French composer Oliver Messiaen’s rapturous masterpiece is just one of the highlights performed by a top cast of principal players from major European Orchestras and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Cerne Abbas Music Festival between July 7 and 10.
The musicians, who perform with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Salzburg’s Camerata, English Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Symphony, form the 12-strong Gaudier Ensemble, who have been playing together since their Youth Orchestra days, and is chaired by BBC Symphony clarinet player Richard Hosford.
The ensemble has descended on Cerne Abbas for the last 30 years, staying at the homes of locals for a week every summer to rehearse and perform breath-taking performances of world-wide acclaim to St Mary’s Church for an atmospheric and intimate experience.
Richard said: “The appeal of the festival, seems to be the wonderful repertoire we are lucky enough to perform; the intimate and informal relationship between audience and performers and the particularly beautiful and acoustically perfect St Mary’s Church in the village of Cerne Abbas with its three pubs and tea rooms.
“The musicians are put up in Cerne Abbas by amazing local enthusiasts who also organise the festival from start to finish. Spending a few hours on a summers evening in the company of great musicians clearly enjoying themselves and performing close to the audience, has stood the test of time for this festival, which this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary.”
Dorset born and bred, Richard now lives in Martinstown and works in London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and travelling the globe.
Richard said: “I set up the festival 30 years, with help from the village, and brought professional colleagues from major European and British ensembles and orchestras to perform in the wonderful acoustics of St Mary’s Church.”
The programme contains a new work by Sarah Francis, a prize winner of the BBC Young Composer Award, entitled The First Swallow, which celebrates the arrival of the swallow in spring. The piece mirrors Sarah’s deep appreciation of the natural world and this beautiful little bird.
Richard said: “Another highlight is a performance of the French composer Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. This deeply moving work was composed while Messiaen was a prisoner of war in 1942. Together with other inmates he performed it in the camp that same year. With yet another devastating conflict in Europe, it is a very poignant time to be playing this momentous work.”
This 60-minute work will be performed by Candlelight at 10pm on Friday, July 8.
The ensemble like to perform varied programmes, which include masterpieces by Brahms, Dvorak, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven.
“We are a group of friends who love performing together,” said Richard. “We play without a conductor in this wonderful church and the concert is one of intimacy between the ensemble and the audience. Even if people don’t know classical music, they can feel it. And if you stick your toe in, you might be surprised.”
n For more information please visit cerneabbasmusicfestival.