Quartetto Rossi at Cratfield: 31 July 2016

When the London Haydn Quartet had to withdraw from its concert for us this year, the cellist from the Badke Quartet, Jonathan Byers, offered to bring three original instrument colleagues to Cratfield as the Quartetto Rossi, offering a closely similar quartet programme in place of the LHQ.

The performers are:

Michael Gurevich and James Toll violins
Simone Jandl viola
Jonathan Byers cello

Michael has played for us twice before (and is second violin of the LHQ), as has Jonathan many times in his Badke Quartet role.  Their programme demonstrates the development (some would say perfection) of string quartet writing in Vienna in the second half of the eighteenth century:

Haydn, String quartet in C op 64 (‘Tost’) no 1
Haydn, String quartet in G minor op 20 (‘Sun’) no 3

INTERVAL

Mozart, String quartet in E flat K428

For more details, click here for the full concert page.

Landscape with Three People: the first Cratfield CD

907669 BKLT LD-1In 2013 the first public performance took place at Cratfield of a new song cycle we commissioned from Elena Langer for two high voices (Anna Dennis soprano and William Towers countertenor) with baroque ensemble, to texts by distinguished British poet Lee Harwood (1939-2015).  This was also supported by the Haskel Family and Peter Moores Foundations and by the estate of our long-term supporter Irene Horwood, who died in 2012.

Recording the cycle, Landscape with Three People, and other works by Langer, then took place at Tom Southern’s initiative, supported by Blyth Valley Chamber Music and other trusts and individuals, including many of our regular concertgoers.  The recording took place in the Britten Studio at Snape in 2014 and the CD, dedicated to the memory of our Founder Patrons, David and Linda Holmes, was released commercially by Harmonia Mundi USA in 2016.  Click here for a four-star review on the Guardian website.   The CD includes the two original singers, as well as Nicholas Daniel – who plays in the first 2016 Cratfield concert – in the important oboe part in Landscape.

The release of the CD coincided with the first public performances of Langer’s new opera Figaro Gets a Divorce by Welsh National Opera; in Cardiff, it was in repertoire with The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville.

Copies of the CD can be bought from Tom at a discounted price of £10 (+ £1.50 p&p, or collect from Aldeburgh).  Phone him on 01728 452695 or email tom.southern@marshwinds.co.uk.

From tragedy to triumph: St Mary’s roof

IMG_2058When thieves stole four tonnes of lead from the roof of St Mary’s, Cratfield last December, the mood was one of despair.  The cost of replacing the lead was thought to be around £40,000. How could such a tiny community raise such a sum?  Selfishly, those of us at Concerts at Cratfield wondered if it would be possible to hold our 2016 season of concerts in the church which has hosted them with so much delight for so many years.

Yet on Sunday 24 April 2016, at a virtually sold-out special concert at The Cut, Halesworth, Don Peacock of St Mary’s PCC was able to announce that the repairs were nearing completion and, even more remarkably, that they had almost raised all the money required to pay for them.

How had this been achieved?  How had the tragedy of the theft been turned into the triumph of the rescue?

First, as Don acknowledged, was the generosity of the village itself, which raised surprisingly large sums from a variety of local events. Second was the overwhelming contribution of supporters of Concerts at Cratfield, both individually and as an organisation.  As one example, the same weekend saw an exhibition of woodcuts by the late Linda Holmes, one of the Founder Patrons of the concerts: click here for more details.  This has already raised more than £4,000 for Cratfield.

Another example was the ‘Concert for Cratfield’ at The Cut.  Half a dozen young musicians who know and love Cratfield and have played there many times offered their services free; The Cut had given us its superb auditorium free too, with invaluable support from Matthew Wetmore of Halesworth Arts Festival.  The performers delighted an appreciative audience with thrilling interpretations of three masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire – a string trio by Beethoven, a string quintet by Mozart and Schumann’s piano quintet, which received a white-knuckle performance of verve and brio that left the packed house cheering.  The cheers were for the performers but also for the generosity of all concerned – which has ensured the remarkable survival of a cherished institution.

The special concert made over £3000 towards the roof fund at St Mary’s Cratfield – from those at The Cut itself, whose generous donations at the end added £400, and from those unable to attend who nonetheless sent donations via our Box Office or directly to the PCC.

Wood engravings by Linda Holmes

Linda exhibitionIn addition to the special fundraising concert for repairs to the roof of St Mary’s Cratfield (click here for details), there’s a selling exhibition in Saxmundham from 22 to 30 April 2016 of wood engravings by one of our Founder Patrons Linda Holmes (1950-2015), whose image of the church at Cratfield is a familiar icon in all our publicity.  All the proceeds from the exhibition will also go to the church repair fund at Cratfield.

