a recital at Elmslie House on October 11 (7.30pm). Her programme begins with Bach (the famous Chaconne for violin, I would guess in Brahms' arrangement for piano left-hand), then the Six Pieces Op.118 by Brahms himself, dedicated to Clara Schumann, Chopin's Variations Brillantes, Rachmaninov's Five Pieces Op.3, and Prokofiev's war-torn Piano Sonata no.7 -- piquantly, the evening is part-sponsored by the family of Oleg Prokofiev, the composer's son, and a noted painter, sculptor and poet.
The two concluding concerts of this year's Autumn in Malvern festival take place, as they always do, in the Great Hall of Malvern College.
On Sunday October 20, with the dark clouds of Brexit hovering, it welcomes the European Union Chamber Orchestra in an attractive programme of Grieg, Haydn, Finzi and Dvorak. Hans-Peter Hofmann directs, and Toby White is the cello soloist (3pm).
A week later the festival finale is provided by the much-loved Aldwyn Voices, Adrian Lucas conducting, the Brompton String Quartet, and Peter Sutton as reader (October 27, 3pm).
Their theme is "Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Sir Edward Elgar in Malvern", a sequence of words, choral and instrumental music including Stanford's String Quartet no.3 in D minor, composed in Great Malvern.
Elgar had always nursed a grudge against Stanford, moneyed, educated at the best schools and then at the University of Cambridge, subsequently Professor there as well as at the Royal College of Music, whereas this tradesman's son from the Worcestershire sticks was self-taught (what an amazing achievement that was!) and perceived himself to be an outsider, looked down upon by the musical establishment; at least he was well-balanced, with a chip on both shoulders.
And yet, in 1920, when the funeral of Elgar's wife Alice was held at St Wulstan's Church, Little Malvern, there, at the back of the pews, quietly stood Stanford. "I just had to come," was all he said.
*All details of Autumn in Malvern on www.malvernfestival.co.uk, or petersmith@malvernmusic.co.uk

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