Ashburton Chamber Music Festival 2024

In this, our 5th annual festival of chamber music, we have a glorious selection of music, three new venues, the return of some wonderful musicians plus a new addition to the ‘family’. For this year’s programme, and more about the music, the musicians and the festival, read on…

Tickets for all of the festival events, 2 Hausmusiks, free events, and the 5 concerts are available now at (10% booking fee) or you can email to reserve. Also email if you’d like to by a festival pass for all of the events: £75 full price or £50 or £40 if you prefer.

Hausmusik: The audience chooses the music from a selection, and the musicians sight-read it! These are fun, informal gatherings in some beautiful private homes. Magical and unique!

Friday, 12 July 2024 at 7pm
Hausmusik #1,
The Brick House, 26 East St, Ashburton, TQ13 7AF

Saturday, 13 July 2024 at 7pm
Hausmusik #2
, Combe Bridge Cottage, Higher Combe, TQ11 0HT

Sunday, 14 July 2024, 4 – 5.15pm Meet the musicians, with Richard Gonski, Ashburton Arts Centre
Conductor Richard Gonski introduces the musicians and this year’s concert music. We’ll hear some snippets and learn more about it and the players.

Tuesday, 16 July 2024, 5 – 6pm
Family Concert
, Ashburton Arts Centre
A relaxed performance of short pieces, with a bit of explanation about them, and all of the instruments. Everyone welcome, of any age.

Wednesday, 17 July 2024 at 7.30pm
Concert #1
, Ashburton Arts Centre
Bach, Prokofiev, Vaughan Williams, 

Thursday, 18 July 2024 at 7.30pm
Concert #2,
Prokofiev, Kurtág, Vaughan Williams, Haydn

Friday, 19 July 2024 at 7.30pm
Concert #3
, St Pancras Church, Widecombe
Bach, Kurtág, Philip Sawyers, Andrew Sterling, Ravel

Saturday, 20 July 2024 at 7.30pm
Concert #4
, St Andrews Church Ashburton
Philip Sawyers, Haydn, Tom Vignieri, Andrew Sterling, 
6.30pm Pre-concert talk by composer, Andrew Sterling.

Sunday, 21 July 2024 at 5pm Concert #5: The Highlights, Ashburton Arts Centre
Another chance to hear the best bits from the festival – let us know what you’d like to hear again.

Open Rehearsals
14, 15 & 17 July, 10am – 1pm
 at Ashburton Arts Centre
Drop in and out of these free sessions – watch the musicians working out their approach to each piece, the tricky bits, discussing interpretation…

The Musicians

Sara Trickey enjoys an exciting and diverse career as a solo violinist, chamber musician and teacher.  She performs at festivals throughout the country and beyond, often with the Rossetti Ensemble or her Odysseus Piano trio. She has made numerous recordings to critical acclaim, including the world premiere recording of David Matthews’ concerto for violin and viola with the English Symphony Orchestra. Her most recent album, of solo violin music, “From an empty room”,  received a double five star review in BBC Music Magazine. Having studied at Cambridge University, RCM and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sara then went on to form the Bronte String Quartet, winners of the Royal Overseas League competition.  She has recently enjoyed collaborations with dancers, curating her own project “Dancing with Apollo” at Kings Place in 2021.  She also loves her teaching at Junior Guildhall and Birmingham Conservatoire.

Stefan Hersh enjoys a varied career, equally at home as a chamber musician, soloist, orchestral musician and pedagogue. He performs through the USA as a guest artist, teacher and lecturer both as a guest performer, and as a member of the Rembrandt Chamber Players. Stefan moved to Chicago from Minneapolis where he was Principal Second Violin with the Minnesota Orchestra, Second Violinist of the Chicago String Quartet, and a member of the Chicago Chamber Musicians. He has held previous positions in San Francisco and Vancouver and been heard as a chamber musician across venues in the USA. He has performed Mozart’s Concertone for Two Violins with violinist Joseph Silverstein and the Minnesota Orchestra and his performance of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with the Minnesota Orchestra drew critical praise and was featured on national radio broadcasts. 

