Oxfordshire is buzzing with musical activity this month and there is something for everyone, from popular operas and sumptuous choral works to sublime chamber music, all in some of the county’s loveliest settings. Here’s our pick of this month’s concerts.
Cardiff Opera Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro, 4th September, 7pm, All Saints’ Church, Headington
This concert performance of one of Mozart’s best-loved comedies is perfect for seasoned opera-goers and newcomers. Some typically operatic mayhem ensues when Figaro, his intended bride Susanna, the page boy Cherubino and Countess Almaviva conspire to outsmart the philandering Count. Sung in Italian with English narration, the production features a talented young cast with William Stevens in the title role, local soprano Katie Blackwell (Opera Anywhere, Oxford Opera) as Susanna, Brendan Casey as Almaviva, Joelene Griffith as his long-suffering wife, Clover Kayne as Cherubino, Robert Felstead as Don Basilio and Lydia Stevens (who also directs) as the narrator. Thomas Mottershead conducts.
Abbey Chamber Concerts, Pavlova Winds: Dvorak and Gounod, St Nicolas Church, Abingdon, 5th September, 3pm
This long-running chamber series, featuring local musicians, is back, with four concerts announced up to December and the 2022 line-up hopefully to be announced soon. Join Pavlova Winds for this first hour-long concert featuring Dvorak’s Serenade and Gounod’s Petite Symphonie for Winds. Upcoming concerts include the Radcliffe Strings and Bethe Levy playing Brahms Piano Quartet in C minor (10th October), pianist Diana Hinds playing works by Schubert and Skempton (7th November) and the Pavlova Wind Quintet’s traditional Christmas concert (12th December).
You can also catch Pavlova Winds playing Beethoven’s Septet at St Michael at the North Gate on 11th September, with Radcliffe Strings, and a light classical concert at the Sheldonian Theatre on 12th September, both as part of the Oxford Preservation Society’s Open Doors weekend.
Music at Oxford, from 9th September, various venues
It is fabulous to see Music at Oxford making a welcome return with a typically varied and irresistible programme of concerts. Opening the season at the Sheldonian Theatre on 9th Setpember is popular period instrument ensemble La Serenissima performing music from 18th century Venice and Bologna. Enjoy familiar works by Vivaldi alongside music by rarely-performed composers Dall’Abaco, Ariosti and Zaveteri. Described by Classic FM’s John Suchet as putting “the rock in baroque”, this is one not to be missed!
This is followed on 18th September with Welsh brass ensemble the Cory Band, who will be in the Warden’s Garden at New College with music by composers such as Ireland, McCabe and Elgar, drawn from the group’s new CD Landscapes, which was recorded at St Teilo’s Church, Cathays, in 2019 and released in January this year.
Jazz ensemble Acoustic Triangle, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, will be at SJE Arts on 23rd September with a diverse acoustic set, from Purcell, Ravel and Messiaen to Cole Porter, Bill Evans and others.
All concerts are an hour long and will be performed twice with no interval.
Orchestra of St John’s, from 11th September, Dorchester Abbey and SJE Arts
Also making a welcome return this month, after a month’s break, is the Orchestra of St John’s, which similarly has cooked up a musical feast for the autumn. Coming up at Dorchester Abbey on 11th September is Harp and Strings, with harpist Keziah Thomas and violinist Jan Schmolck playing Schönberg Notturno, Wolf Ferrari Presto, Debussy Dances: Sacrée et Profane and Suk Serenade. The programme is repeated at the SJE on 25th September.
Coming up later in the autumn are Schumann’s Dichterliebe with New Zealand baritone Julien van Mallaerts and the OSJ Voices (9th October, Dorchester Abbey and 24th October, SJE), choral favourites by Fauré and Saint-Saens (6thNovember, SJE and 20th November, Dorchester Abbey), Britten’s Ceremony of Carols (11th December, Dorchester Abbey), Handel’s Messiah (18th December, Dorchester Abbey and 19th December, SJE) and the orchestra’s traditional New Year’s Eve bash at Dorchester Abbey.
Oxford Sinfonia, Mozart: Don Giovanni, Sheldonian Theatre, 18th September, 7pm
Oxford Sinfonia announces its return to post-lockdown action with this concert performance of Mozart’s powerful and enthralling comedy, conducted by former Nash Ensemble pianist Ian Brown.
