What does classical music look like in 2015? This festival showed us
3 August 2015, 18:23
At the Bristol Proms we saw the world's greatest performers, enthusiastic tweeting, cheery banter, Bach, and lots of craft beer. And, delightfully, all in the same room.
The wonderful, 18th-century surroundings of the Bristol Old Vic were heaving. There were lots of highlights, but here are a few of the things that made it so special...
Playing Beethoven, in the dark
It's as simple as that. The classical master's epic String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, played from memory, in the dark. This stunner from the Sacconi Quartet was all about letting the music speak. Eyes open or closed, it was all you got. (Did we mention it was played from memory? Nice work guys.)
The Bristol Old Vic
Daniel Hope and a Brahms vs Tchaikovsky punch-up
Who would win? Daniel Hope (half violin, half orator) presented a masterly mash-up of the German's String Quintet in G and the tempestuous Russian's 'Souvenir de Florence'. All was punctuated by readings of letters and insults the composer's exchanged (with actor Jonathan McGuinness in assistance) to ensure the invective flew as the lyrical music flowed. (it was Brahms by a TKO, BTW.)
Mari and Hakon Samuelsen's Minimalist Baroque
We weren't quite sure what to expect with these Norwegian siblings. Curtain up and there's Mari, in leather, surrounded by dry ice, smashing out Bach's epically virtuosic Chaconne for solo violin. Next up it was captivating, inventive new music for solo cello. Sinfonia Cymru then crashed the party along with Phillip Glass, Pärt, Vivaldi and Einaudi. These guys are absolute stars.
Always incredible, and she played a huge range of weird brass instruments and wacky repertoire. Including this standard. Nice.
The brilliant Jan Lisiecki
Purcell, and a pint
You're enjoying a quiet drink on a Thursday after a hard day at work, and then one of the world's finest period music ensembles just charges in and starts playing 17th century court music. THIS IS THE LIFE, EH GUYS? Thanks to the always-up-for-it Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a few accommodating pubs in the centre of Bristol, that's just what happened - and it went down a treat. Epic Early-Baroque pub crawl, closely followed by a heaving Night Shift gig in the Bristol Old Vic's Paint Shop venue. Lovely.
Milos. Just Milos.
Classical music's most dashing gent, a guitar, and an enthralled audience. Opera transcriptions, Bach (the Chaconne again - and it was incredible), a bossa nova, sultry guitar classics, and a Beatles tune. And he donned silly glasses for the autograph signing after the show too. What a sport.
John Rutter's surprise 70th choral-mob
It was a surprise 70th celebration for the choral music legend, as a polite Q&A with John Rutter turned into an all-singing, hat-wearing, cake-eating birthday party. It was also the time the autograph queue reminded you that (of course) one can like 90s punk rock *and* John Rutter's stunning choral creations.
A 40-voice finale
The 2015 festival came to a wonderful close with the Erebus Ensemble belting out Thomas Tallis' epic 'Spem in Alium' - a piece of Renaissance choral music for 40 individual voices. There were also several, stunning, newly commissioned works for the same format. It was very special indeed, and a massive sing for them. They all earned that drink.