Returning Hampstead Arts Festival serves up a feast of music and special guests

Hunter Davies

Hunter Davies - Credit: Archant

Hunter Davies, Sayaka Shoji and Reverend Richard Coles are among the stars of this year’s line-up.

It’s been three years since the chic but serious new Hampstead Arts Festival emerged to fill the void left by its struggling Hampstead & Highgate predecessor; and its track record to date has been dazzling.

No cultural fixture in this part of London could compete with the quality and elegance of its musical programmes. Audiences in 2014 were an impressive 40% up on the year before. And that the event has, in a short time, come to have an impact on the concert-going life of London as a whole is no small achievement.

Truly international, the 2015 season – running from November 2-29 – brings in some very significant performers from overseas for their UK recital debuts. There are big-name artists stepping outside their established repertoires. And there are world premieres by some of Britain’s leading young composers.

Music highlights – all at St Johns Downshire Hill, NW3, and starting 7.30pm (unless otherwise stated) – include:

Sat 7 –Ian Bostridge singing Schumann songs (see opposite).

Mon 9 – Deutsche Grammophon recording star, violinist Sayaka Shoji in her UK recital debut.

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Thurs 12 – BBC New Generation Artists, the Berlin-based Armida Quartet, give their live London debut.

Sat 14 – Malcolm Arnold’s chamber music, played by principals from London’s leading orchestras (4pm).

Sat 14 – Classical/jazz violinist Thomas Gould & friends.

Mon 16 – Violist of the Belcea Quartet, Krysztof Chorzelski & others play Britten, Bruch, and new works by Joseph Phibbs.

Thur 19 – The Prague-based Wihan Quartet play Mozart, Arensky, Schubert.

Sat 21 – Jazz trombonist/composer Trish Clowes, with her trio.

Sun 29 – Handel’s Messiah, with baroque band (7pm, Hampstead Parish Church).

Alongside the musical acts, there are also a number of speakers taking to the stage to discuss everything from Yeats to the Beatles. Primarily taking place at Burgh House and starting at 7.30pm (unless otherwise stated), be sure to look out for:

Mon 2 –Roy Foster and Piers Plowright discuss the poetry and politics of W B Yeats, with readings by Sinead Cusack.

Wed 4 – Novelist, playwright and poet Ali Smith on the life-giving importance of writing and reading (1pm).

Thurs 5 – Music writer Paul Morley on knocking down musical barriers (see below).

Fri 6 – Journalist, broadcaster, and Beatles biographer Hunter Davies on a life of Liverpool FC and pop music.

Mon 9 – Former pop star, broadcaster, and Church of England vicar Richard Coles on the journey from Communards to Church.

Full details of the 11 concerts, silent-movie night, and 7 speaker events running from November 2-29 are available at