The Wimbledon International Music Festival (WIMF) – now in its 11th year – is on from 9th to 24th November. The 2019 edition offers a glittering array of unmissable performances, from rousing classical concerts and intimate recitals to jazz nights and masterclasses – all featuring standout musicians from around the world. Lady W interviews Anthony Wilkinson, the Festival Director.
Lady W: Which performance are you most looking forward to during Wimbledon International Music Festival and why?
Anthony Wilkinson: I’m looking forward to our opening concert of Haydn’s wondrous account of the Creation. I’m looking forward to our closing concert with Mozart’s great final symphony The ‘Jupiter’ performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. (Festival Finale Philharmonia Orchestra, 24th November, tickets from £20: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/philharmonia-orchestra.php).
And I’m looking forward to some fabulous fun in between with Walton’s ‘Façades’ and ‘Frabjous Fripperies’ (Façades and Frabjous Fripperies, 17th November, tickets from £25: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/facades.php).
There are no concerts I am ‘most’ looking forward to, because they are ALL my favourites, and they are all going to be fulfilling and enjoyable, with many brilliant musicians from across the globe: Korea, Canada, India, Portugal, Sweden, Germany, China. A truly international festival.
Lady W: Which performance would you recommend for first timers?
Anthony Wilkinson: I think Façades will be great fun (Façades, 17th November, tickets from £25: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/facades.php). Singers, dancers, choirs, and two well-known narrators: Richard Stilgoe and Patricia Hodge.
If you like choral music we have it in abundance: The Academy Choir with London Mozart Players in the ‘Creation’. Armonico Consort, Baroque Players and the English Cornett Sachbut Ensemble with a programme full of the stories of the Popes and the music they ordered for some of the great spaces in Venice, Florence and Rome.
Sonoro Consort are singing their way out of some tight harmonic corners in ‘Musical Labyrinths’ “Easier to get into than to get out of” (Musical Labyrinths, 16th November, tickets from £20: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/labyrinths.php).
Lady W: Do the same musicians perform every year?
Anthony Wilkinson: I try for a great variety of musicians, but the local Academy Choir, performing in Wimbledon for more than 30 years, come every year to give us a full scale ‘kick off’ on our opening night with a great choral masterpiece.
Joby Burgess, the ground-breaking percussionist is back this year for the third time. He had a standing ovation last time.
Tenor Christoph Prégardien returns for a second visit to perform songs by Schubert and Schumann – he’s invited back because he is simply among the very best.
Lady W: Who is the most exciting newcomer for 2019?
Anthony Wilkinson: I’m absolutely delighted to have violinist Hugo Ticciati for the first time. He has a huge reputation for his imaginative programming “One of the most gifted young artistic directors I have encountered” – praise indeed from John Gilhooly, Director of the Wigmore Hall. Hugo runs a superb summer festival in Stockholm and I have invited him and his soloist to give three major concerts, and a family concert. Making him Artist in Residence suggests the high esteem I hold him in. (Hugo Ticciati live, 14th November, tickets from £20: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/method_in_madness.php).
Lady W: Which is the most romantic concert to take a date to?
Anthony Wilkinson: I suppose the Schubert and Schumann song recital by Christoph Prégardien – because they are all love songs. (Schubert & Schumann Lieder Recital, 22nd November, tickets from £18: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/christoph-pregardien.php).
But I personally love the romantic Rachmaninov ‘Symphonic Dances’ to be performed by the celebrated Canadian Piano Duo Louis Lortie and Helene Mercier (Two Pianos – Four Hands, 21st November, tickets from £18: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/two-pianos-two-hands.php).
But if you wanted to thrill your date, you could try Puccini’s Tosca performed by Regents Opera. A romantic horror story – and you might definitely need to hold hands! (Tosca, 20th November, tickets from £18: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/tosco.php, watch video here >).
Lady W: How has WIMF inspired the younger generation in Merton?
Anthony Wilkinson: WIMF is thrilled to have formed a number of important partnership – above all with Merton Music Foundation, another charity devoting itself to bringing music into Merton schools. Together we have had several major events. About 250 [or more] children from Merton schools took part in a large scale, and spectacular production of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Noye’s Fludde’. The same year we also ran a masterclass for 200 young recorder players who performed in the evening with one of the most outstanding recorder players in the world.
Another year, we held an all day event to open St Mark’s Academy new hall, with Merton children enthusiastically playing Jazz, steel drums, a cappella singing. Last year we had a schools ‘PlayFest’ where children performed throughout the day
But I think the most spectacular event was associated with Remembrance Day 2017 in which twenty thousand [yes 20,000] Merton primary school children from 54 schools participated in learning and singing four World War marching songs, then formed into groups to march from one school to the next, offering poppies, and the four songs they sang. The Wimbledon Festival that year on November 11th began with 50 children marching into Sacred Heart Church, presenting their poppies to the conductor. Performing their four songs, then joining with the Orchestra, Senior Choir and forming the children’s chorus in a performance of a major new work that went on to be performed in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Lady W: How many performances will you be attending this year?
Anthony Wilkinson: I personally would not wish to miss a single one. As I said, they are all my favourites.
Lady W: Will refreshments be served during the interval?
Anthony Wilkinson: Yes there will be refreshments during intervals. Drink up!
Lady W: WIMF receives a lot of great national press and quoted in the Evening Standard: “Now firmly established as one of the capital’s major autumn events, it seems to get better and better.” Do you think 2019 will receive the same praise?
Anthony Wilkinson: Finger’s crossed that some major critics will attend. I’ve heard from the Evening Standard and Musical Opinion both of whom will be coming.
Lady W: WIMF is a well established festival in its 11th year, what are your ambitions for the future?
Anthony Wilkinson: My ambitions for the future are to continue to bring major artists and wonderful music to the Festival in Wimbledon. Finance is always a major consideration – even headache – so if any readers wish to preserve this cultural movement in Wimbledon please contact the Festival (firstname.lastname@example.org).
One major constraint is the availability of suitable venues. I boast of having the Philharmonia Orchestra, but our largest venue can take only only a small section of the orchestra. We get a maximum of 35 on a crowded, extended stage at Trinity Church. Of course a full symphony orchestra of 90, or more, needs much larger facilities.
However we are lucky to have a perfect site for building a major concert hall for London – and its in Wimbledon. Presently an open air car park, and it is less than 200 yards from Wimbledon station with its excellent transport connectivity. (Read more about Wimbledon Concert Hall here >).
We already have initial designs from Frank Gehry, one of the most celebrated architects in the world, know for his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao [the local Bilbao council says it has contributed €4 billion euros to the local economy – think what it could do to Merton!) and the joyous ‘Dancing House’ [Fred and Ginger] now a major attraction in Prague.
With this great new facility, Wimbledon could become the major cultural suburb of the greatest cultural city in the world – and Wimbledon International Music Festival could develop along with it into becoming a major musical force.
We already received acclaim in the journal Music Opinion. “One of the most distinguished festival in the UK, perhaps even the world.” One day we could be.
The Wimbledon International Music Festival 2019 runs from November 9th to 24th. Tickets available online or via the WIMF Box Office (0333 666 3366); visit www.wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk for full listings and more information.
Written By: Eyes of Lady Wimbledon | Editor