A four-day Worcestershire music festival, headlined by world-leading classical musician Rafael Wallfisch, is to celebrate Britain’s greatest composer, Sir Edward Elgar from the 30th of May to the 2nd of June, 2019.
At the heart of this summer’s Elgar Festival is the Cello Concerto, performed by the renowned artist in a gala concert at Worcester Cathedral to mark the centenary of the composer’s last masterwork.
And with the theme Elgar for Everyone, organisers are determined to engage people of all ages and walks of life in the legacy and music of Worcester’s greatest son. A jam-packed programme of activities includes the chance to play one of the great man’s own pianos.
Inaugurated last year as a two-day event and immediately gaining Critic’s Pick status with The Guardian and The Times, 2019’s festival has now expanded to four days, reflecting the bid to champion Sir Edward to as wide an audience as possible.
For Raphael Wallfisch the festival’s ethos couldn’t be better demonstrated than through the Cello Concerto, which was conceived during the dark years of the First World War as (he) Elgar recuperated from an operation. However it was initially a flop.
Raphael Wallfisch (London 20 March 2013)
“Elgar was to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra and the young British cellist Felix Salmond but the rest of the programme at the Queen’s Hall that October 1919 was conducted by, Albert Coates, who was in fact my wife’s grandfather,” says Wallfisch. “Coates took the bulk of the rehearsal time, and a mere 30 minutes were left for the concerto.
“The performance was not good and the orchestra unprepared. The public and critics were puzzled and unsure about the new work and Salmond never played it again.
“It took a number of years and distance from the Edwardian era and World War 1 to realise how powerfully evocative and nostalgic the music is. I am greatly looking forward to performing this now beloved work in Worcester with the ESO.”
The June 1 gala evening, also sees a first-time collaboration between the English Symphony Orchestra and Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, for Donald Fraser’s acclaimed choral arrangement of Elgar’s Sea Pictures, and Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony. Other festival concerts include performances from professional chamber choir The Proteus Ensemble, Elgar and Debussy sonatas from violin virtuoso Zoë Beyers and pianist Philip Moore, and a song recital featuring the original voice and piano version of Elgar’s Sea Pictures.
Alongside this busy programme are educational workshops, talks, poetry readings, a new version of the Elgar Trail, a Cello Day for families and young people and an Elgar for Everyone Family Concert (in Henry Sandon Hall) at Malvern College.
Elgar Festival Artistic Director Kenneth Woods, says:
“Every once in a while, we need to step back from a very popular work like the Cello Concerto and remind ourselves of why it resonates so deeply with so many millions of listeners. We want the 2019 Elgar Festival to create the conditions whereby even the most jaded Elgar fan can hear this most personal work with fresh ears.
“Elgar’s Cello Concerto was my pathway into the world of this great composer whose music has had such a profound influence on my life. “From my first encounter with it as a young cellist in America, it cast a spell on me, and after all the times I’ve since played it, heard it and conducted it, its power and honesty continues to amaze me. To conduct this 100th Anniversary performance in Elgar’s hometown with Raphael, in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, whose profile helped inspire the work’s opening melody, is more than a dream come true. I would never have dared dream something so crazy, so unlikely. I can’t wait.”
For a complete listing of events and booking information, go to www.elgarfestival.org or visit the event’s Facebook page.