Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: York Early Music Festival 2020 Online

Despite the partial lifting of lockdown, classical venues remain closed. But, as Melanie Eskenazi has found, there is still much musical enjoyment to be had on the web.

St Margaret's Church

St Margaret’s Church (Photo: Marc Eskenazi)

The 2020 York Early Music Festival, celebrating the ‘Method and Madness’ of musical styles from the Renaissance to Beethoven, was cancelled because of the pandemic. However, nothing daunted, the National Centre for Early Music, based in the beautiful St Margaret’s Church in Walmgate, has created its first YEMF Online festival, running from 9th – 11th July. You can’t go to the venue in this trendy area of the city, with its many eclectic restaurants, but for a very modest sum you can enjoy several concerts and talks online over the three days. For example you can hear Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny for £10, or buy a Festival Pass for £30 which will enable you to access the entire festival.

From a packed schedule, two concerts in particular stand out, the first one, on July 9th at 19.30, with Iestyn Davies, and the final with Stile Antico. Davies, a native of York, brings us ‘A Delightful Thing,’ a celebration of the music of John Dowland, accompanied by Elizabeth Kenny, a frequent visitor to the festival. Stile Antico’s concert on July 11th showcases the patronage of music by the powerful women of the 16th century, and the first publication of music by female composers of the Renaissance.

It’s impossible to escape Beethoven this year, even in a festival mostly dedicated to Early Music, and the excellent Consone Quartet have the privilege of commemorating the anniversary of his birth with a concert comprising two of his Opus 18 quartets, on July 11th at 13.00. David Owen Norris will talk about the works at 10.30.

“You can’t go to the venue in this trendy area of the city… but for a very modest sum you can enjoy several concerts and talks online…”

Returning to Early Music, the lutenist Matthew Wadsworth gives a recital on Friday 10th at 13.00, including a new work written for him by Laura Snowden. Following this, the harpsichordist Steven Devine will perform Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-Tempered Clavier). At 19.30 on the same day, Richard Boothby explores the musical style of the lyra viol, including works by Lawes and Dowland. John Bryan will introduce the works in all three concerts, at 10.30. The final talk in the series will be given by Peter Seymour at 11.00. on the 11th, on the subject of a new version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.  

We can’t enjoy the EMF’s lovely settings and ‘live’ concerts this year, but this enterprising online festival should go some way towards reminding us that even in a time of crisis, music will continue.

All details of the festival can be found here: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf

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Iestyn Davies / Elizabeth Kenny @ St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York (online)