Cheltenham Music Festival celebrates 75th Anniversary

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Cheltenham Music Festivalcelebrates its 75th anniversary this year, 5 to 14 July, and its first under the direction of new Artistic Director Alison Balsom. Celebrated from its inception for championing new music, the 2019 Festival features more than 20 world premieres.


Alison Balsom,Cheltenham Music Festival Artistic Director comments:

“Putting together the programme for the 75th anniversary of the Cheltenham Music Festival has been a total privilege. From our Opening Free Weekend of music to our Community Opera Finale, I hope that everyone is inspired to come and enjoy a whole host of unique events which can only be seen and heard in Cheltenham this summer. Some of my favourite artists, from international stars to bright new talent will perform in stunning venues, and I’m especially excited about the many world premieres we’ll hear throughout the entire Festival.”


The Festival’s commitment to ensuring access to the best music and artists entails it working in the community year-round, inclusive of diverse socio-economic areas of the town. A four-year project in West Cheltenham culminates at the 2019 Festival with two performances on 14 July on the main stage of Cheltenham Town Hall of the Community Opera Across the Sky.


Cheltenham Music Festival’s 2019 ‘Side by Side’ cross cultural performance and education programme sees a residency by players, teachers, and mentors from charity Brass for Africa. In addition to performing at workshops and schools’ concerts, ten young Ugandan brass players will perform together with young Gloucestershire jazz musicians in free pop-up concerts at Imperial Gardens in Cheltenham town centre on 6 and 7 July and perform on the stage at Cheltenham Town Hall as part of jazz legend Wynton Marsalis’s concert on 13 July.


Cheltenham Music Festival have also announced  Classic FM as a major partner, featuring a live broadcast of the opening night concert presented by John Suchet and free concerts showcasing jazz, folk, indie, gospel and world music and family activities in Imperial Square over the opening weekend. A Fanfare for Three Trumpets will launch the Opening Weekend in style and the Festival has announced a cash prize of £250 for the winning composition. The fanfare competition is open to all ages and the winner will hear their fanfare performed all over town on 5 July.


The 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann is celebrated on 6 July with Schumann Square, a unique event taking place across four stunning Regency houses in Cheltenham’s historic Imperial Square and Royal Parade. The event features a series of recitals which audiences can ‘visit’, performed by pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, guitarist Xuefei Yang, pianist Tom Poster, violinist Elena Urioste and cellist Camille Thomas.


The stunning medieval surroundings of Tewkesbury Abbey provide the setting for Classical Mixtape on 8 July, a popular Festival highlight. This informal evening features performances by Festival guest artists in every corner of the Abbey, with pieces by Handel, Chopin, Mozart and Bach being performed alongside a world premiere by composer Betsy Jolasand a UK premiere from Einojuhani Rautavaara.


The mysteries on what happens to the brain of a musician whilst improvising is the subject of Live Human Experiments: The Musical Brain of Guy Barker, at Trinity Church on 13 July. In a fascinating hour that blends science and music, jazz trumpeter Guy Barker will be in conversation with Professor Vincent Walsh from University College London, with Barker taking part in a live neurological experiment whilst performing.


Strictly Come Dancing star, dancer AJ Pritchard, joins forces with jazz bassist Mischa Mullov- Abbado and his band and cellist Camille Thomasin Midsummer Dance And Music on 7 July at Cheltenham Town Hall. This eclectic programme combines dance and music, with pieces composed especially for this performance along with works by JS Bach and an interpretation of traditional Catalan folksong.


At Cheltenham Town Hall on 5 July, London Symphony Orchestra perform the first evening concert of the Festival under Elim Chan, in a programme created especially for the Festival’s 75th anniversary. They perform the world premiere of a new work by Dani Howard, commissioned by Classic FM, alongside Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (with soloist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade Op.35.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestraand Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla return on 6 July, where they are joined by Alison Balsomto perform the world premiere of Thea Musgrave’s Trumpet Concerto, co-commissioned for the Festival by the CBSO in celebration of its centenary, and the LA Philharmonic for Alison Balsom. Musgrave was the first female composer to be commissioned by the Festival in 1956, and this all-British programme also features Ruth Gipps’ Symphony No.2 along with works by Vaughan Williams and Walton.


The pioneering Manchester Cameratamakes its Festival debut on 11 Julyat Tewkesbury Abbey, with saxophonist Jess Gillam, returning to the Festival following her enormously popular debut in 2017. Together they will perform two world premieres in the Abbey’s magnificent acoustics; a new work for saxophone and electronics by Anna Clyneand a new work for saxophone and strings by Gavin Bryars. The programme also includes Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, followed by three Baroque works providing contrast with these modern pieces: Rameau’s Castor et Pollux, Acte I, Scène III: Prélude - Air accompagné "Tristes apprêts" arranged for saxophone and trumpet, Albinoni’s Concerto arranged for saxophone and strings and Purcell’s Fantasia.


Virtuoso violinist and much-loved Festival favourite Nicola Benedettireturns on 12 July at Cheltenham Town Hall, with the Academy of Ancient Musicand Richard Egarr, directing from the harpsichord, in a programme featuring masterpieces of the Baroque.


Legendary US trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalismakes a rare UK appearance with his quartet on 13 Julyat Cheltenham Town Hall. The evening opens with ten young Ugandan musicians from Brass for Africajoining forces with local young brass players, as part of Cheltenham Music Festival’s ‘side by side’ cross-cultural performance and education programme, providing the grand finale of Brass for Africa’s Festival residency.


Opera star Danielle de Nieseperforms a wide-ranging programme at Cheltenham Town Hall on 10 July, with the soprano exploring singing styles from Baroque arias to Swing, by composers from Handel to Gershwin.


Find out more

Full festival details can be found at 

David Taylor