By Mike Tilling
At the core of the three-day event was the Ensemble 360. Based in Sheffield, this association of musicians, largely playing chamber music and specialising in music in the round, have an approach ideally suited to the Stephen Joseph.
The weekend began with the film Interlude in Prague, a fictional account of Mozart attending the last night of The Marriage of Figaro in that city, while conceiving his next opera, Don Giovanni.
On the Saturday there were morning activities for children and a family concert.
Then, a step into the unknown as I joined 25 others in rehearsing Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus under the direction of Stuart Overington. We were preparing for a performance that evening. I draw a discreet veil over the quality of my own performance, but the more experienced singers carried the day.
Meanwhile, Ensemble 360 worked their magic.
Oddly enough, the opening piece was by Beethoven, his Variation on La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni featuring the oboe of Adrian Wilson. I am now so used to interesting and informative introductions by members of Ensemble 360, that it feels strange when others simply tune up and play.
Also on the Saturday night programme was the Mozart Piano Trio in C, and the Piano Quartet in G Minor. In the course of these we heard the beautifully mellow tones of Bjorg Lewis’ cello; the agile violin of Benjamin Nabarro; the subtle viola of Ruth Gibson and the rock-like piano of Tim Horton.
The pace did not flag on Sunday.
Broadcaster and writer Paul Allen gave an illustrated lecture on Mozart to a small but appreciative audience, and then on into a second full-length Mozart programme.
All of the artists mentioned above featured somewhere in the Violin sonata in B Flat; the Oboe Quartet; Adagio for cor anglais and String Trio (reprising Ave Verum Corpus) and Piano Quartet in E Flat.