Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Chelsea Schubert Festival 2007

Hugo Shirley and Andrew O’Brien met in 2000 when they were working in a record shop and this meeting of like minds led on to them founding one of London’s newest annual music events The Chelsea Schubert Festival.

Since then, the festival has been quietly going from strength to strength, mixing more established artists with up and coming talent.

The concerts this year comprising 15 recitals over a two week period – take place at Holy Trinity in Sloane Square, where O’Brien is musical director. Joint Artistic Director, Hugo Shirley says “We are very lucky in that Bishop Michael Marshall, Rector of Holy Trinity, is a lover of Schubert’s music, as well being a very fine pianist who has, for example, performed concertos with the RPO. He has always fully supported the festival.” The church, just off the north end of the square, was once dubbed by John Betjeman the “Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement”.

The line-up for the 2007 festival includes an opening concert by young ensemble Liquid Architecture, which features the world premiere of a new Octet by Philip Sawyers, as well as Schubert’s own Octet. Soprano Claire Booth (fresh from her Prom with Oliver Knussen) sings La voix humaine and the festival’s final concert is a rare chance to hear well-known mezzo Sally Burgess in recital, with a programme of works by Schubert, R Strauss, Mozart, Chabrier, Duparc, Finzi & Ned Rorem.

A highlight is likely to be Katherine Broderick’s recital with Jonathan Beatty on 19 September (“luckily we asked her before she shot to fame winning this year’s Ferrier Award” says Shirley). Broderick, increasingly featured on this website as befits an up and coming singer of great potential, will perform Schubert and Brahms lieder.

The festival also covers instrumental, chamber and vocal music. “Although a Schubert festival in name, we are always keen to include works by other composers and it’s always been a particular aim of ours to feature Schubert’s instrumental works, many of which suffer still from the old idea that Schubert was a great writer of melodies but came a cropper when tackling more expansive forms.”

Shirley adds “We’ve managed to gain a decent reputation among performers which means that people are always keen to be included. We try to create an informal atmosphere at the concerts and to be totally inclusive. We avoid any gimmicks and believe, simply, that if you have brilliant musicians performing great music you can’t really go wrong.”

With an enlightened pricing policy (top price is just 15) and, even better, the cost of a ticket including a glass of wine for evening concerts, this is a musical venture that’s got to be worth checking out. Find out more at the website:


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