The exhibition, at the Ephemeral Gallery, 34a High Street, is open from 11am to 5pm each day.

Posts needing volunteers

Cratfield church plan 2015 v2 2Box Office

Pauline Graham, who completed her second year as our Box Office in 2015, would like to stand down at the end of 2016 and pass the job on to a new person for the 2017 season.  We are therefore looking for a volunteer, living in East Suffolk and keen on chamber music, who could ‘shadow’ Pauline during 2016, then be ready to take on the job fully for 2017 and beyond.

The busiest time for dealing with ticket applications is between March and May each year, when priority booking forms come in by post from Patrons and Members; then general booking starts (including by phone).  Advance sales all take place via credit and debit cards, so the Box Office has its own terminal for those.  Enquiries pick up again towards the start of the season in July and continue until the season is over in mid-September.

Tickets are also sold (or picked up) at each concert, so the person running the Box Office needs to be present at the desk in the church, selling CDs if our performers bring them.

The Box Office also looks after our mailing list – our most valuable asset – and assists in the annual mailing of information about the forthcoming season to all those on the list each Spring.  Ticket ordering, ready for the season, happens at about the same time.

chequeTreasurer

Clare Webb, our  Treasurer, is approaching the maximum six-year term which our constitution allows her in the post.  Her role is to run the money side of Concerts at Cratfield: banking cheques and cash, paying our musicians and suppliers, developing a budget for each season and reporting on the accounts for the season just ended to each AGM.  The Treasurer is also the main point of contact with our Patrons and Members, running the direct debits and standing orders by which they pay regular subscriptions, some qualifying for Gift Aid.

Clare stands down at the end of the 2016 season, so we hope to find someone able to become familiar with the main tasks of the post well before then.  Formal accounting or other financial management experience is not essential, but a clear head for figures and an attention to detail are essential.  Clare estimates that the job needs only about half an hour a week over the year as a whole – but the demand is concentrated just after the year-end on 30 September each year, in the run-up to the AGM.

The way forward

If you are interested in either role, or know someone whom you think might be, please contact Philip Britton, who chairs Concerts at Cratfield: by phone on 01728 452695 or by e-mail to chair@concertsatcratfield.org.uk.

Carducci Quartet perform Shostakovich in Aldeburgh

Carducci Quartet, photo Andy Holdsworth

Carducci Quartet, photo Andy Holdsworth

Over the weekend of 26-27 September 2015, the Carducci Quartet offered at the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh their ‘Shostakovich cycle’: a performance in order of all the fifteen string quartets over four concerts.  It was an intense and moving experience for the audience, who gave the quartet a standing ovation after the final bars of no 15 faded into a long silence.

The quartet have already performed the cycle several times, including in Colombia, and will do so several times more during the rest of 2016.  On the fortieth anniversary of Shostakovich’s death, 9 August 2015, they did so in one day at the Wanamaker Playhouse on London’s South Bank.

The Guardian reviewer, Erica Jeal, giving their London performance five stars, explained that it was nearly seven hours of music, in four concerts with barely an hour between each. ‘It demanded unusual focus from the audience, several changes of the Playhouse candles – and truly extraordinary stamina from the players. Between the later quartets it was as if the audience was cheering them around the last laps of a marathon.’

For her full review, click here; and for the quartet’s blog about the project, click here.

The Carducci have recorded Shostakovich’s Quartets 4, 8 and 11 for Signum.  Click here for a YouTube clip of part of the slow movement from Quartet no 4 and Michelle Fleming violin talking about the cycle.

The quartet has played twice at Cratfield and will return to open our 2016 season on Sunday 3 July at 3pm, with Nicholas Daniel oboe and cor anglais; their concert for us will include one (but only one) quartet by Shostakovich: no 11 op 122.

Audience survey 2015: highlights

Introduction

We asked all those attending the final concert of the season to complete a two-page survey and received about 120 usable responses, out of the 180 or so concertgoers in the church.  Thanks to all those who took the time to give us their views.

The survey’s main aims were to check whether the profile of our audience from the 2014 survey was still correct; and to ask specifically about transport to Cratfield and about the process of buying tickets.