Recipient of an artist fellowship from the Independence Foundation awarded to a small number of exceptional artists, Strad Magazine described American violist David Yang as “lithe and expressive”. David has collaborated with members of the Borromeo, Brentano, Miro, Pro Arte, Vermeer, and Tokyo String Quartets and Apple Hill Chamber Players, Trio Solisti, and Eroica Piano Trios. As an advocate of new music he has commissioned dozens of works. He is Artistic Director of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival (Boston) and Chamber Music at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), he is also a member of string trio Ensemble Epomeo based in the the United Kingdom. Their premiere recording was designated “Critic’s Choice” in Grammophone Magazine. Their second CD included the music of Schnittke, Penderecki, and Kurtag. 

Born in Paris, cellist Tristan Cornut is laureate of many international competitions, notably the ARD in Munich, the Domnick in Stuttgart and the Gaspar Cassado in Hachioji (Japan). He studied at the Paris Conservatory with Roland Pidoux and at the Musikhochschulen Stuttgart and Freiburg with Jean-Guihen Queyras. He has appeared as a soloist with Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the Munich Chamber Orchestra, the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Resonanz and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra among others. Since 2012 he is the principal cellist of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and teaches at the Musikhochschule Freiburg. As a passionate chamber musician, Tristan has shared the stage with musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Salvatore Accardo, Bruno Giuranna, Antonio Meneses, Miguel Da Silva and Daniel Hope and won prizes at the Melbourne, Trondheim and Joseph Haydn (Vienna) chamber music competitions.

Andy Williamson

The Composers

Philip Sawyers began composing as a teenager. Shortly after picking up the violin for the first time at the age of 13,  he studied at Dartington College of Arts and the Guildhall School of Music before working at the Royal Opera House, London until 1997 and freelancing with many other ensembles. Alongside composing, Sawyers now works as a freelance violinist, teacher and adjudicator having spent 12 years as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music until 2013. He remains a proudly self-taught composer and in the last few years his talent has begun to be recognised with major commissions and performances by orchestras in the USA and frequent performances in Europe. His work has been performed by the London Mozart Players, Grand Rapids Symphony, Orchestra of the Swan, Orquesta Sinfnica del Principado de Asturias, Fort Worth, Albany NY, Tuscon, Tulsa, Omaha and Modesto Symphony Orchestras. Commissions include a Third Symphony for the English Symphony Orchestra and a symphonic poem Hommage to Kandinsky for the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra. In 2015 Sawyers was appointed the “John McCabe Composer-in-Association” for the English Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until 2018, when he was named the ESO’s Composer Laureate. 

Andrew Sterling graduated in composition and piano from the Guildhall School of Music and moved to the Paris Conservatoire where he studied under Rubbra and Messiaen. He has enjoyed a varied career as musician and composer, working freelance in many facets of the music world, including performances at the Royal Albert Hall’s Cafe Consort and Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh.

A composer and classical music producer, Tom Vignieri served as director of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, a summer program for young artists held in conjunction with the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Music Center, and as artistic administrator of the Handel and Haydn Society, a professional chorus and period instrument orchestra, working with conductors Christopher Hogwood and Grant Llewellyn. He spent the next 12 years as music director of From the Top, a nationally distributed NPR program showcasing America’s best young classical musicians and has received a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Series as a producer of the PBS series From the Top at Carnegie Hall. As a composer he’s written choral, orchestral and chamber works for ensembles throughout the US and in the UK, with additional performances in Europe and Japan. Tom currently resides in Ashburton, England. 

The Music

At each of the concerts, a different selection will be played from this list. See ticket book for which pieces are in each concert.

