Wimbledon International Music Festival Solem-Quartet-Please_Credit_Bertie_Watson

Wimbledon International Music Festival

Wimbledon International Music Festival 2020

Wimbledon International Music Festival director, Anthony Wilkinson, tells us how he is creating a closeup and personal experience for classical music lovers, as the November festival goes virtual this year

Back in 2009, Wimbledon International Music Festival launched with the mission to bring the finest artists to audiences in south west London, as well as give a platform to artists in the early stages of their careers, commission new works, and involve students in Merton by helping to fund related educational projects.

It has gone from strength to strength, taking place over 16 days at the end of November each year, with the festival period chosen to embrace St Cecilia’s Day, November 22 – and the Patron Saint of Music is celebrated with events involving the community. This year, however, the pandemic has forced a rethink, and the festival will be held online, featuring a series of performances filmed especially for the event and streamed from Friday 13 to Sunday 22 November.

Anthony Wilkinson says that whilst nothing can replace the pleasures of live musicmaking, it has offered a unique opportunity: “It means we can get up close and personal with some outstanding artists, and keep in touch with our loyal audience that has been so supportive since we began in 2009. It has also given us the opportunity to extend our reach to national and international audiences, so please do help us spread the word to friends and family around the world!”

The festival celebrates Beethoven’s 250th anniversary with some of his great masterpieces. Says Anthony: “I’m looking forward to presenting a series of ‘recitals with attitude’ where the performers will explore their personal relationship with their chosen works. The artists are excited to be taking part and to share what the music means to them, how they prepare for a performance, and what the challenges are technically and artistically.”

Internationally acclaimed musicians including pianist Paul Lewis, clarinettist Michael Collins, and cellist Raphael Wallfisch will be taking part. So what are the highlights? Tough to choose but Anthony says: “If I had to select one event which stands out, it would be our specially commissioned play in which actor Tama Matheson portrays Beethoven in a dramatic exchange with pianist Piers Lane as he prepares to perform the complete cycle of the composer’s thirty-two piano sonatas.”

While the festival looks so very different this year, everything has been done to ensure it matches the same high standards it has become known for. It is hoped that a live event will return for 2021. “My big hope for next year is that we will be able to return to live music-making with a live audience, and many of the events that I had originally planned for this year have already been rescheduled,” says Anthony. “In the meantime, the success of this year’s virtual festival will rely on audiences buying tickets, or one of our ‘season passes’ giving household access to our online events for up to a month after the end of the festival. We are determined to play our part in supporting the artists we value so much and keeping the arts alive through this difficult time.”