Geraint Bowen's Picks of the 2018 Programme

Bach Goldberg Variations

Friday 3 August, 7.45 pm
St Francis Xavier Church

When I was a boy I loved the story of how the Goldberg Variations were written, with the virtuoso harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg who gave the work its title being kept up all night playing these amazing pieces for his insomniac employer, Count Kayserling, who had commissioned them from Bach to soothe his restless nights.

Sadly it now seems that this is an entirely spurious story but these dazzling feats of contrapuntal ingenuity are far more than the ultimate insomnia cure and this is a great opportunity to hear one of today’s most exciting young talents, Mahan Esfahani, giving a live late-night performance of the Goldbergs, following his critically-acclaimed recent recording.

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Monday 30 July, 2.45 pm
Hereford Cathedral

The outstanding vocal ensemble Tenebrae is dedicated by its director, Nigel Short, to ‘passion and precision’ and we are delighted to welcome the group to Hereford for the first time on Monday 30 July. The programme offers a veritable feast of music with an extraordinarily rich selection of music on offer. For many people the highlight of the programme will be a complete performance of Parry’s wonderful Songs of Farewell, compiled in the last two years of his life, but the programme also takes in Howells’ moving motet Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing written after the assassination of President Kennedy, Tavener’s Song for Athene heard by millions at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Schoenberg’s fabulous early work Friede auf Erden. There are also works by Judith Bingham and the premiere of A Foreign Field Psalm by Torsten Rasch, originally conceived as part of Rasch’s 2014 Three Choirs commission A Foreign Field.

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Opening Night

Saturday 28 July, 7.45 pm
Hereford Cathedral

I very much look forward to presenting a rare performance of Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D on the opening night of the festival. This work has been on my ‘must do at Three Choirs’ list for several years and 2018, commemorating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, presented a perfect opportunity with Smyth’s links to the suffragette movement. It’s a fascinating amalgam of all the mainstream European influences which the composer experienced during her period of study in Leipzig, and what has struck me forcefully in the course of rehearsing the work with the chorus this term is how much anger there seems to be in the music, amongst some other moments of great lyrical beauty.

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Geraint Bowen