New season: Norfolk and Norwich Music Club

Tony CooperThe 58th season of the Norfolk and Norwich Music Club - whose first president was none other than Benjamin Britten - is as ambitious as ever with a record number of 17 concerts on offer running over an eight-month period from September 2009 to April 2010 at the John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich.Tony Cooper

The 58th season of the Norfolk and Norwich Music Club - whose first president was none other than Benjamin Britten - is as ambitious as ever with a record number of 17 concerts on offer running over an eight-month period from September 2009 to April 2010 at the John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich.

And returning to the city in the third weekend of January is Moscow's world-renowned Borodin String Quartet whose past two visits saw record attendances for their Beethoven and Shostakovich cycles held in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

Roger Rowe, programme director of this thriving and ambitious club, is always delighted to secure a date with the Borodins. He said: "They are, without doubt, an exceptional ensemble and on this visit we will have the opportunity of hearing them for the first time with their new cellist, Vladimir Balshin. He joined in 2007 replacing Valentin Berlinsky who was a founding member of the quartet over 60 years ago. Sadly, he died last year, after enjoying a remarkable career playing right up to the end."

The Takacs Quartet - another globe-trotting string quartet originally from Budapest but now based in the States - will also be very welcomed back to Norwich. They were last here in 2006. Over their two-day stay (November 7/8) they'll play six Beethoven quartets while the Chilingirian Quartet (October 11) make their fourth visit (playing Haydn, Britten and Schubert) and Finland's Meta4 Quartet (February 14) their first (playing Bartok, Kuusisto and Sibelius).


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Although the principal repertoire in the Music Club's programming is the string quartet other ensembles represented in the season include the Chamber Orchestra of St Paul's appearing on October 4. Comprising 14 players ranging from brass, woodwind and percussion to harmonium and piano, this well-established Covent Garden-based ensemble is the largest ever to grace the Music Club's stage and will be performing chamber versions of familiar pieces.

In their programme, for instance, a symphony will appear for the first time in the Music Club's long-established series with Mahler's 4th performed in an arrangement by Erwin Stein with Katherine Broderick as the soprano soloist in the last movement. Debussy's Pr�lude � l'apr�s-midi d'un faune and Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf, with Richard Baker as narrator, completes this enterprising and rather attractive programme.

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The Music Club is always adept at spotting young talent on the way up and mixes concerts by established international musicians with those by exceptional youngsters. This year the brilliant young wind sextet, The Gallimaufry Ensemble, beats a path to Norwich. In their concert on November 22 they'll perform an enterprising programme of music for wind quintet by composers as diverse as Mozart and Poulenc while offering a rare performance of Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice.

And Tamara Stefanovich - the young Serbian pianist and prot�g� of Pierre-Laurent Aimard, current artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival - will play Bach's entire keyboard partitas (February 27) while the highly-talented young mezzo, Clara Mouriz (March 20), will guest with a clutch of brilliant young soloists from the Kirckman Concert Society founded in 1963 to promote young artists of exceptional talent and at the beginning of their careers. Past artists have included such luminous names as Nigel Kennedy and Stephen Hough.

And to round off the season the highly-acclaimed Guarneri Piano Trio from Prague - considered by many to be the natural successors to the famous Beaux Arts Trio - will play the entire compositions that Beethoven wrote for the combination of violin, piano and cello to include not only the piano trios - the two most famous being the Archduke and the Ghost - but also all the stunning variations he wrote for this combination. The concerts (taking place over the weekend of April 9-11) promises one of the cultural highlights of the year!

But before one gets to all these goodies the season kicks off in style on September 19 with a piano recital by Stephen Kovacevich. The last (and only) time he has appeared in Norwich was in 1964 when he was simply known as Stephen Bishop! He'll play a work for which he has become justly famous - Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. His most recent recording has been highly acclaimed by critics on five continents.

There are 33 variations in all and they are based on a waltz by Anton Diabelli and written between 1819 and 1823. One of the supreme compositions for the piano, it often shares the highest honours with Bach's Goldberg Variations. The distinguished music writer, Donald Francis Tovey, said they are 'the greatest set of variations ever written' while Alfred Brendel described the piece as "the greatest of all piano works". Praise, indeed!

t Contact Roger Rowe, 60 Park Lane, Norwich NR2 3EF (rrowe@paston.co.uk) for a full programme of events.

t Box office: Prelude Records, St Giles' Street, Norwich. 01603 628319

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