Andrew Sterling: Third movement from “The Art of Tapestry” for string quartet with sax improvisation – first performance

Johann Sebastian Bach: Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 for cello

Dark music arising from depths… this is a profound and thought-provoking suite of seven movements. Composed around 1720 this is part of a collection of cello suites written when the cello was a relatively new instrument. This suite is more austere and serious than its partners in the set. Initially solemn and grave, then restless, the music is at moments tense and starkly beautiful, later becoming energetic as the melody skips along in an agreeably toe-tapping dance, before concluding with a merry jig. Curiously for this suite alone in the set, the cello’s highest A string must be tuned a tone lower (scordatura) creating an uneasy and weighty atmosphere to the music… there is “something strong, unstoppable, eternal about this somehow deceptively simple melody written nearly three centuries ago.”

Maurice Ravel – String Quartet in F major.

“Elegant, glowing, and balanced”, this quartet is suffused with Ravel’s own harmonic language and texture. He was still a young composer, aged 27, when he wrote this work but it remains an early demonstration of his skill at juxtaposing formality and sensuality, his inventive harmonies and his unique orchestration of string colours. Critics at the premier were divided by this modern dazzling and lush music, but Debussy sternly advised the young composer, “In the name of the gods of music, and in mine, do not change a single note of what you have written.”.

György Kurtág – Officium Breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky, op. 28 for string quartet

A “masterpiece of European music”, this string quartet of 15 short movements, is a sequence of sonic snapshots, presenting powerful and beautiful explorations of the many textures, colours and combinations between the four string quartet musicians. As John Keillor writes on, “The operative word for this music is intense. There is something desperate and political about the sound, which allows itself to burst through for only a moment. No self-pity, no request or overt yearning is heard; it is simply too grave for that, demonstrating a clenched dignity that knows too well that violently thrashing about will not came the outcome of something terrible. It is the courageous nature of this self-possession that ennobles humanity during its darkest hour, the least easily publicized form of valor. Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky opus 28 shows us what quiet strength is made of, and is among the most inspiring quartets of its age”.

Philip Sawyers – string quartet – commissioned by David Yang

Philip Sawyers (b. 1951) is a widely-respected British composer who spent his early years at Dartington college of Arts and then the Guildhall in London. Originally trained as a violinist, he played for many years in the Royal Opera House orchestra, Covent Garden. He has composed and recorded six symphonies and many chamber and vocal works. Sawyers composed this delightful little Bagatelle for David Yang and the Voyager Ensemble in 2022. It was first performed in the US in 2023. This is its UK premiere.

Josef Haydn – String Quartet Op. 64, no. 5 “The Lark”

Written in 1790 as Haydn was released from his career working for the Esterhazy royal family and set his sights on a performances to satisfy the London audiences, this mature quartet demonstrates Haydn’s mastery of the genre he invented. The Lark’s nickname derives from the soaring opening melody, but in Haydn’s time this work was also known as The Hornpipe for its energetic finale. Engaging and accessible, this music remains a popular crowd pleaser today just as it was received rapturously by his English fans two centuries ago.

Sergei Prokofiev – Sonata for two violins, Opus 56

Written in 1932 whilst on holiday in St Tropez, this joyful duet opens with a graceful counterpoint of eastern European melismas and close harmonies before launching into swirling dance patterns, clear sparkling melodic lines and a classically inspired finale which echoes with a Haydn-like geometry delivered through a theme and variations, which are embellished in typical Prokofiev style with wit and humour as the violins vie to have the final word.

Tom Vignieri – “Walk with Me” for sax and strings commissioned for our first festival, and a perennial favourite!

Ralph Vaughan Williams – Six Studies on English Folk Song for saxophone and string quartet.

An avid folk song collector, Vaughan-Williams chose six much loved folk tunes from across the breadth of England to explore through this set of short and charming studies, including ‘Lovely Across the Water’ from Norfolk, ‘Spurn Point’ from the Yorkshire coast and ‘As I Walked Over London Bridge/Geordie’. Originally composed for the cellist May Mukle, the work transfers elegantly to many solo instruments as diverse as basset horn or tuba!