Heritage: Musical Wimbledon is back once again
Sell-out performances are expected once again at this year’s fifth International Wimbledon Music Festival in November, with a major recital recalling the world’s greatest viola player who lived locally in Marryat Road (see Heritage, 24 February 2012).
Lionel Tertis (1876-1975), said to have been the greatest viola player of the 20th century, lived at 42 Marryat Road, Wimbledon, for his last 14 years. The Tertis Foundation is among the sponsoring organisations for the Wimbledon festival and this year, another viola virtuoso, festival patron Rivka Golani, will be performing works by Schubert, Schumann, Britten and Brahms at St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, on 12 November.
The annual festival, at various locations from 9-24 November, has established a major reputation in the classical music world since it began in 2009. The first festival had just 12 concerts, nearly all of which saw standing ovations. Since then it has grown to 17 events this year.
Wimbledon’s historical links with serious music go back some way. The earliest recorded references are to the Elizabethan Lord of the Manor Thomas Cecil playing the virginals in the 1550s and installing an organ room at the new Manor House in the 1580s. Two centuries later in 1779, George Spencer, the future 2nd Earl and Lord of the Manor, celebrated his 21st birthday playing the chamber organ.
In the 1820s and 30s, the Duchess of Cannizzaro established Wimbledon’s first proper reputation for musical performances. She hosted concerts for selected guests at Cannizaro House, Westside Common, even ignoring religious sensitivities by holding them on Sundays. Her second musical soiree was attended by over 300 people. She also built up a library of musical manuscripts and was regularly seen at high society musical events around the country.
A later resident of Cannizaro House, Mrs Mary Schuster, hosted musical and other cultural events for hundreds of guests in the grounds during the 1880s and 90s. At that time the many cultured wealthy families living in Wimbledon meant private musical recitals became common in the large houses of the day. The first music shops appeared in the Ridgway and Wimbledon Hill Road and both the Wimbledon Choral Society and the School of Music and Art were established.
A wide range of musical entertainment has been heard at Wimbledon Theatre over the past century and much more recently, the annual open air summer festival in Cannizaro Park from 1989 onwards usually featured productions of opera or ballet. The event ceased after 2010 through lack of funding. However the Wimbledon Music Festival has shown that heavy demand continues for live classical performances at other locations.
As well as the viola recital this year, other major performances will include an ensemble playing all of Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos, a piano recital by Angela Hewitt, a performance by the Covent Garden bass Sir John Tomlinson, jazz by pianist Judy Carmichael, and exciting Jewish Klezmer music from eastern Europe, a regular favourite at past festivals.
Theatre and film director Anthony Wilkinson, the festival organizer, has said that when he started the event five years ago he was determined Wimbledon would be on the world map not only for sport but also for music. He has since formed international partnerships with similar festivals elsewhere.
For more information, visit wimbledonsociety.org.uk and www.wimbledonmuseum.org.uk.
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