As the country slowly emerges from lockdown, there are lots of live concerts for classical music lovers to feast on this month, from chamber music to opera. Take your pick, and enjoy!
- Oxford’s professional baroque orchestra Instruments of Time and Truth, established in 2014 to provide performance opportunities for local performers, is back in action this month with a weekly series of chamber concerts in the lovely setting of Christ Church Cathedral. This week the orchestra explores the music of some of JS Bach’s little-known predecessors, who were popular in their day and were an important influence on Bach during his formative years. Later concerts in the series include popular works such as Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, some Bach cantatas, music by Couperin and 17th century dance music by Purcell, among others, and ending with a musical battle between the cornet and the violin!
Instruments of Time and Truth Summer Concert Series, every Thursday at 8pm, July 8th to 12th August. Tickets: 01865 305305 or www.ticketsoxford.com.
2) Also coming up this week is exciting new company Orchard Opera with a day-long mini festival at the Holywell Music Room (9th July), which ranges from the family-friendly The Story of Babar the Elephant (featuring music by Poulenc) and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf to a solo piano recital, songs by Vierne and Prokofiev, and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and folk song arrangements. Catch the company again at Hogacre Common (11th July) with a selection of staged opera scenes.
Orchard Opera, 9th & 11th July; full details and tickets at www.orchardopera.com/tickets.
3) The award-winning Ferio Saxophone Quartet comes to Wallingford on 17th July with two short concerts, at 6pm and 8pm, to allow for social distancing. The programme (identical for both concerts) will include the Rondeau from Purcell’s Abdelazer, movements from Handel’s Water Music Suite No.2, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3, Bizet’s Suite from Carmen and music by Singelée, Bozza and Lago. Since making its debut in 2016, the quartet – Huw Wiggin, Ellie McMurray, Anthony Brown and Katie Samways – has won several prizes and awards, appeared at numerous prestigious venues and festivals, and released two recordings (a third is due for release in November).
Ferio Saxophone Quartet, 17th July at 6pm and 8pm, St Mary-le-More, Wallingford. Details and tickets: www.musicatstpeterswallingford.org.uk.
4) After having to cancel last year’s Oxford Summer Piano Series – the first cancellation in more than thirty years – popular Oxford pianist Jack Gibbons is back this month with two concerts at the SJE, both focusing on composers with whom he is famously associated. The first, on 20th July, will be a programme of Chopin, including the Barcarolle and Sonata in B minor Op.58 as well as preludes, mazurkas and studies, and will also feature the world premiere of Jack’s Fantaisie, written earlier this year. On 24th July he turns his attention to Gershwin, performing the popular Rhapsody in Blue, the little-known Second Rhapsody and a selection of show-tune improvisations. There will also be a repeat performance of Fantaisie, alongside two other Gibbons works, Nocturne in B flat minor Op.93 and Impromptu Op.98.
Jack Gibbons’ Oxford Summer Piano Series, 20th & 24th July at 7.30pm, St John the Evangelist Church. Tickets: 01865 305305 or www.ticketsoxford.com.
5) Now in its 28th year, Bampton Classical Opera returns to The Deanery garden on 23rd and 24th July with Gluck’s rarely performed Paris and Helen, with a new translation by Gilly French. Jeremy Gray directs a cast of emerging young professionals, including soprano Ella Taylor as Paris (a role originally composed for male castrato) and Lucy Anderson (winner of the 2019 Bampton Young Singers’ Competition) as Helen. Lauren Lodge-Campbell makes her Bampton debut as Amor, while Lisa Howarth makes a welcome return to the company as Pallas Athene. Also returning to the company this season is conductor Thomas Blunt.
Bampton Classical Opera, Gluck’s Paris and Helen, The Deanery Garden, July 23rd-24th, 7pm. Also at The Orangery, Westonbirt (30th August) and St John’s Smith Square, London (24th September). Details and tickets: www.bamptonopera.org.
6) There’s more opera towards the end of the month from Opera Anywhere in Sunningwell Village Hall,, best known for its lively and inventive productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Join the company oon 24th July for The Pirates of Penzance, a classic Gilbertian topsy-turvy story in which the hero, Frederic, has been accidentally apprenticed to a band of pirates by his hard-of-hearing nurse. Not only that, he was born in a leap year on 29th February, so his apprenticeship might not end quite as soon as he thinks – which he discovers only after he has fallen in love with one of Major General Stanley’s extraordinarily large family of daughters. Hilarious complications ensue.
Opera Anywhere, The Pirates of Penzance, Sunningwell Village Hall, July 24th at 3pm & 7pm. Tickets: https://operaanywhere.com/tour-dates/.
7) Finally, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s Oxford Piano Festival returns on 25th July, running until 1st August. Founded by Marios Papadopoulos in 1999, this annual celebration of the piano attracts students from all over the world to attend a week of masterclasses and learn from some of today’s leading pianists. Soloists this year include Kathryn Stott, Peter Donohoe, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Stephen Kovacevich, Stephen Hough and Barry Douglas. Some of the concerts will be livestreamed.
Oxford Piano Festival, July 25th-August 1st, various venues. Details and tickets: www.oxfordphil.com/events.