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THE 2022 York Early Music Festival takes the theme of Connections on its return to a full-scale event after the Covid restrictions of 2020 and 2021.
Taking place in glorious ecclesiastical buildings around the city from July 8 to 16, the festival celebrates the joy of music, fusing musicians and their stories across the ages.
"Concerts are linked together through a maze of interconnecting composers," says festival administrative director Delma Tomlin. "We're delighted to be able to shine a light on the many connections that hold us together in the past and into the future."
At the heart of the 2022 festival will be concerts by three of the best-known Early Music ensembles in the resplendent York Minster, each starting at 7.30pm.
Directed by Harry Christophers, The Sixteen present a sublime programme of choral works focused around Hubert Parry's Songs Of Farewell, complemented by mediaeval carols, works by poet and lutenist Thomas Campion, Howells and Parry and a new commission by Cecilia McDowall, on July 9 in the Nave.
Under the title of Choral Connections, Peter Phillips directs The Tallis Scholars in the Chapter House in a sold-out July 11 programme of Josquin des Prez, Palestrina and Byrd works.
In the Nave, on July 13, Paul McCreesh directs the Gabrieli Consort & Players in A Venetian Coronation: a spectacular recreation of the 1595 Coronation Mass of the Venetian Doge Marina Grimani at St Mark's, Venice.
"The Gabrielis are playing a remarkable piece on a scale that wholly suits York Minster," says Delma. "It has that feeling of 'We're back' writ large about it.
"This lavish sequence of festive music has become synonymous with these performers through recordings in 1989 and 2012 and combines brilliance and solemnity in a compelling and kaleidoscopic programme of masterpieces for combinations of voices, cornetts and sackbuts.
"A Venetian Coronation has been performed in many of the world's greatest cathedrals and concert halls and is revived here in celebration of the Gabrielis' 40th anniversary."
The festival's opening concert, Heaven's Joy: The World Of The Virtuoso Viol, will be given by the viola da gamba duo Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), St Margaret's Church, Walmgate, on July 8 at 7.30pm.
Taking a trip through time and space, they find connections between the late-Elizabethan music of eccentric soldier Tobia Hume and the later improvisatory divisions of Christopher Simpson, through French baroque suites by the mysterious Mr de Ste. Colombe and the "devilish" Forqueray, to reach the classical calm of Christoph Schaffrath in Berlin via JS Bach.
On July 10, at 7.30pm, the Gonzaga Band make their festival debut at the NCEM with works from Venice 1629 by Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi, wind player Dario Castello and violinist Biagio Marini, under director and cornett player Jamie Savan. In the ranks too is organist and harpsichord player Steven Devine, in his last year as a festival artistic advisor.
Further festival highlights will be The Rose Consort Of Viols' Music For Severall (CORRECT) Friends (NCEM, July 11, 1pm); festival debutants La Vaghezza an EEEmerging+ ensemble from Italy presenting Sculpting The Fabric (St Lawrence's Church, Hull Road, July 12, 1pm), and another festival newcomer, theorbo specialist Ori Harmelin (Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers' Hall, Fossgate, July 13, 9.45pm).
Profeti Della Quinta, 2011 winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, return to the NCEM on July 12 to perform Italian Renaissance music from Rore to Monteverdi at 7.30pm; The University of York Baroque Ensemble focus on Mannheim Travels To Fife (St Lawrence's Church, July 13, 1pm); Peter Seymour directs festival regulars Yorkshire Baroque Soloists (St Lawrence's Church, July 14, 7.30pm), and Ensemble Voces Suaves highlight Heinrich Schutz In Italy (St Lawrence's Church, July 15, 7.30pm).
Delma is delighted by the resumption of Minster Minstrels, the NCEM's youth instrumental ensemble, who will be performing late 17th century theatre, court and household music in Fairest Isle at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, on July 10 at 4.45pm.
"Given the pressure on young people's studies over the past two years, director Ailsa Batters has done really well in bringing them back together again," she says.
The York Early Music International Young Artists Competition 2022 provides the grand festival finale on July 16 from 10am to 5.30pm at the NCEM, preceded by informal NCEM recitals by the ten pan-European ensembles on July 14 and 15 at 10.30am.
The winners will receive a professional CD recording contract from Linn Records, a £1,000 cheque and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the National Centre for Early Music.
"We're delighted to be presenting a nine-day festival of music in our beautiful city, after we were caught last year in Boris Johnson's indecision about whether venues could open," says Delma.
"We were, however, able to stream the 2021 festival, drawing new audiences online, but it's lovely to see our patrons return because that's what festivals are all about: a celebration of being together."
Delma concludes: "This year's theme is Connections, connecting and indeed reconnecting music, artists and, of course, our audiences. As always, we'll be celebrating the glorious music of the past but also looking forward, as we're able, at last, to stage the International Young Artists Competition, showcasing and nurturing the performers of the future.
"We're so pleased to be back at full strength for what promises to be one of the most exciting festivals to date."
For the full programme, head to: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/york-early-music-festival/. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.
By Charles Hutchinson