The 2016 Leamington Music Festival Weekend, which runs 29 April to 3 May, celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Martinu String Quartet and the thirtieth anniversary of the Guarneri Piano Trio, another leading Czech ensemble.
It also marks the tenth anniversary of Leamington Music, which took over this weekend event, in 2006. It was started by Festival Director Richard Phillips, who received a MBE in the New Year Honours list, in 1990. Last year he celebrated reaching a century of festivals that he had created and directed and by this August will have completed fifty years of working in music.
The principal venue for the Leamington Music Festival Weekend is the Assembly Hall of the Royal Pump Rooms, which dates back to 1814, and in which, during World War Two, the Czech Free Army Choir used to rehearse under Vilem Tausky. The Czech Free Army was based in Leamington and the surrounding area from 1940 to 1942 and the nearby Jephson Gardens contains the monument commemorating the Czech and Slovak soldiers parachuted into Czechoslovakia to assassinate Heydrich, the Nazi Gauleiter.
The 2016 Festival Weekend has a programme predominantly of Czech music, with the Martinu Piano Trio joining the Martinu String Quartet and the Guarneri Piano Trio to give over half the concerts. The London Haydn Quartet, Ensemble 360, the organist Nicholas Morris, baritone Simon Wallfisch, pianist Simon Callaghan and cellist Gemma Rosefield also contribute in other concerts.
With works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn integrated with Czech music, it is Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu who dominate the programming. The final day is given over to music associated with Terezin, the ghetto, in which Jewish artists and intellectuals were held before being sent in the transports to be murdered in Auschwitz and other camps. A remarkable arts scene was created and the Nazis used it to hoodwink the Red Cross about their treatment of Jews.
Works by Haas, Klein, Krasa and Ullmann will be featured in a lunchtime concert given by Simon Wallfisch, Simon Callaghan and a string trio from Ensemble 360, followed by a lecture by Jan Smaczny on this lost generation of composers. The evening concert on 3 May, moving to Holy Trinity Church, will include a performance by Simon Wallfisch and the Martinu String Quartet of Sylvie Bodorova’s Terezin Ghetto Requiem. This was premiered there in 1998 and subsequently performed many times in England, on the continent and in North America.
An exhibition by the Leamington Music Artist in Residence, Jane Williams, A Musical Journey in Paint will be held at the Royal Pump Rooms during the Festival, a ten year retrospective of her work on musicians who have appeared for Leamington Music.
Tickets for the Festival Weekend are on sale at the Leamington Town Hall Box Office. Call 01926 334418 or online www.royalspacentreandtownhall.co.uk. Also www.leamingtonmusic.org, which carries full details about Leamington Music and its concert series.