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West Meon music festival 2019

Posted: 2nd August 2019


After not just one, but two leading actors pulled out of a performance at the West Meon Music Festival, to be held from 13 to 15 September, the Primrose Piano Quartet, which founded the festival back in 2011, have revamped the event’s Saturday evening concert to avoid any further upheavals.

In March actor Simon Callow agreed to be narrator in a performance of Richard Strauss’s incidental music to Tennyson’s poem, “Enoch Arden”. He had previously performed the work with the Primrose’s pianist, John Thwaites, who was much looking forward to revisiting the piece. Simon added a proviso that he could not confirm for a couple of months to ensure he would be available for the festival.

By early May Simon Callow had committed to spending September directing a film in Vienna, but the quartet was delighted when actor Peter Bowles agreed to take over and confirmed his availability. In late June, he too cancelled for unspecified reasons.

“It was extremely frustrating,” says festival director, the Primrose’s cellist, Andrew Fuller, “as we already had publicised the event and taken many bookings. As Simon Callow put it; ’Pinning actors down for one-off performances is the very devil' – but as musicians, one-off performances are what we do most of the time!  Rather than be disappointed by yet another celebrity actor pulling out, we decided to cut our losses and change the programme.”

“Enoch Arden” is being replaced by Elgar’s “Piano Quintet” – a work in keeping with the concert’s theme of “music and melodrama” as it was inspired by stories of ghostly happenings at Brinkwells, the Sussex house where Elgar was living when he wrote the piece in 1918. The first half of the programme is unchanged, thanks to actor Nicholas Jones – most recently seen in The Crown and The Worst Witch – who lives in West Meon and is a regular festival attendee. He will read Edgar Alan Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death” which André Caplet interpreted in his tone poem ‘Legende” set for harp and string quartet in 1922. The concert also includes Janacek’s first string quartet, based on Tolstoy’s novella “The Kreutzer Sonata” – a melodramatic tale of love, jealousy, murder and repentance.

The festival starts on Friday evening 13 September with classical favourites including Beethoven’s renowned “Kreutzer Sonata” for violin and piano – which inspired Tolstoy’s story – and piano trios by Brahms and Schubert. Harpist, Gabriella Jones (no relation to Nicholas) will be performing at East Meon church on the Saturday afternoon while Sunday has a “Coffee Concert” in the morning which includes Rebecca Clarke’s famed Viola Sonata – often described as a jewel in the instrument’s repertoire. The “Festival Finale” on Sunday afternoon ends with Brahms’ Piano Quintet Op.34, generally regarded as "the crown of his chamber music”.

As in previous years the festival will also be raising funds for the Petersfield-based Rosemary Foundation which provides a hospice at home service throughout the surrounding areas.

Ticket prices for the festival are from £12 to £22 with generous discounts for students, accompanied children and festival passes. Full details can be found at www.westmeonmusic.co.uk.