A sparkling young cast – whose credits include Glyndebourne, Garsington Opera, ENO and WNO – includes Jake Muffett in the title role, Per Bach Nissen as his hapless sidekick Leporello, Garsington Opera award winner Josephine Goddard as Donna Elvira, Belinda Williams as Donna Anna, Joyanne Morris as Zerlina and Felix Kemp as Masetto.
Music at St Peter’s, Brompton String Quartet, St Mary-le-More, Wallingford, 18th September, 8pm
Winner of the 2019 St Martin’s Chamber Music competition, just a year after its formation at the Royal College of Music, the Brompton String Quartet comes to Wallingford with a programme that spans three centuries. Haydn’s String Quartet in C major, Op.74 No.3, the ‘Horseman’, was one of six quartets written in 1793 after the composer’s first trip to London, which also inspired his ‘London’ symphonies (Nos. 94-104). Schubert’s Quartettsatz and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F major, Op.59 No.1, ‘Razumovsky’, both date from the beginning of the 19th century, while Prokofiev’s String Quartet No.1 dates from 1931.
Still to come this season is The Thames Consort performing Handel’s Alexander’s Feast (2nd October) and the Sacconi Quartet in a programme of Haydn, Ravel and Schubert (16th October).
Oxford Bach Choir ,Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine and Duruflé: Requiem, Livestreamed from Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, 19th September, 7pm
Benjamin Nicholas conducts this lovely pair of French choral works, which was originally scheduled for June and will now be streamed live, free of charge, from the Sheldonian Theatre. He will be joined by Robert Quinney (organ), Rebecca McNaught (cello), Lila Chrisp (mezzo) and Ben Davies (bass), with readings by Alice Oswald, Oxford University Professor of Poetry. The event is being dedicated to all those affected by the pandemic, and is also a tribute to local scientists and healthcare professionals who have helped in the battle against Covid-19. The event lasts one hour, with no interval.
Coming up later in the season are Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (4th December) and the choir’s traditional and much-loved Carols for All (15th December), and there are exciting plans for 2022, including a concert celebrating the 150thanniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams.
Opera Anywhere, Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado, St Mary’s Church, Long Wittenham, 25th September, 7.30pm
Another event rescheduled from last year, this promises to be an evening of much-needed merriment. The Mikado’s son Nanki-Poo has fled the Imperial court to avoid marrying the fearsome Katisha, disguised himself as a wandering minstrel and fallen in love with Yum-Yum, ward of the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko. But Katisha pursues him to the town of Titipu, determined to win him back or wreak her revenge. Coupled with some of Sullivan’s most delicious music, this is – like the items on Ko-Ko’s famous little list – really not one to be missed.
Oxford Chamber Music Festival, SJE Arts, Iffley Road, 28th September to 4th October
This popular festival is finally happening after being forced to cancel last year, and it looks as though it will have been worth the wait! Originally planned to celebrate both the festival’s 20th anniversary and Beethoven’s 250th, the programme is still much as it was intended for 2020, with an exploration of musical transcendence through a range of works but with a particular focus on Beethoven and Arvo Pärt.
Join a starry line-up of performers for this glorious celebration of chamber music, highlights of which include tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake performing a pair of song cycles, Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte and Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Beethoven piano sonatas with Stephen Kovacevich, Beethoven string quartets interspersed with Pärt miniatures with the Marmen Quartet, and Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli with Imogen Cooper.
Looking ahead …
Booking is now open for local choir Choros and the Corona Baroque Ensemble performing Mozart Requiem and Clarinet Concerto in A major and Haydn Salve Regina in E major at the SJE on 2nd October. With Jessica Cale (soprano), Carol Goodall (alto) Maximilian Lawrie (tenor), Ben Davies (bass) and conductor Janet Lincé.
The Iffley Music Society season restarts on 3rd October with Daniel Pioro and Charlotte Bonneton (violin and viola). Details of the rest of the season to follow. https://iffleymusicsociety.org.uk/events
Witney Music Society is back on 8th October with the Magnard Ensemble, the first of six concerts at High Street Methodist Church, Witney. www.witneymusicsociety.org.uk
The Oxford Bach Soloists return to live performance in October with the Brandenburg 300 series. Booking is now open. www.oxfordbachsoloists.com