Express & Star

Review: Accomplished quartet and Chinese virtuoso shine at Lichfield Festival - with more to come

The Lichfield Festival has for many years presented a programme with plenty of variety - mainly focussed on classical music, but with jazz, folk music and drama too, writes John Watson.

The Brodsky Quartet

This year festival director Damian Thantrey and his team have exceeded themselves, with a rich programme also embracing world music, soul music and opera as well as orchestral, choral and chamber music.

Appropriately, though, the strongest focus remains on a very broad programme of classical music, including a stunning performance on Friday, July 5, by the immensely accomplished Brodsky Quartet, who this year are performing concerts featuring the entire string quartet works of Shostakovich.

The cycle continues throughout the festival at The Hub arts centre, and opened with dazzling interpretations of the composer’s String Quartets from 1 to 3. The shimmering lightness of Quartet No. 1 was a joyful introduction, in contrast to the darker, emotionally intense Quartet No. 2, and the complex but entertainingly playful Quartet No.3.

Marvellous playing - but the enjoyment was marred to some extent by the background thump of a disco at a nearby pub throughout the performance, and also by a clearly sadly deranged audience member who muttered gibberish to himself all too frequently during the music.

On Saturday, young Chinese bassoon virtuoso Siping Guo gave a dazzling display of his mastery of the instrument at St Michael’s Church. He opened unaccompanied - and quite brilliantly - with the Sonata in D Minor by CPE Bach before being joined by French-born piano accompanist Apolline Khou for a masterpiece by CPE’s more celebrated father JS Bach, the Sonata in G minor, originally written for the historic string instrument the viola da gamba.

Siping Guo

Works by Bozza and Tansman offered another stylistic dimension after the baroque pieces, before Siping launched into the spectacular Bassoon Sonata by the composer Saint-Saens, which he played quite stunningly from memory.

The Andante e Rondo Ungarese by CM Weber concluded a truly memorable concert.

On Sunday, jazz singer and pianist Wendy Kirkland and her quartet gave a hugely entertaining show at The Hub, in a tribute to the legendary American singer-pianist Blossom Dearie. Songs including Blossom’s own songs Sweet Georgie Fame and Blossom’s Blues and fine standard songs like East Of The Sun, all enhanced considerably by fine guitar solos from Wendy’s husband Pat Sprakes.

The festival continues until July 14, with performances featuring artists including the Carice Singers, drama from The Lord Chamberlain’s Men with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun, singer Joe Stilgoe, wine expert Oz Clarke in an evening of vino plus music from the Armonico Consort, Ballet Cymru with Romeo and Juliet, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Finnish cellist Senja Rummukainen.

For the programme and booking details see