Matthew Barley

The list of famous international musicians starring in next week’s Oxford Chamber Music Festival comes thick and fast – Julius Drake, Hugo Ticciati, Ian Bostridge, Imogen Cooper, Nicolas Altstaedt, Stephen Kovacevich, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Matthew Barley, Sukhwinder Singh, Nicki Wells…. the list goes on.

Musicians from New Zealand, India, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Sweden are taking part in Oxford Chamber Music Festival that has the clout to attract these stellar names from the world of classical music.

“Yes, we take musical risks and that’s half the fun. It also sparks a unique atmosphere and creates a very exciting collaborative dynamic”

The venues where they’ll play are also world famous, from The Sheldonian to Christ Church Cathedral, which is why fans return time and time again to watch, listen and enjoy this wonderfully inspiring independent music festival whose theme this year is Transcendence: Beethoven and Pärt.

Pinky-Ji Singh – the world renowned tabla player – who is returning to the Oxford Chamber Music Festival this year

This is largely due to the thought that festival founder, fellow musician and acclaimed violinist Priya Mitchell puts into the week-long annual festival.

It’s not just who will be performing that counts, but what, with whom, where and why that she ponders so deeply before finalising her concert line-up.

Priya Mitchell

“I try to make each concert an adventure which transports the audience and also speaks to them with coherence and complete musical conviction,” she explains.

“I hope the audience finds the programme as life affirming as we do because the music aims to uplift, provoke and inspire”

So despite having to reorganise the Oxford Chamber Music Festival three times over the past 18 months, Priya was determined it would return in style.

“It was really tough having to cancel it over and over again, but I never gave up on it because Oxford Chamber Music Festival is so enriching and such a joy to put together.

“Yes, we take musical risks and that’s half the fun. It also sparks a unique atmosphere and creates a very exciting collaborative dynamic,” Priya says.

Priya Mitchell ©BalazsBorocz_Pilvax

The famous Oxford violinist adds that the pandemic has also made musicians prouder of their profession than ever before: “Now that we can perform again to a live audience it has given us an enhanced appreciation of what we do. A lot of musicians feel they have been given a new lease of life. We are so lucky to be performing again!”

“I am really looking forward to warmly welcoming our audience back, and am so proud of the line-up. I hope they find the programme as life affirming as we do because the music aims to uplift, provoke and inspire.”


1) ‘Transfigured Love’ Ian Bostridge & Julius Drake,7.30pm, SJE Arts £30, free tickets for 8-25 year olds.

The opening concert features one of the greatest song-cycles of all Schumann‘s iconic Dichterliebe sung by world famous tenor Ian Bostridge, plus Beethoven songs and Arvo Pärt’s My Heart Is In The Highlands accompanied by Priya and Julius Drake.

Ian Bostridge by Kalpesh Lathigra

2) Mantra,7.30pm SJE Arts, Sukhwinder ‘Pinky-Ji’ Singh tabla/ Matthew Barley cello/ Adrian Freedman Shakuhachi/ Nicki Wells singer, £30, free tickets for 8-25 year olds.

Adrian Freedman-Shakuhachi

A transcendental flight of the imagination around the world, in which great improvising musicians welcome singer Nicki Wells, with her amazing global array of vocal techniques and styles, and Adrian Freedman on the Japanese shakuhachi, to connect far-flung peoples and cultures, and celebrate our common humanity.

It will also feature the celebrated tabla player Sukhwinder ‘Pinky-Ji’ Singh who collaborates with highly innovative cellist Matthew Barley.

Nicki Wells

3) ‘Life Returns – A Transcendence of Pain’ Stephen Kovacevich & Priya Mitchell, 7.30pm. SJE Arts. £30, free tickets for 8-25 year olds. 200 years on, Beethoven’s late piano sonatas are still unique portraits and Stephen Kovacevich is one of their greatest interpreters. Between the two Beethoven sonatas, enjoy Debussy’s mercurial and impressionistic sonata for violin, written during his long fatal illness.

Stephen Kovacevich

4) Beyond the Clouds, 8pm, Christ Church Cathedral, £20, free tickets for 8-25 year olds – From the Hebraic chants used by Ravel and Bloch, to the impassioned fervour of a Russian mystic in Silouan’s Song, the childlike simplicity of Janacek’s carol – and to build a bridge to an all-encompassing spirituality in the Beatles’ late, great song. 

Hugo Ticciati photo: Marco Borggreve

In memory of Dylan Hayden, a dear friend of the festival who devoted much of his life to the study and dissemination of the Judeo-Christian tradition. His legacy of beautiful icons and poetry survives him, as will the memory of his tireless support and nourishment of musicians, music-making and all artistic endeavour.

Nicolas Altstaedt is in the final concert at The Sheldonian – see below

5) ‘Transcending Heights: A Universal Spirit’, Nicolas Altstaedt, Hyung-ki Joo, Hugo Ticciati & Priya Mitchell, 8pm, Sheldonian Theatre, £30, free tickets for 8-25 year olds. The double concerto Tabula Rasa was Pärt’s first instrumental masterpiece in his own unique musical language. Its instantly-memorable sound takes us from earth-shattering drama to the stillness of outer space.

Beethoven‘s Triple concerto requires three great soloists, so is rarely played – but for a festival like this, with its community of artists, it‘s a treat for players and audience alike, and a fitting climax to our week.

Hugo Ticciati

PLUS: Literary event: Beethoven: Laura Tunbridge (Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces) & Ruth Padel (Beethoven Variations Poems on a Life) in conversation, 4pm, Blackwell’s Bookshop, free (registering required) – These award-winning authors discuss Beethoven and his life. Oxford professor Laura Tunbridge focuses on a different period of his life, piece of music and revealing theme – from family to friends, from heroism to liberty – in each chapter to provide a rich insight into the man and the music. Ruth Padel’s new collection follows in the footsteps of one of the world’s greatest composers, Beethoven, and investigates what his life and music might mean to us today. The event will be chaired by Graham Topping.

PLUS: MONDAY 4th October, OCMF Schools Concert in collaboration with D’Overbroecks School, including the performance of the winning piece of the OCMF Composition Competition 2021. email for more details.

Oxford Chamber Music Festival runs from Tuesday September 28 until Monday October 4. To find out more go to and to book tickets go to: