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Celebrating music and place in 2024

posted on 13/02/24

Ensuring that ‘dinner takes place at dinner time’ may seem like a minor detail when considered alongside the various administrative feats planning an MRT Music Festival can pose. However, to Creative Director Martin Randall, it is emblematic of what makes our festivals so unique – we have the power to arrange every element as we see fit; we choose the venues, the music and the musicians and arrange them in a sequence that makes sense musically and emotionally.

The crucial ingredient is the marriage of music with place. Our drive to deliver an exceptional experience of both has attracted loyal audiences and has enabled us to borrow the talents of world class musicians and leading musicologists.

To showcase our 2024 programme, we recently interviewed four leading contributors to the forthcoming festivals. The conversations are presented in a free webinar (which can be viewed here). The presentation begins with an insightful conversation between MRT's Artistic Director Lizzie Watson and Martin Randall who discuss the inception and evolution of the Festivals.

In anticipation of our brand new Salzburg String Quartet Festival (7–12 May 2024), Dr Katy Hamilton recounts the rich history of the string quartet and revels in the scope and variety of the ensemble type. With 12 concerts in six days, audiences can expect to experience the vast scale of this musical genre. Katy urges participants to listen out for Janáček’s Intimate Letters and to consider the arresting sound world they represent in contrast with the other major pieces that will also feature. Intimate Letters will be performed by the Wihan Quartet, who have acquired a remarkable reputation for interpreting both the repertoire of the Classical and Romantic periods as well as celebrating their national Czech heritage. 


Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg, where the Wihan Quartet will perform.

For many, including musicologist Richard Wigmore, Mozart is the apogee of melodic grace and beauty. Mozart Along the Danube (28 July–4 August 2024) will be MRT’s first festival devoted to this composer and 95% of the festival programme will be a varied diet of his works. Many of the concerts will take place in the resplendent 18th-century buildings that decorate the banks of the Danube, and nearby. One such venue is the Rittersaal, a mid-18th-century hall within the Hofburg, Vienna, where Richard is most looking forward to hearing the Mozartists’ A–Z of Mozart Operas. This ingenious conspectus, designed by Ian Page, indulges Richard’s vision of Mozart as a true operatic who ‘was never happier than with the smell of greasepaint in his nostrils’.


Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford. By David Lowe ©

Dr Stephen Darlington has been involved with every iteration of MRT’s Divine Office festival since its conception in 2013. He has executed two roles: initially as director of music for Christ Church Cathedral Choir and more recently as the festival’s expert speaker. Based in the historically apt location of Oxford, The Divine Office (30 September–4 October 2024) invites participants to partake in the eight services of the monastic day, performed at their intended times between 1.00am and 10.00pm. It is a powerful spiritual experience for all involved and it demands a great deal from the performers – in 2024, the highly revered Tenebrae and Stile Antico, with chant by Collegium Gregorianum. According to Stephen, the greatest challenge for the choirs is to convey a sense of circadian ritual, as if the worship is eternal. For him this intensifies the performance, creating the capacity to plumb ‘the depths of the soul’.

The Italians seem to have an understanding that ‘if you’re going to make something you may as well make it beautiful’. With this Ian Page, founder of The Mozartists, encapsulates the wonders of Syracuse where the ensemble performed at the first Martin Randall festival to take place here in 2019. We are delighted to have the company return in 2024 to close Opera in Sicily (18–24 October 2024) with The Marriage of Figaro. Ian describes the universal appeal of Figaro comparing it to spring water, ‘it’s as if it has always been there’. In preparation for the Festival, but naturally of interest to a wider audience, Ian will be giving a series of online talks on the opera starting in September.

2024 is sizing up to be a thrilling year for MRT music in magnificent locations. We do look forward to seeing you there.

By Romey Kinsella.

Browse our Music Festivals here.