southwell music festival

A Musical Exploration of the Minster


Southwell Minster is at the heart of our Festival and its contrasting spaces provide many different possibilities for performance.

Last year audiences discovered how wonderfully effective the Crossing under the great central tower could be as a performance space.  We build on that success this year with a late night performance in the round of another powerful piece of chamber music – Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) on Friday 26th August at 10pm.

This highly-charged string sextet is a musical depiction of two lovers walking in moonlit woods and the intensity and passion of their parallel emotional journey.  This is rarely-heard early Schoenberg much loved by string players, combining the harmonic and structural formality of Brahms with the sensual sonorities of Wagner.

To the east of the Crossing is The Quire which is in complete contrast to the immense strength and scale of the Minster’s Norman nave that provides most visitors with their first impression of the building: it is a more intimate, lighter space with different acoustic properties and, as it is used for daily worship, is the part of the building with which the Minster’s musicians are particularly familiar.

We now hope that it will become increasingly familiar to Festival audiences.  Already it is the venue for our successful late night sequence of words and music and this year we once again test the outstanding virtuosity of the Festival Voices with a rare performance of Benjamin Britten’s challenging late work Sacred and Profane: Eight Medieval Lyrics alongside choral works by James Macmillan and Thomas Adès (Thursday 25th August, 10pm).

The scale of the Quire also provides the chance to present larger pieces of chamber music and so, in response to demand for Festival tickets, we have introduced a new element to the Festival’s chamber music programme: on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 August at 7.30pm we present two pieces of chamber music which are rarely performed because of their scale and unusual instrumental requirements.

The final work of Richard Strauss is Metamorphosen for no less than 23 solo strings – an enigmatic piece which is perhaps an elegy for the destruction of so much German culture in the Second World War.   It will be directed by Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell.  Its companion piece is in complete contrast: Beethoven’s Septet for the unusual combination of violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn is a light-hearted serenade in the style of Mozart.

These concerts will be among the most memorable of this year’s Festival and if you do not already have tickets I hope you will obtain them soon either online here , by calling 0115 989 5555 or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral Shop.

Marcus Farnsworth
Artistic Director