Brendel and Birtwistle collaborate for Plush 2017

A LEADING contemporary composer, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and Plush Festival artistic director and cellist Adrian Brendel have collaborated for this year’s festival to create “our most ambitious programme to date.”

The summer series of classical, contemporary and jazz events in the little church in the perfect setting of Plush  Manor in the heart of Dorset, begins on Friday 16th June with jazz star Kit Downes and runs through to mid-September.

The opening weekend features jazz and poetry, typical of the eclectic and inspiring programming of this uniquely appealing festival.

On Friday 16th June, at 7.30pm, pianist Kit Downes joins forces with New Zealand saxophonist Hayden Chisholm and Swedish bassist Petter Eldh to pay homage to the late great John Taylor, who gave such memorable concerts at Plush.

The trio will perform compositions inspired by and dedicated to this great musician, while also drawing on this year’s festival themes to improvise with some of the different musical forms. A wonderful chance to hear some of Europe’s finest jazz talents in a tantalising first encounter.

On Saturday 17th, there is a poetry reading and tal at 5:30pm by award-winning poet David Harsent, who will recite his poems and discuss his work with Harrison Birtwistle ahead of the evening performance, where the poems take a different life in song.

The evening song recital at 7:30pm features one of the greatest tenors of our time, Mark Padmore, with Andrew West, piano, in a programme that includes a series of Schubert lieder and Birtwistle’s Songs From The Same Earth’ for tenor & piano.

Adrian Brendel says: “This season I have joined forces with Harrison Birtwistle  to curate our most ambitious programme to date. An exceptional line up of musicians will visit Plush to perform a range of music, from the earliest polyphonic composers through classical masterpieces to modern jazz and a select group of contemporary works.”

Sir Harrison Birtwistle says: “The unique nature of Plush, the openness of the audience and of the musicians, means you can mix repertoire in a way you wouldn’t dare, or which wouldn’t work, in mainstream venues.  There’s a generosity of mood, a sense of family – listening or playing and helping put plans into action to create a wonderful festival.”

Medieval music has had a lifelong importance to Birtwistle and in July, vocal ensemble Gothic Voices joins forces with saxophonist John Harle and students from Guildhall School of Music for an evening exploring one of the era’s most influential composers, Guillaume de Machaut, with the startlingly beautiful Organum plainchant from Salisbury Cathedral, which has been arranged by Harle and Adrian Brendel as linking tropes between the five movements of the mass.

New for this year are Insights events where Birtwistle is joined by composer Michael Berkeley to discuss two of his most fascinating pieces before they are performed – offering a unique opportunity to hear about their inception and composition.

Festival Day on 15th July coincides with Harrison Birtwistle’s birthday and forms the centrepiece of the season. Adrian Brendel is joined by violinist Corey Cerovsek, violist Lawrence Power, pianist Tim Horton and percussionist Tim Williams for a day of concerts,  film, open rehearsal, talk and performance of Birtwistle’s Axe Manual for percussion and piano.

In September, the festival celebrates Birtwistle’s deep admiration for Bach, on Tuesday 5th with legendary pianist Sir András Schiff playing The Well-Tempered Clavier, followed by on Friday 8th by an ensemble performance of Bach’s The Musical Offering and a selection from Birtwistle’s Orpheus Elegies for oboe and harp.

The festival ends on Saturday 9th September with  emerging artists Stephen Waarts and Timothy Ridout alongside the Plush Ensemble for a programme featuring Zelenka, Debussy, Mozart and Birtwistle.

Pictured: Kit Downes, jazz pianist; tenor Mark Padmore; Plush church; Sir Harrison Birtwistle.