The Cheltenham Music Festival, which runs until 14 July, is one of the most prestigious musical events in the world, with musicians performing high-calibre concerts in the best venues Cheltenham has to offer.
One of the more unusual settings isn’t a music venue at all, but is in fact someone’s home. Or four homes, to be precise. The Schumann Square event, which marked the festival’s opening, saw the elegant drawing rooms of four Regency townhouses on one of Cheltenham’s famous squares, transformed into intimate classical concert venues.
The use of homes as performance spaces is by no means a new concept. Indeed, musical performance is intrinsically linked to the role of the drawing room in the Regency era. The 18th century brought an emphasis on musical accomplishment, particularly of young ladies, which reached a peak in the early 19th century. This obsession meant that no drawing room was complete without at least one instrument, probably several.
During this period, and well into the Victorian era, social occasions at home centred on musical performance. Larger gatherings would require carpets to be rolled up and furniture pushed aside. The drawing room, as the designated room for receiving guests, was the natural setting, while some larger houses were designed with a dedicated music room.
Professional musicians were often brought in for gatherings, and fast forward a couple of hundred years, it may be that so-called house concerts are staging a comeback. In an age of large concert arenas, there is something special about listening to and playing music in the intimacy of the home, as the internationally renowned musician, Xuefei Yang, explains:
'I played two venues at the Cheltenham Music Festival; firstly in its opulent Town Hall to an audience of around 900 and, just a couple of hours later, the drawing room of someone’s home, to an audience of 25.
'The difference between the two performances was less about the number of people and more the space itself. Smaller venues, particularly private houses, evoke a great sense of intimacy and connectivity between everyone in the room. The music sounds different too – it is more nuanced, which adds to the closeness. And the proportions of a Regency drawing room have ideal acoustics.
'I play all over the world, more often than not in large concert halls, but there is something particularly attractive about performing in homes, especially those with history. With the array of quality, well conserved period homes in the UK, I can see a revival in house concerts of this nature.'
Here's our selection of the best concert-worthy drawing rooms on the market.