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Westport Festival of Chamber Music returns

Ciara Moynihan

Classical musicians are once again warming up and tuning their instruments ahead of the much-anticipated return of the Westport Festival of Chamber Music, which will take place  from Friday, September 10, to Sunday, September 12. The cancellation of last year’s concert due to the Covid outbreak was a source of huge disappointment to the organisers – who had put a huge effort into the 2020 programme – as well as to would-be concert goers.
However, the festival is now back with a perfectly pitched bang, and concerts will once again be held in Westport Town Hall Theatre and Holy Trinity Church.
The programme includes a diverse range of pieces, with everything from the classical music’s big names to some carefully hand-picked works by less well-known composers. And this year the festival once again features some of the finest of performers from Ireland and beyond: The Sacconi Quartet, Nicholas Daniel, Timothy Ridout, Giovanni Guzzo, Christian Elliot, Hugh Tinney and our very own Camerata Westport.

Top talent
Among these acts are the Sacconi Quartet – comprised of Ben Hancox (violin), Hannah Dawson (violin), Robin Ashwell (viola) and Cara Berridge (cello). Celebrating their 20th anniversary during the 2021-22 season, this UK-based classical-music string quartet is recognised throughout the world for its creativity, integrity of interpretation, and infectious energy and enthusiasm. The quartet also enjoys a busy international career, performing regularly across the world, at Europe’s major venues, in recordings and on radio broadcasts.  
The Sacconis’ prolific recording career covers a huge range of classical repertoire, from Haydn to present day. Their latest album, featuring world-premiere recordings of works by Roxanna Panufnik, was recently released on Signum Classics.
Also on the line-up is oboist Nicholas Daniel, who is one of the UK’s most distinguished soloists as well as a highly successful conductor. Over the years, he has become an important ambassador for music in a myriad of fields, and in recognition of this, he was recently awarded the prestigious Queen’s Medal for Music.
Viola player Timothy Ridout, also from the UK, is one of Europe’s leading young soloists. Equally in demand as a recitalist and chamber musician, his he has played at distinguished venues across the UK, Europe and Japan. He plays on viola by Peregrino di Zanetto c.1565–75 on loan from a generous patron of Beare’s International Violin Society. He released his debut album in spring 2017: ‘Henri Vieuxtemps: Complete works for Viola, with pianist Ke Ma’.
Venezuelan-born violinist Giovanni Guzzo is hailed as one of the most versatile and charismatic musicians of his generation. Through his work as soloist, conductor and leader of some of today’s top ensembles, he captivates audiences around the world with his thrilling performances. Following his solo debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, critics described him as a wonderfully magnetic performer.
Canadian cellist Christian Elliott enjoys a varied career as a chamber musician, soloist,  arranger and composer. During the past year-and-a-half, he has arranged and recorded works of all genres, from the 16th to the 21st century. These videos can be found on his YouTube channel, ‘Christian Elliott cellist’, and several are featured on the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s Facebook page.
Dublin-born pianist Hugh Tinney, no stranger to the Westport Festival of Chamber Music, has performed in over 35 countries throughout Europe, the US, Latin America and the Far East. A prize in the 1987 Leeds Piano Competition earned him a busy career in the UK, performing with many major orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, City of Birmingham, Royal Liverpool, Royal Scottish and BBC National of Wales. During his career, he has performed more than 60 different concertos.
Last but far from least on the line-up is Camerata Westport. The festival organisers are ‘particularly delighted’ to feature these musicians from the west of Ireland. Camerata Westport will perform music written by local violinist Patrick Early. Joining Patrick will be Jessica Whitehead (violin), Cillian Houston (viola) and Anna Houston (cello).

Wonderful weekend
The opening Friday-night concert in Westport Town Hall Theatre will start at 8pm with Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata for Piano and Violin No 9 in A major, Op 47, performed by Hugh Tinney on piano and Giovanni Guzzo on violin. Following an interval, Timothy Ridout will perform Paul Patterson’s ‘Tides of Mananan’ on the viola.
The evening will be completed with Mozart’s Quartet for Oboe and Strings K 370 (368b), performed by Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Christian Elliott (cello), Timothy Ridout (viola) and Giovanni Guzzo (violin).
Saturday night sees oboist Nicholas Daniel and pianist Hugh Tinney return to Westport Town Hall Theatre’s stage for a performance of Mozart’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano, K 376. This will be followed by Brahms’ Sextet in G major, Op 36, performed by the Sacconi Quartet, Timothy Ridout on viola and Christian Elliott on cello.
Sunday is a jam-packed schedule, with the day’s entertainment starting bright and early, at 11.30am in Westport Town Hall Theatre. The Sacconi Quartet will perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No 8 in C minor, Op 110, followed by Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op 44 (accompanied by Hugh Tinney on the piano).
The action moves to the beautiful Holy Trinity Church in the afternoon, with violinist Giovanni Guzzo performing Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata for Solo Violin in D minor, ‘Ballade’, Op 27 no 3 at 2.30pm. This will be followed by Gerald Finzi’s Interlude for Oboe and String Quartet, Op 21, performed by the Sacconi Quartet and oboist Nicholas Daniel, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op 131, by the Sacconi Quartet.
The three days of chamber music will be rounded off by Camerata Westport’s performance of Patrick Early’s ‘Cloudbase’. The concert will feature poetry from Westport poet Ger Reidy, and take place against a backdrop of slides reflecting on various topics, including Brexit and lockdown. Sounds like a fascinating  and fitting end to a festival that so many are delighted to see return.

For tickets, contact Westport Town Hall Theatre box office on 098 28459, or visit www.westportchambermusic.ie.