A Chat With Classical Music Programmer, James Waters

We asked James Waters, our Classical Music Programmer, some questions about The Bath Festival to see what we can look forward to in this year’s classical programme.


Q. Would you say that the festival has played it safe with including Bach, Beethoven, Handel and Chopin? 

JW. Part of any festival programme is the world’s finest artists performing great music. Piotr Anderzewski playing Beethoven’s ‘Diabelli Variations’ and Mahan Esfahani playing ‘Bach’s Goldberg Variations’ are as good as it gets. It is equally exciting to hear young talent tackle this wonderful music. As well as welcoming Chineke performing American masterpieces by Gershwin and Kern we are thrilled to welcome ORA singers. With their music-making in a more meditative vein they are acclaimed both for their performances of ravishing renaissance polyphony and for their commissions of new music which refresh the repertoire and bring new musical insights.


Q. What prompted the Classical Stars of the Future series of performances and how did you choose the artists who are appearing this year?

JW: There are more brilliant young classical musicians today than there ever have been. We wanted to give Bath audiences the opportunity to see these wonderful performers as they head for stardom. All are on the cusp of international careers Ben Goldscheider and Isata Kanneh-Mason are BBC Young Musician alumni and Pavel Kolesnikov already plays the world’s greatest concert halls.


Q. How have you selected the orchestral concerts this year?

JW: Chineke is one of the most exciting ensembles around at the moment; Britain’s first BAME orchestra performs with amazing musical voltage including fabulous music-making at the Proms.. To hear this group play timeless American music by Gershwin and Kern will be viscerally exciting. The BBC Concert orchestra are one of Britain’s most versatile groups and hearing them play big musical numbers will send a shiver down the spine. Last but not least our own Bath Philharmonia. Their commitment to youth music development makes them the perfect choice for The Concert for the People of Bath where they are joined by two real stars of the future in Jess Gillam and Sheku’s sister Isata Kanneh Mason.


Q. Now that the festival is a combined celebration of music and literature, how do you think audiences will benefit?

JW: The combination of words and music since 2017 has enabled us to come up with unique cross-genre events and add value to an already terrific literary strand. This year we combine an interview with Oliver Soden about his new biography of Sir Michael Tippett with a performance of his song cycle ‘Heart’s Assurance’ and Jane Glover’s session in her new examination of Handel in London will be illuminated by some of his glorious vocal music.


Q The two Song Play events – The Lure of Hollywood in Film and Song and the Portrait of Richard Rodney Bennett – are both Bath Festival commissions. What can audiences expect?

JW. Bath Festival’s words and music strands meet in song. Neil Brand is celebrated as a presenter for his BBC TV series on Musicals and Film Scores. Iain Burnside frequently broadcasts as well. Together they have devised two programmes which will be am ix of song, chat, film looking at musicians who fled to Hollywood in the 1930’s and at one of British music’s great polymaths. Richard Rodney Bennett had parallel careers as film score and song composer. In addition to Iain and Neil, the two concerts are staffed by 3 terrific young singers making them unmissable.


Q. I appreciate that this is a challenge but could you recommend three festival events that you feel will provide particularly spine-tingling magic moments?

JW. This isn’t a fair question, but I will try. Chineke should be unforgettable and unlike any other orchestral concert the festival has ever presents. Jess Gillam playing John Williams’s saxophone concerto with Bath Philharmonia will be pretty special. On a more traditional note Piotr Anderszewski’s performance of the Diabelli variations will be as good as it gets; by anyone; anywhere in the world!


Check out the full The Bath Festival programme here

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