Preview: Lammermuir Festival

Picture: Emma Lambe.
Picture: Emma Lambe.

The fifth Lammermuir Festival takes place runs from Friday September 12 to Sunday, September 21, bringing great music and musicians to 16 venues across East Lothian.

Some venues such as Lennoxlove House, Winton House and Gilmerton House are not normally open to the public, others are active places all year round, such as the churches and the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh, and one venue, an old Victorian colliery Power House. The one thing in common with all Lammermuir Festival venues is that hearing music in them is an extra-special experience.

Artistic directors Hugh Macdonald and James Waters said: “When we launched the first Lammermuir Festival in 2010 we never dared imagine that only five years later it would be so well established as a major event in Scotland’s musical calendar.

“We’re tremendously excited about this year’s programme, which for the first time adds opera to a packed ten-day schedule. We feel sure that people will come from far and wide to enjoy great music performed by some of the world’s finest musicians in this beautiful part of Scotland.”

We open on Friday 12 September at 8pm in the great mediaeval church of St Mary in Haddington with the first of four concerts featuring our Artist in Residence, François Leleux, who is regarded by many as the world’s finest oboist.

The concert is a programme of Mozart and Strauss, with the Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by William Conway. François Leleux is soloist for Richard Strauss’ Oboe Concerto, which also marks the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

We hear the oboe’s varied repertoire and versatility in further appearances: a solo recital in Lennoxlove House (Sunday 14 September at 2.30pm) ; in a chamber concert with some of Europe’s finest musicians (Friday 19 September at 7.30pm, East Linton) and another with Hebrides Ensemble featuring an arrangement for oboe, strings and piano of one of the grandest chamber works, Mozart’s Gran Partita (Sunday 21 September at 3pm, Stenton).

We return to Strauss for the closing weekend when we welcome for the first time at Lammermuir Festival, the American soprano, Christine Brewer, who is widely held as one of today’s greatest interpreters of Richard Strauss’ songs. She sings the Four Last Songs in St Mary’s Haddington on Saturday 20 September at 7.00pm with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor, Martyn Brabbins. Also in the programme is Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Lammermuir Festival presents its first opera this year - a new production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. This is a new production with a new English translation, directed by Nina Brazier. Christopher Glynn conducts the players of Eboracum Baroque and a sparking cast of young singers. The Coronation of Poppea is at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh on Saturday 13 September at 7pm and is staged in collaboration with Yorkshire’s Ryedale Festival.

The young and vibrant Heath Quartet have established a strong reputation for their excellent performances and recordings, and make their festival debut this year with four concerts. They perform three Beethoven quartets, a Schumann piano quintet with pianist Tom Poster, and quartets by Bartok, Haydn, Stravinsky, and Tippett, bringing their series to a close with Schubert’s great Death and The Maiden Quartet.

Another group making its debut this year is the award-winning vocal group, Tenebrae, directed by Nigel Short. They give three performances, the first of which is a candlelit performance of mediaeval chant and Tallis’ Lamentations, taking place in the simple beauty of the tiny mediaeval St Mary’s Church in Whitekirk. Their second concert is Russian Orthodox Church music by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and others in the mediaeval grandeur of St Mary’s Church in Haddington. They end their visit to Lammermuir Festival with English madrigals in the superb Georgian mansion, Gilmerton House, in a two-part concert which also features the harpsichordist John Kitchen in works by William Kinloch, Byrd, Handel, Purcell and Blow.

From early keyboard to the 20th century and one of the finest pianists on the scene today: any performance of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus is a special event, but even more so when the pianist is Steven Osborne. His outstanding playing of Messiaen so impressed the composer’s widow, that she invited him to study the piano works in Paris, and his subsequent performances of the Vingt Regards became renowned worldwide. He plays in Abbey Church, North Berwick on Saturday 20 September at 2.30pm.

The Dunedin Consort can now be considered old friends of Lammermuir Festival, having played in every festival since the first in 2010. Dunedin Consort once again draws the festival to a close, in a performance of Handel’s first dramatic work in English, his ‘pastoral entertainment’, Acis and Galatea. As in their acclaimed recording, the Dunedin Consort perform the work in its original version, under the expert direction of John Butt.

Musicians, ensembles and orchestras relish playing in the superb acoustics and beautiful surroundings of Lammermuir Festival’s venues, and we are delighted to welcome back the National Youth Choir of Scotland under Christopher Bell. A further two names make their festival debut this year: the exciting talent of the Polish violinist Bartosz Woroch who performs violin by candlelight in a late-night, hour-long performance and the young, Scottish Maxwell Quartet who join us for the double-bill programme in the exquisite Winton House with the wonderful wind group, Ensemble Marsyas who return for a second time.