Rachel Podger: Brecon Baroque’s London sound

October 3, 2016 by

It has been an extraordinary year, with a concert, recording and teaching diary that has taken me the world-over. I am thrilled to have picked up two prestigious recording awards from BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone Magazine respectively and to have performed alongside some of the most inspirational musicians alive today including Jordi Savall, Kristian Bezuidenhaut, Marcin Świątkiewicz, Camerata Bern, the OAE, Tafelmusik and Philharmonia Baroque (USA). In the autumn each year, I look forward to coming home to roost in Brecon and focus on the annual Brecon Baroque Festival (Friday, 21 – Monday 24 October 2016). This year’s Festival is bigger than ever and covers even more new ground – we’ve stretched our wings artistically and geographically with seven venues in Brecon and a guided walk in its famous mountains too.

Our theme this year is ‘London’ – music in London from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Just as last year we had Bach’s Leipzig café, so this time we have Samuel Pepys’ local, Will’s Coffee House, offering drinks, food and live music throughout the day. This year for the first time we offer you a theatrical experience in a staged performance of Purcell’s ‘Fairy Queen’. An old friend of the festival, Thomas Guthrie, returns in the role of director (and singer). His previous productions of ‘Fairy Queen’ have been received dazzling reviews: “theatrical magic” (Opera Now); “ingenious, and utterly captivating throughout” (What’s on Stage); “Guthrie’s leap of imagination produces a shaded and completely delightful fantasy” (The Tablet). We are very excited to have him direct our first semi-staged opera.

Our evening concerts concentrate on the great strengths of that age, choral music for the church and intimate chamber music for the home. Our resident ensemble, Brecon Baroque, joins countertenor Robin Blaze on Saturday for the songs and fantasias that were such a feature of social life in Tudor and Restoration England. Professor Michael Burden will introduce this with a pre-concert talk. The choral ensemble Trinity Baroque gives our cathedral concert on Sunday with a celebration of the glorious music of Thomas Tallis and his contemporaries.

Our daytime recitals bring you two exciting new groups. Wales’ own baroque band, Ystradivarius (or for Welsh purists Ystradifariws!) will treat us to music by the ‘London’ Bach, Johann Christian, and those he influenced including Mozart. On Sunday afternoon, we use one of Brecon’s architectural gems, the Plough Chapel, for a recital by the virtuosic young recorder player Tabea Debus and her trio. On Monday, young players from South Powys Youth Orchestra join us for a concert with oboeist, Alexandra Bellamy.

The Baroque Festival wouldn’t be the same without the Baroque Tea Dance of course, and this year Dancing Master Peter Brock will guide you through the steps of Jacob Hall’s Jig and other favourites of Pepys and his friends. Our town tours have been popular features of our weekend and this year we get more ambitious and head for the wonderful Brecon Beacons. Peter Brock swaps his dancing shoes for walking boots to lead you to Mynydd Illtyd for some wonderful views and fascinating history.

As well as this we even have our own Fringe Festival this year to keep visitors occupied over all four days of great music making. But although our artistic standards and ambitions continue to rise, you can be assured that the Baroque Festival has its roots based firmly in the local community and we are all determined to give you the warmest of welcomes to Brecon!


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