Alice Zawadzki

Fans of Oxford Chamber Music Festival will be delighted with the incredible line-up of concerts over the next few days as world famous musicians and composers abound.

The theme this year is FREIGEIST – the state of being creatively unfettered – which has allowed OCMF organisers a seismic chance for some really interesting and creative programming themselves.


1) Wednesday October 4, Clair de Lune, Holywell Music Room. 8pm – The opening concert reaches for the moon in the glorious songs by Schumann and Schubert. Throw in Fauré and Reynaldo Hahn, Henry Mancini’s ‘dream maker and heart breaker’, Arvo Pärt‘s meditation on the famous Moonlight sonata; Debussy’s unforgettable translation of moonlight (‘clair de lune’) into sound; and Chopin’s ultimate romantic nocturne and it’s quite the event! BOOK TICKETS

Reto Bieri

2) Thursday October 5, The Madness, Holywell Music Room, 1pmVivaldi’s scorching treatment of La Folia is the baroque equivalent of hot jazz, and Piazzolla’s devilish and angelic tangos are marinated in the same fiery spirit. Add the subtle, complex jazz style of Gershwin (including the immortal Summertime) and Stravinsky’s dry, ironic tale of a poor fiddle-playing soldier’s temptation, and it’s the height of madness. BOOK TICKETS

3) Thursday October 5, Songs of Freedom, Holywell Music Room, 7.30pm. Alice Zawadzki is a vocalist, violinist, songwriter and composer loosely connected to the jazz scene, described as ‘a genuine original’ by The Guardian. With bassist, improviser and composer Misha Mullov-Abbado her latest album for new-music label ECM, explores Sephardic and Mediterranean songs of freedom. Think Dvořák’s exuberant piano quintet, based on the epic ballads demanding freedom for 19th-century Ukraine. BOOK TICKETS

Alice Zawadzki

4) Friday October 6, Gypsy Heart, SJE Arts, 1pm – Impulsive, flamboyant and soulful, Gypsy music and musicians have been the toast of central Europe for centuries. Haydn put a gypsy rondo into his delicate piano trio, Dvořák’s Gypsy songs – including Songs My Mother Taught Me – passionately declared freedom and music as basic human needs and Brahms had worldwide hits with his Hungarian Dances. BOOK HERE

Julius Drake

5) Friday October 6, Angelic Demonic Prophetic, SJE Arts, 6.45pm Three extraordinary sound-worlds collide. Schnittke’s sonata mixes deep mystery, madcap energy, brutality and beauty, the Arensky, with its rich two-cello sound and its justly-famous variations on a Tchaikovsky tune, enters the incense-laden Orthodox church, while Messiaen’s Quartet, written in the hell of a Nazi prison camp, truly is the music of divine revelations. BOOK HERE

Priya Mitchell ©BalazsBorocz_Pilvax

6) Friday October 6, Free Spirits, Convocation House, Bodleian Library, 9.30pm Six rare spirits join come together in this 17th-century inner sanctum. Two are dedicatees of these pieces – Mozart’s incomparable clarinettist Anton Stadler, and the musical philosopher (and mushroom expert) John Cage. OCMF’s 2017 composer-in-residence, the celebrated Latvian Pēteris Vasks, has written that very rare thing: a great double-bass solo, Kurtág’s supremely distilled music and Berio‘s vivid, original, yet approachable late 20th century music. But for emotional insight and intensity, Mozart’s quintet has few peers in any century. BOOK HERE

7) Saturday October 7, The Power of  Love, Holywell Music Room 1pm Whether Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck had an affair or not, there was a raging mutual attraction. The songs composed from her poems led to his masterpiece, Tristan and Isolde. We also hear from two more utterly unmistakeable voices: Poulenc, in this moving tribute to fellow-composer Honegger; and Rachmaninov, in the epic cello sonata he wrote after his second piano concerto conquered the world. BOOK HERE

Soprano Dorottya Lang

8) Saturday October 7, Untamed Holywell Music Room, 7.30pm – To close – vivid fantasies by three of the great romantics. Schumann’s mercurial clarinet pieces evoke melancholy, optimistic playfulness, frenzied passion and triumph. Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ evokes the chilly horror of Macbeth’s meeting with the witches; and 14-year-old genius, Mendelssohn mashes together Baroque habits, Beethoven’s structure, and tender Romantic feeling to produce something exhilaratingly new. BOOK NOW

Oxford Chamber Music Festival runs from October 4-7 with free tickets for Ukrainian nationals and 8-25 year olds. For more information on the programme go to