Piano Music Masterclasses Inspiring Young Generation; the Hellensmusic Festival Is a Week-Long Celebration of Chamber Music. Its Artistic Dirtector Christian Blackshaw Tells CHRISTOPHER MORLEY How the Concept Came about Y

The Birmingham Post (England), May 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

Piano Music Masterclasses Inspiring Young Generation; the Hellensmusic Festival Is a Week-Long Celebration of Chamber Music. Its Artistic Dirtector Christian Blackshaw Tells CHRISTOPHER MORLEY How the Concept Came about Y


WITH elements in the building dating back nearly 1,000 years to the time of the unfortunate King Harold, Hellens is a manor house deeply rooted in history.

And for the last three years this very special place in Herefordshire's sleepy village of Much Marcle has brought a bevy of young musicians to participate in a week of music-making, with a focus upon chamber music.

Artistic director of the Hellensmusic Festival is the pianist Christian Blackshaw, who tells me how the concept came about.

"I was introduced by mutual friends to Adam Munthe, who is the owner of Hellens. He's very persuasive, very charming, extremely charismatic, one of the most remarkable people I've ever met!

"He wanted to start a music festival at his home. I was quite resistant at the beginning, and I wasn't sure if the piano was good enough. But little by little I felt 'this is a now or never moment', so we put on the first-ever festival in 2013, by which time they'd acquired a wonderful Steinway instrument.

"And it's been welcomed in that part of the world with real enthusiasm, the whole idea of holding a little festival over four or five days around the piano, and what it has to offer.'' The pianistic element is focussed on chamber music, so how has Christian found his players? "I know some extraordinary players in the European orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Royal Scottish National), and miraculously they agreed to come, finding the time to do so. And now we're into our fourth year and the festival has incrementally grown. It's so heartwarming."

Adam Munthe, himself an owner of five pianos, a harpsichord and a chamber organ, takes over the discussion, and his passion for educational outreach is overwhelming.

"We hold masterclasses all over the site," he enthuses as we speak over coffee in a baroniallypanelled sitting-room, log fire blazing, "and we involve local schools as well as students from national conservatoires.

"We see primary schoolchildren sitting still, listening to a masterclass, and their jaws drop. …

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