Audience profile

As expected, most respondents lived within less than an hour’s drive of Cratfield; of all respondents, 96 (84%) were in the IP area or NR34 or 35, which denote places closer than some IP postcodes (Beccles and Bungay have NR postcodes but are not administratively in Norfolk at all).  This was also true of 46 out of 52 Members & Patrons.  However, the ranking and distribution of people’s home postcodes are both significantly different from last year’s survey, where Aldeburgh (IP15) and Woodbridge (IP12: the town and east to Orford) were then in the top five. Our audience this year appears to come from a wider range of places within our region than was true last year (probably a good thing), so the numbers in each of the top five postcodes (in order IP17, 19, 18, 13 and 22) are smaller than last year.

94% of our sample came to Cratfield by car, 60% as drivers and 34% as passengers.  Asked if they’d prefer to come by a self-funding minibus service from a short list of post towns close to Cratfield, only 20% of respondents thought it possible or likely that they’d want to use it; the rest said it was unlikely, or that they would still have to come by car even if we did set up a minibus service.

Of those who completed the survey, 7 (6%) were newcomers to Cratfield this season, whereas 85 (77%) had been coming to Cratfield for six or more years.  Respondents who were Members or Patrons had typically been coming for significantly longer than those who were not.

Attending concerts

Of those who completed the survey, 21% (35% of Members & Patrons) had attended all concerts in the season, and a further 18% (22% of Members & Patrons) had missed only one concert.  Asked why each respondent may have missed any concerts, the most frequently selected reasons – as last year – were ‘Not in the area at the time’ or ‘Already busy that day’.  Very few respondents said they were not attracted by the music or by the type of ensemble on offer.

Finding out about concerts

The vast majority of respondents had found out about the season by being on our mailing list and receiving a brochure and booking form; almost all of these had booked in advance and been sent their tickets by post.  Those who were newcomers to Concerts at Cratfield had mostly come by recommendation from a friend.  Relatively few respondents look at this website regularly – which is disappointing.

Those who bought a ticket at the church did so mostly because they had decided only at the last minute to come to the concert, or because they were happy to sit in the West End seats at the back of the church (unnumbered), which are the cheapest because they have no view – but some think have the best sound.

Free text final comments

A box at the end of the survey gave a space for respondents to add any extra information, clarify their responses to earlier questions and say anything else they wished.  Only a few used the box at all, perhaps under time pressure to complete the survey at the end of the concert.  Some used the space to appreciate Concerts at Cratfield: ‘You’re marvellous’; ‘Very difficult to be constructively critical, as you seem to have thought of everything’; and ‘A privilege to have such high quality music and performers close by’.

Two people pointed out that some seats are very squashed if the pew is full; and the tea queue (run by the parish, and not by Concerts at Cratfield) resurfaced regularly: ‘Is there a way of avoiding the tea queue?’ asked one respondent, wisely then adding ‘ Possibly not.’  [However, the possibility of paying before the start of each concert for tea and cake in the interval may be introduced in 2016, which should speed up the queue.]

 

 

 

Concert review: Cavaleri Quartet + Bart LaFollette

This Sunday afternoon concert on 13 September 2015 was the final one of the six-concert season which Concerts at Cratfield put on at the beautifully compact and very old St Mary’s church, just outside the village, throughout the summer months on a fortnightly basis.  The 2015 season has been an outstanding success, with a variety of interesting programmes, committed performances and enthusiastic audiences.  But perhaps the best of all was left until last Sunday with a mouthwatering programme, including two string quartet masterpieces from different eras in the first half, followed after the interval by possibly the most beloved and celebrated string quintet (with two cellos) of the whole repertoire.  The damp weather did not lessen the anticipation of a satisfying musical experience and the church was absolutely full.

String quartets sound exceptionally good in the acoustics of the church; the Cavaleri Quartet were no exception to the high standards of quartet playing Cratfield audiences have been privileged to experience, season after season.  Although the quartet’s cellist, Reinoud Ford, was a guest of the group, his playing was outstanding throughout and the quartet had a togetherness vibe about them that communicated itself with relaxed pleasure to the audience.

The opening quartet was Mozart in C K465 (unusually, all three works in this concert were in the same key – C major).  The quartet is known as the ‘Dissonance’, as the opening introduction sounds like music from a much later period – unsettled and key-free.  The Cavaleris immediately created an otherworldly atmosphere of this strange opening and headed into the main allegro with playing of crisp rhythmic articulation.  The second movement’s andante cantabile was played in a stately flowing tempo, which was beautifully done.  Following a punchy menuetto and a lively trio section with some lovely cello playing, the finale’s allegro molto zipped along with a well chosen tempo, and full marks to the quartet for slightly speeding up the tempo for the coda , which made for an overall  well balanced satisfying performance of a superb quartet.

