Lichfield Festival 2018 - review with pictures

Orchestral splendour, intimate chamber music, colourful dance and a touch of vibrant jazz - the Lichfield Festival had, as usual, a great deal to offer the crowds drawn to the city’s cathedral and other venues.

Yazz Ahmed at Lichfield Cathedral. Picture: John Watson
Yazz Ahmed at Lichfield Cathedral. Picture: John Watson

The festival, from July 4-14, is never short of great music, and this year the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - under the baton of Edward Gardner - performed the Schubert Symphonies 5 and 8 in a programme also featuring works by Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss, while the BBC National Orchestra of Wales featured soloist Danny Driver in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2.

I often find the festival’s chamber music performances, usually held in the city’s smaller churches, to be the most engaging, and this was certainly the cause with string quartet The Carduccis in a dynamically-played programme of Haydn, Piazzolla and Debussy at St Michael’s.

The quartet were among several artists-in-residence during the festival, and appeared in other settings including a candle-lit performance in the cathedral.

Young talent is always a strong feature of the festival, and cellist Ariana Kashefi gave a powerful performance of works by Brahms and Shostakovich with pianist Somi Kim at Wade Street Church.

But my personal highlight of the festival was a stunning concert by the chamber orchestra La Nuova Musica with soprano soloist Lucy Crowe at the cathedral - her voice was simply glorious in a programme including Handel, Vivaldi and Corelli.

Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Picture: John Watson

Also in the cathedral, trumpeter Yazz Ahmed premiered her new composition Nurrquss with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra - a complex work inspired by her Bahraini heritage, with richly coloured harmonies and exotic rhythms.

Dance performances by Ballet Cymru and Somnium, featuring choreography by Strictly Come Dancing stars Neil and Katya Jones, cabaret performances by Jessica Walker, and folk music from Kris Drever and Julie Fowlis, all showed that once again the festival’s strength is in artistic variety.

By John Watson

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