Now in its third year, the Newcastle Music Festival returns in August with a bumper program featuring its first ever performers in residence, the Omega Ensemble. With 35 events and a line up including violinist Ray Chen, pianist Julien Quentin, soprano Elena Xanthoudakis, pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska, mezzo Deborah Humble and baritone David Greco, this year’s Festival is not to be missed.

David Rowden, Alexandra Osborne, Maria Raspopova, Paul Stender. Photos © Keith Saunders

The Omega Ensemble will be bringing its acclaimed rendition of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time to the Festival in its concert Beyond Time. The work is joined by Bach’s Suite in D Minor for Cello and his Contrapunctus VIII from The Art of Fugue, as well as the world premiere of Festival co-Artistic Director David Banney’s Meditation for clarinet and piano.

Clarinettist David Rowden and pianist Maria Raspopova of the Omega Ensemble will also partner soprano Elena Xanthoudakis in recital. She will be performing Spohr’s 6 German Songs, Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock and arias from Bellini’s La Sonnambula, with Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso and Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano also on the program.

Rowden will also take part in the Festival’s Finale, which includes Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, while Xanthoudakis performs with the Festival Choir alongside soloists Brad Cooper and Christopher Allan in Britten’s St Nicolas and the Fauré Requiem.

Violinist Ray Chen and pianist Julien Quentin will also make the Festival one of their stops on their Musica Viva tour. They’ll be performing a new work by Matthew Hindson, as well as Beethoven’s First Violin Sonata, Grieg’s Violin Sonata No 2, De Falla/Kochanski’s Suite populaire Espagnole and Monti’s Czárdás.

Elsewhere, pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska performs selections from her celebrated album Unsent Love Letters – Meditations on Erik Satie. She’ll be playing Brahms’ Sonata No 3 in F Minor, as well as some Liszt, Satie and Kats-Chernin.

Twilight Musical Dialogues will explore messages of identity, rebellion and love in its concert Smoke, Glass and Mirrors, Musical Subterfuge. Ibert’s Deux Interludes, Glass’ Piano Etude No 1, Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, Chubb’s Berceuse and Shostakovich’s Five Pieces make for an intruiging evening.

Composer and baritone Michael Lampard partner with pianist and co-Artistic Director Ross Fiddes in Love Notes: I’ll Sing Yours if You’ll Play Mine. This concert sees them perform each other’s song cycles, alongside works by Bach, Beethoven, Verdi and Cole Porter.

Mezzo Deborah Humble returns for her third time at the Festival, giving a concert of Spanish and Spanish-inspired favourites titled Habanera. She’s joined by guitarists Andrew Blanch and Ariel Nurhadi, as well as pianist Amanda Neale for this wide-ranging program. As she did in 2017, Humble will be giving a masterclass for young singers as part of the Festival.

David Greco will meanwhile give a recital of Schubert songs in newly commissioned chamber arrangements for string quintet and baritone. Partnered by the Australian Haydn Ensemble, who will also perform Schubert’s Rosamunde, Greco will be singing selections from Die Winterreise as well as lied favourites like Erlkönig.

Finally, Bach’s Art of Fugue will be celebrated by a number of artists at the Festival this year. As well as the Omega Ensemble, organist Peter Guy and Ross Fiddes play some of the contrapunctus works, while Contrapunctus I will help close out the Festival in its finale concert.