Review of the Mendelssohn on Mull Festival

As expected the 25th Mendelssohn on Mull festival turned out to be a triumph! As in previous years the concerts were spread out across the week in different locations. The programme was divided up into  3 groups; each with their own mentor and students from some of the most prestigious music establishments in the UK. Many of the young musicians were returning for the second or third time and it was a privilege to see how they had grown artistically and to chart their performance successes; many having had recital experience at prestigious venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room and St Martin's -in- the Fields. As in previous years all the concerts were free, well attended and involved the local community.

Just to put the record straight the festival is not really a festival, is not exclusively on Mull and does not actually have much Mendelssohn included in the programme! Each year there is a strong presence of  Haydn and Mozart and seems more baroque than classical. On this theme for years now, from a musical point of view,  I have been in something of a baroque box. It's a very nice box but it is one that I've been longing to escape from but never quite knew how. I'm glad to say that this year I  managed to achieve this and, somewhat surprisingly, found myself enjoying the more expansive sounds of Brahms and Mendelssohn. One other surprise was the stunning 8th quartet in C minor by Shostakovitch. The work was written in Dresden in 1960 and is considered to be one of the most important works of the 20th century. Little else in the history of music is as raw and as painful as this. On publication the work was dedicated to "the victims of Fascism and war". Stunning! On a lighter note, however, the string quintet in E major by Luigi Boccherini  was an absolute delight.

For many of us though the last night proved the most entertaining. All the musicians were asked to prepare a work/set of works  of their own choosing. This was an opportunity for both mentors and students alike to let their hair down a bit and perhaps go a little "off piste". Some going where no man has ever been before!  We had an obscure Armenian lament, lively Hungarian folk tunes, a singing cellist with perfect German diction and even a couple of viola students playing the same instrument! However, the evening got really out of hand when 3  female mentors  came out dressed as witches and sang  in the barber shop style, with just a hint of Shakespeare thrown in for good measure. However, when it came to the finale, it was business as usual when all the musicians came together to perform Mendelssohn's Octet.

For me a trip the Hebridean Isle of Mull is always a joy. To combine this with such sublime music puts it in the realm of the angels. Thanks to all concerned. Look forward to next year, which starts on Monday 7th July 2014. Hopefully, after reading this, you might feel inspired to give it a try. For more information.

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