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CULTURE : Sun sets on festivals; Classical Music Preview.

Byline: by Christopher Morley

As the current round of major festivals within our area comes to an end with the final weekend of what has been a refreshingly varied programme at Lichfield, there are still plenty of enticing events going on around the region.

Leasowes Bank Farm is currently celebrating its 25th season of 'Music at Leasowes Bank' in one of the loveliest parts of the beautiful county of Shropshire. Jazz saxophonist John Williams and his wife Frances attract music-lovers of all genres to their farmhouse at Ratlinghope, high in the East Onny Valley between the Stiperstones and the Long Mynd, and they have seen their cosy little music-room in a converted barn (complete with an excellent grand piano) host several premieres from some of the country's major 'classical' composers.

On Wednesday comes the latest of these Festival commissions when the Chamber Music Company gives the first performance of David Matthews' Piano Trio no.3. The programme also includes Mozart's B-flat Trio, Dvorak's in F minor, and the chance to hear again a 1987 Leasowes Bank commission, Upaj by the much-loved John Mayer, who died last year.

Another barn contains a bar and is the venue for exhibitions by local artists and photographers. All details (including vital directions) on 01743 790769.

Wyastone Leys in Monmouth, not far beyond the end of the M50, continues its attractive summer concert series with tomorrow's instalment in its exploration of the complete Mozart piano concertos with Jeremy Menuhin directing the English Symphony Orchestra from the keyboard. The C major concerto K246 and the E-flat concerto K271 (the latter arguably the first of the 'great' concertos) are topped and tailed by the famous Eine kleine Nachtmusik and the sunny A major Symphony K201 (7.45pm, details on 01600 891090).

Northeastwards into the Cotswolds, Longborough Festival Opera, set in idyllic surroundings between Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold, tomorrow night opens its new production of Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (the name of one of Wagner's disciples, later appropriated by the pop-singer Gerry Dorsey). Sung in English, the show is conducted by the great Wagnerian conductor Anthony Negus, and begins at 6.30pm with a long supper interval (dinners can be pre-booked, or Glyndebourne-style picnickers are welcome). Repeats are on Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with all details on 01451 830292.

An operatic rarity makes a welcome appearance in Birmingham on Saturday, when the Repertory Theatre hosts a production of Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden by the much-acclaimed Music Theatre Wales in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Premiered in 1970, this self-examining tale of identity and rediscovery is very much a child of its period (and uses elements of popular music-culture of the time), but also reminds us of great antecedents, not least The Tempest and Cosi fan Tutte (7.30pm, running time approximately two hours, with details on 0121 236 4455).

And now firmly back in Birmingham, the Conservatoire is the venue next week for an exciting new summer school for gifted pianists of any age or nationality. The Birmingham International Piano Academy, directed by the acclaimed young Irish pianist David Quigley (himself a multiple prize-winner and Conservatoire graduate), features during the week of its activities public concerts in the Adrian Boult Hall by major international soloists.

On Monday Balazs Szokolay gives a varied recital beginning with Haydn and ending with Chopin, with visits to other nationalities in between, while Wednesday's programme from Peter Jablonski homes in on Debussy (including the complete first book of Preludes), Chopin and Liszt (7.30pm, all details on 0121 236 5622
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 14, 2005
Words:592
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