The 2023 Petersfield Musical Festival aims to reach a broad community

This year’s Petersfield Musical Festival aims to reach out to all ages and tastes with its programme of diverse events, including two large-scale choral concerts, small-scale chamber ensembles, music theatre, youth and family concerts. The programme will be rolled out in Petersfield’s Festival Hall and at St. Peter’s Church from 17 to 25 March.

Book-ending the week will be the Festival’s two flagship choral concerts. Handel’s glorious 1752 oratorio Jephtha, on the first Saturday, dramatically depicts the Biblical narrative of Jephtha, who, recalled from exile to lead the Israelites against their enemies, vows to sacrifice the first person he sees if he is successful in battle; tragically this turns out to be his own daughter. The poignancy of the moral dilemma which ensues calls forth some of Handel’s most moving and heartfelt writing for both soloists and ensemble.

A cast of young soloists drawn from London conservatoires, conducted by Paul Spicer and accompanied by Southern Pro Musica and the Festival chorus will portray a powerful gamut of emotions from despair to joy.

The following Saturday sees a contrasting programme of picturesque works featuring British composer Charles Villiers Stanford, Giacomo Puccini and Edvard Grieg. Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet was written in 1910 and its fast movements reflect the typical Edwardian brio of their era. The style of Puccini’s Messa di Gloria – sweeping melodies and dramatic orchestral accompaniment – foreshadows the composer’s later work as an opera composer. Paul Spicer will take the helm of the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra and Festival Chorus. The much-loved Peer Gynt completes the programme under the baton of Stephen Scotchmer.

Amongst the soloists in Songs of the Fleet and Messa di Gloria, Ed Ballard, an internationally renowned baritone, will make his second appearance at the Festival.

Elsewhere, the ever-popular Liss band, prevented from performing last year by illness, kick off the Festival on 17th March with a brass concert while the Petersfield Community Choir gives voice to popular classics.

Young people get their share of the limelight in the sell-out Youth concerts mid-week, which will bring together talented performers drawn from local schools aged 8-18. The Family concert on 19th March Dancing through Time should be hugely enjoyable as it explores dance forms from Pavanes to Tangos presented by the string players of SouthDowns Camerata (including audience participation). In addition, a choreographed evening of musical theatre and popular classics featuring artists from Guildford School of Acting features later in the week.

One highlight of this year’s Festival promises to be the blockbuster concert of two musical masterpieces on 23rd March. Rising star Cordelia Williams will be the soloist in Schumann’s famous Piano Concerto followed by Elgar’s much-loved orchestral suite, Enigma Variations which Elgar dedicated to ‘my friends pictured within.’ The Petersfield Orchestra will be conducted by Robin Browning.

Music lovers looking for smaller-scale entertainment may be tempted by a couple of chamber concerts in St Peter’s Church. The Anemos wind ensemble with pianist Karen Kingsley is performing two masterpieces of the genre, Mozart’s wind quintet and Poulenc’s lively and exuberant sextet. Finally, local musician Angela Zanders is giving a lecture-recital of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio no. 2 on March 21st at 1pm.

Priority booking is open now with tickets on sale to the public from 6th February online or at One Tree Books. View full details of concerts, timings and ticket prices.

Sarah Hard

Image: Ed Ballard (credit: Clare Park)

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