West Dean – the name conjures up well appointed gardens, a flint covered manor in the middle of the rolling Sussex countryside, sheep, cream teas, Surrealists, the eccentric Edward James and a lively yet dignified community of craftsmen and women, engaged in furniture making, restoration, stained glass, tapestry, blacksmithing, and crafts we only read about in books.
So here we are, a classical guitar course with Xue Fei Yang, Fabio Zanon, Johannes Moller, the Vida Quartet, Arne Brattland, Alison Bendy and this year’s new organiser Andrew Gough amongst the sheep and chillis.
The open day was a festival in itself, with guitars makers, concerts (including our NYGE concert and one by Young Musician of the Yeqr finalist Jadran Duncomb) a masterclass by Fei and some nice cups of tea. NYGE’s performance with Belinda Evans was truyl moving and a fitting tribute to Chris Susans, who bowed out after 12 years as MD, organiser, Head of Pastoral Care, conductor and arranger with a fine performance of Britten’s Simple Symphony. There is no video of this, but you can watch us at Easter in the Villa Lobos and Hebridean Songs.
I had just arrived hotfoot from the Menuhin Hall (where NYGE had their course) to the interval of Fei’s concert – a masterly second half with Bach’s Chaconne (I have now heard this 6 times this summer), Henze’s Drei Tentos and a fiery Libra Sonatine by Roland Dyens (which she described as the lighter part of the programme!). Unfortunately I had missed Britten’s Nocturnal and Fei’s daring solo arrangement of the Gloriana suite.
As an encore, she kindly played my arrangement of “Spring Breeze” a popular Taiwanese song, which I think was used in a soap opera.
Here is a previous performance she did:
Next day’s concert was by the astonishing Fabio Zanon, both huge in presence and sound, playing another massive guitar work, Ponce’s Variations and Fugue on Folias, with some characterful and totally engaging Albeniz, Granados and music collected from the Latin American countries Fabio has visited. The concert started with Chromatic Pavan and Galliard by Peter Philips and Tansman’s Mazurka, both undeservedly neglected by contemporary guitarists.
Here is Fabio playing Aire Indio by Eduardo Oaba
Last night was the Vida Quartet – absolutely breathtaking virtuosity and and tone colour, playing Britten (in Chris Susan’s arrangement again), Malcolm Arnold, their incredible Rhapsody in Blue, Gorb, Crittenden and Bizet.
Here is the Vida Quartet playing Malcolm Arnold’s English Dance No.5
Sasha Levtov, the genial spirit behind West Sussex Guitar Club , expressing what all the audiences felt was beside himself with enthusiasm and running out of compliments as he skipped into the green room on each successive night.
Tonight I will have the pleasure of hearing Johannes Moller for the third time this summer.
The West Dean Guitar Orchestra and I are also working toward the final concert on Friday in an arrangement of my Etude “Heart of the Rose” made specially for the occasion, with Alison Bendy playing the solo guitar part.
With the installation of new management and extended reach of the West Dean organisation, who knows what next year will bring?