The Szymanowski Quartet no 1, much less well known than either the Mozart or the Schubert, is to my mind a fabulous piece by an underrated composer who wrote one of the greatest operas of the 20th century, King Roger – plus orchestral, choral and instrumental works of a hypnotic original quality, that go straight to the heart.  The quartet has a hugely difficult first violin part, playing continuous high notes above the bridge, especially in the first movement.  Martyn Jackson, the first violin, played them effortlessly and beautifully.  The first movement has a feeling in parts of longing – reminiscent of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. The frequent indicated tempo changes were handled well and the double forte sections of the movement, plus the triple forte of the last bars, sounded magnificent in the Church’s acoustics, and it was hard to believe that only four string players were creating such an overwhelming effect!  The 2nd movement had some rich ripe playing – high 1st violin again, plus some lovely solo 2nd violin playing.  One small criticism would be that the score is marked attacca (no break) between the 2nd and 3rd movements, which the Cavaleri’s ignored; but maybe they made the decision to pause between the movements for technical or tuning reasons? The 3rd movement is more in the neo-classical style – whilst the first two movements have reminiscences of composers such as Scriabin, Richard Strauss and Debussy, the last movement is definitely in Bartók territory.  Again, some overwhelming triple forte chords towards the end of the quartet, which made one’s hair stand on end – but the work actually ends quietly in triple pianissimo.  A work, then, of huge contrasts in its short 20 minutes of playing time: beautiful lyrical sensual writing, interposed with great dramatic outbursts.  The Cavaleris were certainly more than up to the task and it certainly hit the spot!

Following the interval and the usual excellent tea and cake refreshments, we heard the climax of the concert, and possibly of the whole season – Schubert’s great C major string quintet D956 – with the added second cello.  Bartholomew LaFollette joined the quartet as the extra cello but actually played the 1st cello part; the quartet’s guest cellist, Reinoud Ford, played the 2nd cello part.  Perhaps because the principal four players were already warmed up by playing the first half, whilst the 2nd cellist was sitting it out on a damp afternoon, LaFollette seemed slightly ill at ease communicating with the other four players and was having problems tuning his instrument – but things soon settled down for an excellent performance of this much loved masterpiece.  What can one say about the piece that’s not already been said so many times?  I would just add that the world would be a poorer place without it.  The Cavaleris set a good opening tempo to the first movement’s allegro ma non troppo and played seamlessly into the gorgeous second subject melody.  Although it’s a long movement I was still disappointed that they did not observe the repeat of the opening section.  The development was played at high intensity – and by this time all five players were fully engaged with the music and with each other.  The players had the confidence to play the beautiful second movement opening theme with the utmost quietness and sustained intimacy, which made the dramatic middle section convey the ‘cry for help’, which often appears in Schubert’s late music, most effective.  The players brought out the ‘gemütlich’ melody of the third movement trio and slowed it down nicely to give it that authentic Viennese lilt, whilst the main scherzo was played with crisp sonority.  The finale, which has less angst than the previous movements, is nevertheless full of beautiful music and has a cracking finish.  I’m pleased that the Cavaleris distinguished between the più allegro and più presto final pages of this wonderful quintet and ended with an exemplary triple forte flourish.

We look forward to the 2016 season with great anticipation!

David Mintz

2015 season ends

NEW-SLIDER-9With the Cavaleri Quartet and Bart LaFollette cello playing the Schubert String quintet in C D956, the 2015 season of Concerts at Cratfield ended on a rainy afternoon on Sunday 13 September.  For our outline plans for the 2016 season, click here.

Over the season, we sold (to the nearest whole number) 82% of all available seats – an average of 180 concertgoers at each concert.  The top price nave seats sold at 99% of capacity and the middle price chancel and side aisles at 81% of capacity.  The best attended concert was the lecture-recital by the Badke Quartet and Professor Roger Parker, with Gallicantus and the final concert not far behind.  For reviews of all the 2015 concerts, click here.

Edited extracts follow from the Chairman’s opening words at the church, before the final concert began:

I’m sorry ever to delay the start of our music, but this is my only opportunity to thank you collectively for your enthusiasm and support over the last twelve weeks.  Special thanks go to my Committee, to Pauline Graham as our Box Office, to Jeremy Greenwood for all his help with print and to our front-of-house volunteers.  Also – of course – to the teams from the church who quench both thirst and hunger so well at every concert interval.  To those of you who are at our concerts for the first time, a special welcome, and a fervent hope that we shall see you again next year.

