Daniel Tong

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We go backstage with the pianist and founder of the Wye Valley Music Festival

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A rural festival at the beginning of January? That must bring its risks…

Within the last three or four years, we’ve had one bout of floods, then last year we had the snow. So yes, I’ve realised what an impact the weather can have! However, in the 11 years since the first festival, we’ve only ever lost one single piece.

One way or another, whether it’s by moving venues, rescheduling concerts or getting people up on snowploughs, we’ve managed to get the pieces performed.

Describe the venues at the Wye Valley Chamber Music festival…

The musicians stay in Treowen Manor, which is a big manor house on top of a windswept hill. That’s where he have some of our more intimate concerts and our ‘Discovery Day’ consisting of talks, performances and discussions.

Plus there’s Hellens Manor, a big converted barn, and St Briavels Church, which overlooks the most picturesque part of the valley. It’s about 20 miles from the furthest north venue to the furthest south.

How did you choose the programme?

There are a couple of strands this year. One is based around the beginning and end of Beethoven’s life, his influences and the effect he had. Then we’ve got a little survey of the folk-inspired idioms from Eastern Europe – Enescu, Bartók, Janáček and Dvořák, too.

Although we haven’t yet had a contemporary music angle, we do try and introduce pieces that people may not have heard, such as Bartók Piano Quintets.

Looking at past festivals, you have a very loyal roster of musicians…

Yes! When we started out, we were all fairly young, fresh-faced and out of college. The core of those people have grown up with the festival and like coming back year after year. But we do also have new faces each year.

Interview by Jeremy Pound

The Wye Valley Festival takes place on dates between 7-16 January 2011 

Related links:
Meet the Artist – Stephen Kovacevich
Meet the Artist – Janina Fialkowska