Three Cheers For The Oxford Coffee Concerts

The Holywell Music Room in Oxford

The Holywell Music Room in Oxford

The Holywell Music Room in Oxford maybe the oldest purpose-built music room in Europe. It was first opened in 1748, thirty-three years before the Gewandhaus concerts of Leipzig found themselves a similar venue. The Sunday Coffee Concerts series is relatively new, but recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. This occasion was marked with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet and a Mozart string quintet, both played by the Adderbury Ensemble. I attended this event and was very impressed with the performance. I had not heard either of these pieces before, but had seen the Adderbury Ensemble perform at the Holywell in 2010. That was one of the first coffee concerts I had been to and I think it was Schubert’s ‘Trout Quintet’that they played then. As this is my first blog I thought I would take the opportunity to write a bit about the Oxford Coffee Concerts that I have attended over the last year or so. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started taking a real interest in classical music, my usual listening habits consisting of mainly rock and electronic music. When I started my music degree at Oxford Brookes in 2009, I realised that my knowledge of classical music was very limited. This realization prompted me to start attending more classical concerts. The majority of these concerts have been at the Holywell Music Room and I have learnt a lot from the various performers that have played there. All the concerts have been of a very high standard and last Sunday (22/5/11) was no exception. This concert was given by the Turner Ensemble, a group founded by principal players from the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields amongst others. The first piece they played was Schubert’s Allegro for string trio

Holywell Interior by David Jennings

Holywell Interior (Picture by David Jennings)

in B flat (D.471). Founder member Ania Safanova played violin, with Andrily Viytovich on viola and Naiomi Williams playing cello. Although this piece was originally intended to be the first movement of a string trio (the second movement abandoned after thirty-eight bars), it sounds perfectly wholesome as a single movement work. The lyricism and playfulness of the piece was brought out beautifully by Safanova on the violin. Viytovich and Williams providing thoughtful and tactile accompaniment, which gave shape and fluidity to the performance as a whole. The second piece was Beethoven’s septet (Op.20), for violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and french horn. although this piece is larger than the previous work with its six movement structure, it still maintained the upbeat and lighthearted tone provided by the Schubert. Listening to pieces like these, played in the intimate setting of the Holywell, really breathes life into the music. Works composed centuries ago become part of the present day, setting the tone for the afternoon ahead. Over the last year or so these concerts have provided me with inspiration and delight. From Tamsin Waley-Cohen’s breathtaking Ravel violin sonata, to Alaisdair Beatson’s fantastic Beethoven ‘Appassionata’, the quality is always impressive. For more information and tickets to forthcoming events follow this link to Tickets Oxford and view by venue.

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About Gary Skinner

Second year music student interested in composition
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