Ireland: Songs of a Wayfarer
McNeff: The Pilgrim Rabbit Walks the Westwood **world premiere**
Schumann: Mary Stuart Songs
Bennett: The History of the Thé Dansant
The first ever New Paths festival concert included Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebe (‘To the distant beloved’), and tonight we welcome one of the UK’s most prolific pianists, Martin Roscoe, to perform Schumann’s Fantasy, which quotes that same work, from a time when Schumann was forced apart from his own future wife Clara.
Inspired by the wayfarer’s lamp in the priest’s room, used to guide travellers across the Westwood, we programme Ireland’s Songs of a Wayfarer, performed as part of our focus on historic RCM composers by former RCM student Edward Grint.
New Paths has commissioned new music for every one of its festivals, and our premiere tonight for oboe and piano also takes its inspiration from the town of Beverley: Stephen McNeff imagines that the Pilgrim Rabbit of St Mary’s has the magical properties to transform from cold medieval stone to warm fur and whisker, going exploring at night to take advantage of the rich pickings available on the Westwood.
Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at the age of six days, was sent to France aged five, widowed at eighteen, imprisoned for almost twenty years, and eventually beheaded by Elizabeth I. Schumann sets five short poems, attributed to Mary herself, pleading and praying at different stages of this extraordinary life; her sense of doom perhaps mirrored his own at this late stage of his life. Noted mezzo-soprano Katie Bray sings these and Richard Rodney Bennett’s frothy History of the Thé Dansant, a vivid depiction of 1920s holidays in the South of France based on postcards discovered in the composer’s parents’ attic.