From Mendelssohn to Einstein



PETER DAVISON narrator/lecturer


In this unique illustrated lecture with live music, Peter Davison, finds an unexpected link between Mendelssohn’s visit to North Wales and the manufacture of chemical weapons and nuclear research during World War II. With aptly chosen works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, played by pianist, Alan Mills, this moving sequence of words and music will trace the impact of industrialisation and science on an idyllic wooded valley, near the Welsh village of Rhydymwyn. The location, which not only inspired Mendelssohn, but also Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies, remains a beauty-spot to this day. It harbours many dark secrets, telling an intriguing story, filled by paradox and strange coincidence. Don’t miss this fascinating journey through the twists of time and fate.


(The lecture is illustrated by the following items of music.)

J.S. Bach (1685-1750):
Prelude & Fugue No.2 in C minor
BWV 847,
Book I, The Well-tempered Clavier (1722)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47):
Fantasia No.3 in E ‘The Rivulet’

Three Caprices, Op.16 (1829)
Prelude & Fugue No.2 in D
Six Preludes and Fugues, Op.35 (1835)
Andante – Sehnsüchtig
Seven Character-pieces, Op.7 (1827)

Alan Mills (b.1964) :
Aquarelle: Narcissus

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75):
Prelude & Fugue No.1 in C
Twenty-four Preludes and Fugues, Op.87

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963):
Fugue No.3 in F
Ludus Tonalis, Part I

J.S.Bach (1685-1750):
Prelude and Fugue No.19 in A
BWV 888 (1742)
Book II, The Well-tempered Clavier


The programme lasts about an hour and ten minutes, including a twenty minute interval


Peter Davison lecturer

Tonight’s lecture is given by Peter Davison, co-founder of the Two Rivers Festival and its artistic director. He is a writer, poet, cultural commentator and initiator of creative projects, who has thought deeply about music and its wider role in society. In 2001, he edited Reviving the Muse, a collection of writings about the direction of new music, including two essays of his own. In 2010, he published Wrestling with Angels about the life and work of Gustav Mahler with a forward by the composer’s granddaughter. Peter Davison is also an assessor for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and has lectured in Arts Management at the University of Manchester and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Peter has been artistic consultant to The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, since it opened in 1996. He was responsible for Pulse; a festival of rhythm and percussion for the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, incorporating jazz, classical and world music, while in 2006, he worked with pianist, Barry Douglas and Radio 3 to stage all 27 of Mozart’s piano concertos in just five days. In 2012, he collaborated with pianist Noriko Ogawa and the BBC Philharmonic to create Reflections on Debussy; an eight-concert series exploring oriental influence on the innovative French composer. Future plans include a musical celebration of W.B Yeats and the Celtic Twilight, as well as a major project focusing on the songs of Richard Strauss in 2014.

Alan Mills piano

The pianist and composer Alan Mills was born in Belfast in 1964. After studying piano at the Ulster College of Music, he went on to take an MA in music at Cambridge University, studying composition with Hugh Wood and Robin Holloway. This was followed by two years of study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. In 1988 he was awarded the Lloyds Young Composer Prize and in 1993 the Lower Machen Festival Prize. As a pianist, he has broadcast for the BBC, Radio France and Dutch Television and, at present works in London as pianist, lecturer and singing-coach. As a composer his music has been published in France, Germany and the US, although his main publisher is Music Haven in the UK. Alan writes, ‘My music aims to utilise various “traditional” musical elements as a conscious reaction against certain trends in contemporary music. Thus I make free use of tonal structures showing the influence of twentieth-century French music, neo-classicism and modern jazz hoping to create a personal language. 

Technical requirements:

  • Lectern or equivalent
  • Concert grand piano recently tuned or serviceable equivalent upright piano
  • Overhead projector with lap-link
  • PA system depending on the size of venue