One of the puzzles that confront every organisation like ours is how to reach and encourage new audience members.  Enthusiasts for chamber music are often passionate in their love of this music, but they are also specialists and spread thinly, so money spent on publicity to the world at large is almost completely wasted.  What we learnt from the Audience Survey last year was that most of those who were new concertgoers here had found us through a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance. You’ll have seen that we’re asking you to complete a slightly different survey today; your responses may well confirm some of the impressions we already have.

But my message to you is clear: to keep music live – and alive – please share your pleasure in our concerts with anyone whom you think might be open to discovering Cratfield.  We’re not a club, keen to stop outsiders muscling in.  And if you’re not already supporting us with a regular subscription, please consider doing so.  These bridge the gap between ticket sales and our costs; they also give us greater certainty of annual income, essential for planning ahead. And there could be the benefit for us of Gift Aid on top.  To be a Member or Patron gives you a period of priority booking for the next season, as well as a vote at the AGM.  Pauline at the Box Office table has the form [or just click here].

Morbid though it may seem, we have been enormously helped this year by donations in memory of those who have passed on, so when you’re next drafting or reviewing your will….

We always start each season with irrational trepidation about whether tickets will sell in numbers enough to cover our costs. Will as many regulars book season tickets as last year? Will people be attracted by the performers and by the works on offer? Will those concerts which we think are out of the mainstream get an audience at all?  This year, we need not have worried; you voted with your feet for innovation and experiment, both in relation to Gallicantus and Tudor polyphony and to Roger Parker talking about Haydn and Beethoven.  In that last connection, we have learnt that it is harder than we thought to make speech audible in this space, especially for those whose hearing is no longer tip-top.  But that would not put us off a similar attempt in the future.

As for that future, this is the moment when we go public with a summary of the dates and our plans for next season [for 2016, click here].  You’ll notice three concerts whose performers we think of as already old friends, plus three, some or all of whose players haven’t been here before. If you can, please block the dates out in your diaries or calendars now; and tell your grandchildren, if you have any, that you’re going to be busy on all six weekends.

Before next season arrives, there’s a ‘first’ for Cratfield which should not pass unnoticed.  It will be the release by Harmonia Mundi USA of the first commercial CD of works by Russian-born living composer Lena Langer.  The central work is the song-cycle Landscape with Three People, which was our commission from her in 2013 – the first time any work we have commissioned has had a commercial recording and release.  Many of you helped Tom Southern to make the recording happen, so you’ll be pleased to know how well the project turned out.  I’m sure we’ll have copies of the CD for sale next season, by the way.

Much more immediately, you’ve received, inserted into your programme, a leaflet about the Carducci Quartet’s Shostakovich cycle. This takes place at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh in just under two weeks’ time. You’ll probably know of that extraordinary weekend in 1999 when the Sorrel Quartet performed all fifteen quartets in this church. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of our much lamented Founder Patrons, David and Linda Holmes.  The Carducci are bringing this richly evocative and personal music to Suffolk again over four concerts. They’ve already performed the cycle to unqualified praise all over the world.  So I encourage you to allow yourself at least a sample of these unique works [for more, click here].

You’ve also information inserted into your programme about this year’s Alwyn Festival, which offers four varied days of music – and other things – in Blythburgh, Southwold and Orford in early October. It was at this festival in 2011 that I first heard the Cavaleri String Quartet.  I immediately asked them to come and play for us, first in 2013.  I’m delighted that they are back with us again today, joined after the interval by Bart LaFollette. So to open their concert with Mozart, please welcome the Cavaleri String Quartet…

Philip Britton

Cratfield performers in Bernstein Prom

gallery-john_wilson_large3It’s well known that John Wilson can call on superb instrumentalists for his orchestra.  No surprise then that Ruth Rogers (Aquinas Piano Trio) and Ciaran McCabe (Cavaleri String Quartet) were sitting next to each other in the violin section in the Bernstein Prom from the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 5 September 2015.

Beyond Ciaran was Hannah Dawson (Sacconi Quartet) and in the front row was Magnus Johnston (Navarra String Quartet).  Also spotted among the cellists were Rowena Calvert (formerly of the Cavaleri String Quartet) and two members of the Britten Sinfonia.

The concert can still be downloaded or viewed on the BBC iPlayer.  The John Wilson Orchestra returns to Snape Maltings on Friday 18 December 2015: details from Aldeburgh Music.