Sacconi credit David Merewether

There’s lots going on in Oxfordshire’s classical music world during October, from opera, lieder and oratorio to orchestral and chamber music. Check out our pick of this month’s events:

  1. Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra – New season, from 21st October, various venues

The satisfying thud of Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s new season brochure landing on local doormats has never been more welcome. After keeping us entertained online during lockdown, the orchestra returns to live performances this month with the first of what looks to be a very exciting season. With much of last season’s Beethoven 250th anniversary programme suspended due to Covid, it is wonderful to see many of the Beethoven events rescheduled. First up, on 21stOctober, is a double bill of Beethoven’s Symphony No.4 in B flat major, Op.60 and the Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major, Op.73, ‘Emperor’, with Marios Papadopoulos conducting and appearing as piano soloist. 

Oxford Philharmonic – Marios Papadopoulos © Chris Gloag

On October 28, the orchestra teams up with the Choir of Merton College for a performance of Mozart’s stirring Requiem, with Mary Bevan (soprano), Hanna Hipp (mezzo soprano), Joshua Ellicott (tenor) and Ashley Riches (bass). The concert also includes Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Concerto in A major with acclaimed Spanish clarinettist Laura Ruiz Ferreres. Booking opens on October 8. www.oxfordphil.com

2) Oxford Bach Soloists, J.S. Bach: Brandenburg 300 Series, New College Chapel, Oxford, from October 3, 3pm

Oxford Bach Soloists

Also making a welcome return to live performances this month is this exceptional chamber choir, established in 2017 by former Hertford College organ scholar Tom Hammond-Davies to champion the works of J.S. Bach. The Brandenburg 300 series marks the 300th anniversary of Bach’s presentation of six concertos to Christian Ludwig Margrave of Brandenburg. The first of the six themed concerts, Spirit: Give, features the Brandenburg Concerto No.2, BWV 1047R, performed alongside Bach’s cantatas BWV 96, Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn (Lord Christ, the only Son of God) and Gott soll allein mein Herze haben (God alone shall have my heart), as well as Telemann’s cantata Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottes Sohn (Lord Christ, the only Son of God), TVWV 1:732. www.oxfordbachsoloists.com

3) Music at St Peter’s, The Thames Consort and Sacconi Quartet, Dorchester Abbey and St Mary-le-More, Wallingford, October 2 & 16 , 8pm

The Music at St Peter’s season comes to a close with two contrasting concerts. First up, on 2nd October, is Handel’s magnificent and dramatic work Alexander’s Feast, written in 1736 to a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton and based on John Dryden’s poem of the same name. Jeremy Boughton directs the Thames Consort in this stirring and colourful work, which sees Alexander the Great and his mistress, Thais, holding a lavish banquet to celebrate the defeat of the Persian king, Darius. 

Sacconi credit David Merewether

The ever-popular Sacconi Quartet makes a welcome return to Wallingford on 16th October with Haydn String Quartet in C major, Op.54 No.2, Ravel String Quartet in F major and Schubert String Quartet in A, ‘Rosamunde’.

4) Opera Anywhere, Gilbert & Sullivan: HMS Pinafore, St Mary’s Church, Banbury, October 2, 7.30pm

Opera Anywhere HMS Pinafore

Opera Anywhere’s inventive production of popular G&S nautical opera HMS Pinafore returns to Banbury, where it was launched four years ago. With the action moved to the 1940s, this is a stylish, spirited and lively take on a charming love story that satirises the Victorian obsession with social class. The opera features some of Gilbert and Sullivan’s best-known songs, including Sir Joseph Porter’s I am the Monarch of the Sea, the lively trio Never Mind the Why and Wherefore and the sailors’ chorus We Sail the Ocean Blue, not to mention that well-known exchange ‘What never? Well, hardly ever!’. Originally directed by Miles Horner, the production is now directed by Tristan Stocks, with musical direction by Nia Williamshttps://operaanywhere.com/tour-dates/

5) Oxford Chamber Orchestra – Until October 4, various venues, selling out fast!

Imogen Cooper

Violinist and festival founder Priya Mitchell‘s carefully chosen and inspired week-long series of concerts, boasts world class musicians, venues and chosen pieces by Beethoven, Arvo Pärt and Debussy which follow the Transcendence theme – the perfect antidot eafter the year we’ve all had! READ ABOUT IT HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/we-are-so-excited-about-the-line-up-oxford-chamber-music-festivals-inspired-concerts-famous-international-musicians-and-epic-venueswe-are-so-excited-about-the-line-up-oxford-chamber-music-festivals/

Don’t miss Galaxy of Tiny Worlds at SJE Arts on October 3 where Imogen Cooper performs Beethoven‘s ultimate piano masterwork and Ruth Padel reads from her own extraordinary cycle of poems charting Beethoven‘s troubled life and transcendent music, Beethoven Variations. Tickets at https://ocmf.net/2021-festival/

6) Choros and Corona Baroque Ensemble, Mozart Requiem, SJE Arts, October 2, 7.30pm

In their first post-lockdown live performance, these two local ensembles combine to perform Mozart’s Requiem alongside his Clarinet Concerto in A major (with soloist Jane Booth) and Haydn’s Salve Regina in E major. Soloists are Jessica Cale, winner of the 2020 Kathleen Ferrier award (soprano), Carol Goodall (alto), Maxmilian Lawrie (tenor) and Ben Davies (bass), with conductor Janet Lincé. This concert will also be available to view online. www.sje-oxford.org

7) Oxford Lieder Festival. Various venues, October 8-23.

