May into June : time again for the Bath Music Fest which opened this weekend with a brilliant firework display. We are going to several concerts and on Monday I was part of an enthusiastic audience at the Assembly Rooms hearing a popular programme played by Freddy Kemp, a virtuoso of the key board, but a person of quiet and modest manner. Before the concert there was an interview with Kemp by the Festival’s charismatic Director, the multi-talented Joanna MacGregor.
Kemp’s father is German and his mother Japanese (and he is married to a Russian wife!), but although England is his home, his work confirms him as an international citizen, now much in demand around the world. During the interview, he reeled off the engagements he has had in the last two weeks. And claimed not to be very good at practicing! After a concert the previous evening in Perth, Scotland, he had driven through the night to be available for Monday’s concert, but there were no signs of any tiredness in his performance of two Beethoven sonatas, two Chopin ballads, Liszt’s’ monumental Mephisto Waltz No.
1 bringing the recital to a sensational close. It was wonderful to be there.
The Bath Festival is an eclectic mix of music and a long way from the more traditional days of its origin in 1948. Well before Bath became the fashionable destination of the wealthy, Bath was known for its music. Queen Elizabeth visited the city in 1668 to hear the choristers from nearby Wells Cathedral perform in Bath and in the early 1700’s when Beau Nash was the Master of Ceremonies, indulging his love of gambling, and drawing society away from London to bathe in the spa waters, Nash introduced an orchestra as another of the delights the city could offer the indulgent rich. 2008 celebrated Bath International Music Festival’s 60th Anniversary with a stunning Bruckner performance by the L.
S.O. under Colin Davis.
Joanne MacGregor not only performs in several concerts, but regularly pops up to greet audiences throughout the seventeen days of music making. Yesterday I went to one of her Master (Mistress’?) Classes for young pianists, one of whom, a ten year old girl, brought the house down by the maturity and concentration of her playing. We are looking forward to hearing the amazing South African mezzo Sibongile Khumalo in Bath Abbey this evening.