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Culture: Charming flutes and sweet violins.

Byline: Christopher Morley

Question: where in the Midlands is a pretty riverside town resounding day after day to the tones of 85 flutes and 20 violins?

Answer: Stratford-upon-Avon, where currently two major international festivals are rubbing shoulders with thousands of tourists and theatregoers.

The Stratford Community Flute Festival, which this year has attracted 85 students from all over the world, approaches its conclusion with an afternoon tea concert today at King Edward's School (3pm), a young artists' concert platform bringing 'The Magic of Mancini' at the Town Hall tomorrow (7.30pm), and the final of the Albert Cooper Flute Competition at 2pm in the Town Hall on Saturday. The same evening that comfortable venue hosts the Final Gala Concert (7.30pm, all details on 01789 261561).

Meanwhile, 'The Virtuoso Violin' has been celebrating its fourth festival under the direction of Stratford-based international violinist Rimma Sushanskaya.

This acclaimed musician, the last pupil of the great David Oistrakh, founded the festival with the encouragement of the great Bach keyboard player Rosalyn Tureck, and the course, restricted to 20 students, is designed to inspire in-depth understanding of the music of Bach and Paganini.

Most of the festival's excellent work is devoted to masterclasses and individual tuition, but there are also two public events. The first is on Saturday at Mason Croft, hub of the festival, when a recital evening will be given by students on the course. On Monday at Holy Trinity Church Rimma Sushanskaya will demonstrate her newly-discovered skills with the baton, when she conducts a student-based orchestra in an all-string programme including Britten's Simple Symphony and the Bach Double Concerto. Both events begin at 7.30pm, with details on 01789 293061.

Slightly older than 'The Virtuoso Violin' (almost three hundred years, in fact), the Three Choirs Festival this year is based in Worcester, and begins on Saturday at the Cathedral with Bernstein's Candide Overture, Gerald Finzi's For St Cecilia and Mendelssohn's Symphony no.2 (Hymn of Praise). The exciting young soprano Rachel Nicholls is among the soloists, and the Festival Chorus and CBSO are conducted by Worcester Cathedral organist Adrian Lucas (7.45pm).

The CBSO is returning as orchestra-in-residence at the Three Choirs after an absence of many years (let's not consider the politics nor the financial implications here), and on Sunday night is joined in Worcester Cathedral by one of its regular partners, the City of Birmingham Choir under Lucas for an all-Russian programme of Shostakovich (Festival Overture), Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky and Rachmaninov The Bells-- the last-named heard last season at Symphony Hall from these forces). One can only feel sorry for the Festival Chorus not being invited to this party (7.45pm).

Another Birmingham-centred choir comes to the table on Tuesday, when Ex Cathedra performs 'Occidentall Starre', subtitled 'Elizabeth I and her influence' at a late-night candlelit concert in Worcester Cathedral (9pm), when the singers are joined by the viol group Fretwork and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts.

A full programme of events continues until the end of next week, with all details on 01905 610538.

Birmingham, meanwhile, hosts two of the UK's great youth ensembles on Saturday. At the CBSO Centre in Berkley Street the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain performs under the baton of former CBSO tuba-player James Gourlay (7.30pm, details on 021 767 4050), while up the road in Symphony Hall the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland is joined by cellist Quirine Viersen in the Elgar Concerto. This concert begins with Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila Overture and concludes with Shostakovich's epic, post-Stalinist Symphony No 10. Takuo Yuasa, whom I witnessed doing magnificent work with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland right at the beginning of this year, conducts (7.30pm).

Another youth orchestra comes to Symphony Hall on Tuesday, when the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands makes a welcome return visit, this time bringing a programme of music by Prokofiev, Weber (Arno Stoffelsma the soloist in one of the heroic clarinet concertos), Martijn Padding's Kier ('narrow opening'), a new commission, and Ravel's wonderful orchestration of Mussorgky's fabulous Pictures at an Exhibition<. Jurjen Hempel conducts (7.30pm).

Before all that, though, Symphony Hall welcomes tonight the excellent Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in a sort-of Baltic programme: Tchaikovsky's emotional symphonic fantasy Francesca da Rimini and elegant Variations on a Rococo Theme (Jian Wang the cello soloist), the Toccata by the Estonian composer Edward Tubin (born 100 years ago) and the stirring Fifth Symphony of Sibelius. The 24-year-old Venezuelan who has been making quite a stir in the musical world, Gustavo Dudamel, conducts, replacing the indisposed Neeme Jarvi (7.30pm, all Symphony Hall details on 0121 780 3333

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Jurjen Hempel conducts at Symphony Hall on Tuesday
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 4, 2005
Words:782
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