Alison Balsom has been named as the new artistic director of Cheltenham Music Festival. The trumpeter, 39, takes over from Meurig Bowen, who recently announced his departure after ten successful years in the post.
A former BBC Young Musician finalist and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist plus the winner of multiple awards, Balsom has won acclaim for bringing often unfamiliar trumpet repertoire to a wide audience – as well as releasing best-selling disc of Baroque repertoire played on the natural trumpet, she has also taken an active role in commissioning new works. In 2013, she was the creative force behind Gabriel, a new drama-and-music production at Shakespeare’s Globe that proved a major hit.
Cheltenham Music Festival, which has been running since 1945, is one of the most important of its type in the UK and is particularly well known for commissioning and promoting contemporary music and for its collaborations with British composers. Most of the 2018 festival is already programmed, meaning that Balsom’s artistic plans will start to be put in place from the following year.
‘Cheltenham Music Festival has such a strong commitment to bringing classical music to the widest possible audience, and to supporting young talent,’ says Balsom about her new appointment. ‘I relish the opportunity to invite the world’s greatest artists and ensembles to the Festival and to lead it joyfully into this next exciting chapter.’
Given that the festival’s previous three artistic directors have been Michael Berkeley, Martyn Brabbins and Meurig Bowen, rumours arose that candidates for the role would have to boast the initials ‘MB’ to be considered. Not true, of course, though Balsom does at least meet 50 per cent of such a requirement.