Cheltenham pace-setters

Jeremy Pound continues his report from the Cheltenham Music Festival


You know the baby-sitting rota has turned against you when your wife tootles merrily off to hear Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony at Cheltenham Town Hall leaving you with the slightly less melodious experience that is a wailing two-year-old son in a bath. Harumph.

I could, I guess, have wished for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and conductor Kirill Karabits to have a bit of an off day so that I could at least assure myself that I’d not missed out on much. But that would have been churlish in the extreme. Besides, the BSO and their chief conductor rarely do have off days – and, given my wife’s description of the concert, this wasn’t one of them: eloquent Chopin, at the hands of Norwegian pianist Gunilla Süssmann, and high-octane Tchaikovsky were met by a hugely enthusiastic reception.

Thankfully, child-minding roles were reversed the following afternoon, when I pottered the 25 miles or so down to the Cotswold village of Quenington for a solo concert given by 26-year-old guitarist Milos Karadaglic at St. Swithin’s Church.

If someone asked me to set out a blueprint of what a festival recital should be like, this would have been pretty much it. Performing a mixture of familiar (Bach) and unfamiliar (Carlo Domeniconi), sumptuously melodic (Agustin Barrios) and aurally challenging (Haris Kittos), Karadaglic helped things along by lucidly and entertainingly introducing each work from the stage – for instance, to help feel the full impact of the opening movement of Dobrinka Tabakova’s Compass Suite into context, he urged us to picture ‘the ugliest thing you can imagine’ (Swindon town centre on a Saturday night did the trick for me).

With two major record labels vying to get the Montenegran to sign his name on their dotted line, Karadaglic will doubtless soon be playing to much bigger venues than this, so getting to hear him in such intimate surrounds was a privilege indeed.

Finally, on the subject of model examples, a big hand to the two rows of children from Great Rissington Primary School who sat impeccably behaved throughout Wednesday’s morning concert by the Atos Trio at the Pittville Pump Room. How many of them enjoyed the pleasures of Haydn, Suk and Schubert I don’t know, but it was good that they were at least given the chance to have a taste, courtesy of a special free tickets for schools scheme.

One leading light on the London concert hall scene suggested in a recent newspaper article that marketing classical music to anyone under 65 is a bit of a waste of time. I am, unsurprisingly, inclined to disagree. Good to see the Cheltenham Music Festival is too.

Jeremy Pound is the deputy editor of BBC Music Magazine

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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