Sarah Connolly stars at the Oxford Lieder Festival. credit Christopher Pledger

This much-loved festival is back in all its glory, celebrating its 20th anniversary with a typically varied and adventurous programme, delivered by a starry line-up of world-class musicians. Read our interview with festival founder and artistic director Sholto Kynoch here: www.oxinabox.co.uk/the-oxford-lieder-festival-celebrates-20th-anniversary-with-200-musicians-speakers-and-100-events/ For full details and tickets, visit www.oxfordlieder.co.uk  

8) Witney Music Society, Magnard Ensemble, High Street Methodist Church, Witney, October 8, 7.30pm

Witney Music Society is back in action this month with the first of a series of six concerts. The Magnard Ensemble, which formed in 2012 and gave its professional debut in Switzerland in 2017, is joined by award-winning young pianist Joe Howson for a programme that includes two of Dvorak’s Slavonic dances, Mozart’s Quintet in E flat major K452, Roussel’s Divertissement, Op.6, Saint-Saens’ Tarantelle for flute, clarinet and piano and Poulenc’s Sextuor. www.witneymusicsociety.org.uk

9) Woodstock Music Society, Come and Sing Brahms’ Requiem, St Mary Magdalene Church, Woodstock, October 9, 10am-5pm

If you fancy giving your vocals a bit of a workout, this could be for you! Join members of the Woodstock Music Society for a day of singing, focusing on selected movements from Brahms’ sublime Requiem, under the direction of renowned conductor Nicholas Cleobury. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced singer – or somewhere in between! – you will be welcome. The £20 cost includes tea and coffee, and you will be provided with a score. Some Covid restrictions are in place for everyone’s safety – full details on the society’s website. www.woodstockmusic.info

10) Orchestra of St John’s, Schumann Dichterliebe, Dorchester Abbey, 9th October, 7pm; SJE Arts, 24th October, 6pm

New Zealand baritone Julien van Mellaerts joins the OSJ Oxford Voices and the Orchestra of St John’s to perform Schumann’s best-known song cycle, Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love), in a newly-orchestrated version by John Lubbock. The programme in Dorchester also includes choral works by Bruckner, Stanford and Liszt, while the SJE concert includes Suk’s Fantasticke Scherzo Op.25, Bizet’s Jeux d’Enfant and Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. John Lubbock conducts. www.osj.org.uk

John Lubbock

11) Abbey Chamber Concerts, Radcliffe Strings/Bethe Levy (piano), St Nicolas Church, Abingdon, October 10, 3pm

This lovely chamber series continues with the Radcliffe Strings and pianist Bethe Levy performing Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C Minor and Beethoven’s Seven Variations in E flat major on a them of The Magic Flute, with the ancient parish church of St Nicolas providing a sublime backdrop. Tickets include free tea and coffee and a chance to speak to the musicians after the concert. www.abbeychamberconcerts.org

12) Instruments of Time and Truth, 100 Years of British Coronations, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, October 22, 7.30pm

Instruments of Time & Truth

Edward Higginbottom conducts this gloriously uplifting programme of ceremonial music, all of which premiered in London and was written for the coronations of successive kings and queens, from Charles II to George III. Enjoy splendid jewels such as Purcell’s My Heart is Inditing (written for James II in 1685)Clarke’s Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem (for Anne, 1702), Handel’s Zadok the Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened and My Heart is Inditing (for George II, 1727) and Boyce’s The King Shall Rejoice (for George III, 1761), among others. www.timeandtruth.co.uk. Tickets from www.ticketsoxford.com

13) English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble, Bizarrium! University Church, Oxford. October 30, 6pm & 8.30pm (no interval)

The Music at Oxford season continues with this lively, uplifting and varied programme, which explores music of the 16thand 17th centuries in which composers sought to surprise, baffle and delight their audiences. Formed in 1993, the English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble (ECSE) has collaborated with many of the country’s leading vocal and instrument ensembles, and performs on a variety of period instruments – not just cornetts and sackbuts, but also the dulcian (a Renaissance woodwind instrument, the forerunner of the bassoon), keyboards and violin. www.musicatoxford.com

NICOLA LISLE