The Bath Festival Orchestra is the resident symphonic ensemble at an international music festival held every spring in the historical setting of Bath Abbey, as well as in the nearby cities of Wells and Bristol. The festival was founded as a children's music festival in 1948 by impresario Ian Hunter with performances by the National Youth Orchestra. Orchestra programs at the festival in the 1950s concentrated on Classical repertoire, with considerable contributions made by Thomas Beecham. After a dozen years of financial struggles (with no performances at all between 1956 - 1957), Hunter engaged Yehudi Menuhin as artistic director for the 1959 season, bringing international attention through creative programming. It was Menuhin who formed the Bath Festival Orchestra, using players he had worked with in London recording sessions. Menuhin's ambitious vision for the festival resulted in a return of financial problems and he resigned in 1968, taking the orchestra with him and renaming it as the Menuhin Festival Orchestra. Meanwhile, the festival continued with both a resident orchestra and visiting orchestras. Michael Tippett, who lived in the nearby town of Corsham, became involved with the festival in 1969 and served as music director for the next five years, refocusing the programming toward contemporary music. Subsequent festival directors included William Glock, William Mann, Amelia Freedman, Nicholas Kraemer, Jolyon Laycock, and Tim Joss.
There are 18 Bath Festival Orchestra recordings available.
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