Normally a quiet month in Oxford, this August has rich pickings for classical music lovers. Here’s a round-up of what’s in store – from chamber music to opera, this month has it all.
- Specialist baroque group Charivari Agréable, formed in Oxford in 1993 by Dr Kah-Ming Ng, is back in action with its traditional Early Music by Candlelight Summer Festival, which runs until 29th August in Exeter College Chapel. There are five themed programmes to choose from – Tripla Concordia (8th & 27th August), A Baroque Whirlwind (15th August), Bach’s Bibliothek (20th August), In Guilty Night (22nd August) and Ravish’d by Magic (29th August. Between them, the concerts feature a range of composers, including Byrd, Dowland, Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel, Scarlatti, Buxtehude, Monteverdi, J.S Bach and many more. Details: www.charivari.co.uk/charivari-concerts/early-music-by-candlelight.html. Tickets: 01865 305305 or www.ticketsoxford.com.
2) The Instruments of Time and Truth summer concert series continues this month with Three Chaconnes and a Canary(5th August) and Battaglia! Cornet and Violin – A Contest of Equals (12th August), both at Christ Church Cathedral. The first focuses on dance music by Purcell and Biber, and will have you toe-tapping your way through this glorious showcase of jigs, hornpipes, sarabandes and chaconnes. A musical stand-off ensues on 12th August, as Bojan Cicic (violin) and Gawain Glenton (cornett) battle it out to prove which instrument reigns supreme! Enjoy music by Falconieri, Cazzati, Castello, Fontana and many more in what promises to be an exciting tour de force. Details: www.timeandtruth.co.uk. Tickets: 01865 305305 or www.ticketsoxford.com
3) The Oxford Proms, a popular fixture in Oxford’s summer calendar since its formation ten years ago, returns this month with three themed concerts – Classical Favourites (7th August), Classics from Handel to Schubert (14th August) and Clarinet Dreams (18th August), all in the University Church. Enjoy some much-loved classics by Handel, Mozart, JS Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Poulenc and more. Soloists include violinist/violist and Oxford Proms founder Edmund Jones, violinist Helen Pitstow, flautist Celia Redgate, pianist Jocelyn Freeman and clarinettist Lucy Downer. Catherine Underwood conducts. All concerts are 75 minutes, with no interval. Details: www.oxfordproms.co.uk. Tickets: 01865 305305 or www.ticketsoxford.com.
4) Also making a welcome return this month is the highly acclaimed Waterperry Opera Festival, which runs from 12th-21st August and offers its customary array of operatic masterpieces, family-friendly shows, talks and young artist events, spread across Waterperry’s extensive grounds, from the lawn in front of the spectacular Waterperry House to the amphitheatre, rose garden and woodlands. Choose from Donizetti’s much-loved comedy The Elixir of Love, Humperdinck’s fairytale opera Hansel and Gretel, Prokofiev’s masterpiece Peter and the Wolf, the return of Jonathan Dove’s one-hander Ariel (once again starring soprano Daniella Sicari) and late night performances of Messiaen’s stirring Quartet for the End of Time (reimagined with light installation by visual artist Anne-Héloise Dautel). The festival has also teamed up with Oxford Lieder Festival to put on newly-staged performances of two song cycles, Lili Boulanger’s Clairières dans le ciel and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ setting of Housman’s On Wenlock Edge. Details and tickets: www.waterperryoperafestival.co.uk.
5) The Music at St Peter’s chamber music series continues this month with two concerts. First up, on 14th August, is the Consone Quartet, currently BBC New Generation Artists and known for their historically informed performances. Their programme includes Dvorak Two Waltzes, Haydn String Quartet in F Major Op.77 No.2, Puccini Crisantemi and Verdi String Quartet in E minor.
Pianist Dominic Degavino, a former BBC Young Musician finalist and winner of several international prizes, follows on 28th August with Bach English Suite No.1 in A major, Chopin Ballade No.1 in G minor Op.23 and Liszt Anneés de Pèlerinage, Book 1 (complete). Both concerts are at St Mary-le-More, Wallingford, at 8pm. Details and tickets: https://musicatstpeterswallingford.org.uk.
6) Opera Anywhere (https://operaanywhere.com) has been enjoying a busy year, despite the pandemic, and on 15th August you can catch the company’s acclaimed production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at St Katherine’s, Parmoor, near Henley-on-Thames. Indulge yourself in a mini Glyndebourne-style afternoon with picnics and drinks in this glorious garden setting. Bring your own chairs and blankets – and waterproofs, just in case! Originally directed for Opera Anywhere by Sue Moore, this revival is directed by Tristan Stocks, with Nia Williams (musical director), Mike Woodward (producer), Vanessa Woodward (artistic director), John Alcock (technical and lighting director) and Nick Planas (woodwind).
7) There’s more opera on 28th-29th August from Opera della Luna. The Bicester-based company, founded by Jeff Clarke in 1994, returns to one of its favourite local venues, The Theatre at Chipping Norton, with a new double bill, Curtain Raisers, which consists of Sullivan and Burnand’s popular one-act farce Cox and Box and Offenbach’s rarely-performed Les Deux Aveugles (The Two Blind Beggars). Details: www.operadellaluna.org. Tickets: 01608 642350 or www.chippingnortontheatre.com/whats-on/curtain-raisers.
8) Looking ahead, there are promising signs that more local music organisations are springing back into action. The Oxford Chamber Music Society (www.oxfordchambermusic.org) will be announcing its autumn season soon, with tickets going on general sale in September. Witney Music Society (www.witneymusicsociety.org.uk) has announced details of its 2021-22 season, which opens on 8th October and runs through to 11th March 2022. SJE Arts (www.sje-oxford.org), which has been enjoying a busy summer of concerts, is taking a break during August but will be back in September with an exciting autumn line-up, including a series of concerts by the Orchestra of St John’s as well as Christmas favourites The Sixteen and Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. Finally, look out for news from Music at Oxford (www.musicatoxford.com), which will be announcing its new season soon.