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Northern Chords proceeds to a rousing finale

Concerts in Newcastle Cathedral and Sage Gateshead will feature some of our best classical music talent

Chris Gloag Tenor Ben Johnson
Tenor Ben Johnson

The Northern Chords chamber music festival moves to the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas in Newcastle on Wednesday, May 27.

On the programme, for a concert billed Unfinished Tales, is Mozart’s Requiem and Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, his ‘Unfinished’.

Gateshead-born festival founder Jonathan Bloxham, best known as a cellist, will take up the conductor’s baton as he did in the corresponding concert last year when a full house enjoyed memorable performances of Adagio for Strings and The Lark Ascending.

Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor – to give the work its full title – was commissioned by a young Austrian aristocrat to mark the death of his wife.

Mozart himself died – on December 5, 1791 – before he could finish the work. But since half the fee was to be paid on completion, his wife, Constanze, resorted to a degree of skulduggery.

Other compopsers were engaged to complete the work but in a hush hush manner because the work had to be passed off as Mozart’s.

The composer certainly had a strong hand in the Requiem – more poignant because of his own death – and it has been performed regularly ever since.

In the case of the Schubert work, no-one seems able to say for certain why the composer set it aside after completing just two movements.

Jonathan Bloxham
Jonathan Bloxham

Begun in 1822, six years before Schubert’s death, it was premiered in 1865 and evidently was deemed worthy of further performances. Various composers, of course, have offered completed versions.

The soloists for the cathedral concert will be Jennifer Witton, Anna Huntley, Ben Johnson and Jonathan McGovern.

The Northern Chords Festival Chorus and Newcastle High School for Girls Choir will join forces for the concert under chorus master Mark Edwards.

Ben Johnson, the acclaimed young tenor, is a regular Northern Chords performer and will take centre stage in the festival’s penultimate concert in Sage Gateshead’s Hall Two.

On Friday evening, May 29, accompanied by pianist Tom Primrose, he will perform Schwanengesang (Swan song), a posthumously published collection of songs by Schubert, along with other songs. This is a change from the composer’s Winterreise which was printed in the festival brochure.

The final Gala Concert on Saturday, May 30 will again see Schubert centre stage with a performance of his Quintet for Two Cellos performed by Jonathan and his former teacher, Thomas Carroll (who, incidentally, studied in Salzburg with Heinrich Schiff, one-time music director of the Northern Sinfonia).

Tickets for all Northern Chords concerts can be bought via the Sage Gateshead box office – tel. 0191 4434661 or www.sagegateshead.com – or via www.northernchords.com


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