sat 23/03/2019

Classical Features

theartsdesk at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music - stratospheric performances by a tropical sea

Jessica Duchen

North of Brisbane, south of Cairns and a short boat trip from the turquoise waters around the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville is the site of a north-east Australian military base.

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theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2018 - Pärt, Leonskaja and friends hard at play

David Nice

Unanticipated miracles happen every summer in the quiet paradise of Estonia's seaside capital. The first this year came as a total surprise. Having got off the afternoon coach from Riga last Monday and dumped bags at my villa base in Pärnu's garden zone, I headed back into town for the first event.

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theartsdesk in Riga - 43,290 Latvians sing and dance for their country

David Nice

"They incessantly break down, destroy and fragment the mistrust that exists among people," wrote a Latvian journalist of a folklore group during the start of the Baltic countries' "singing revolution" against Soviet rule in 1988.

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theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival - Italians, Ukrainians and an American promote peace

David Nice

Everything is political in the world's current turbulent freefall. The aim of Riccardo Muti's "Roads of Friendship" series, taking the young players of his Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra to cities from Sarajevo in 1997 to Moscow in 2000 and Tehran last year, has simply been "to perform with musicians from different cultures and religions" in a community of peace.

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'Stepping right out of my comfort zone': James Gilchrist on mixing Debussy with jazz

James Gilchrist

Debussy is having a good year. It is wonderful to see such wide and varied celebrations of his life and work, and to let the century since his death bear witness to the huge influence he has had on writers in every field of music.

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theartsdesk at the East Neuk Festival 2018 - Bach as bedrock

David Nice

There is a tide in the best-planned festivals that comes in and out almost imperceptibly, bringing with it changes as the days move on. Put it down to the kind of perfect planning that discards any one rigid theme, and to forging long-term links with performers who don't just pop in for one concert.

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theartsdesk in Orkney: St Magnus Festival 2018 - choral music to the fore

David Kettle

With – unusually – no visiting orchestra at this year’s St Magnus International Festival in far-flung Orkney (the fall-out from delayed funding confirmations, we’re assured), there was a danger that the annual midsummer event might have felt a little – well, quiet.

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theartsdesk at Leipzig's Blüthner Piano Factory - a perfect family business

David Nice

Have you ever wondered why the Steinway grand piano is invariably the instrument of choice in every hall you visit, great or small? Why do the halls in question not offer a choice between two or three pianos of different manufacture, as so many did before the Second World War?

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theartsdesk at the Setúbal Music Festival 2018: youth leads the way

David Nice

"Get those creatures off the stage, or I won't answer for what I'll do". The exclamation of the Prima Donna in the backstage prologue of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, about to share her grand opera with lower forms of theatrical life, seems to have been shared by a head teacher at the first Setúbal Music Festival in Portugal eight years ago, faced with the arrival of special-needs children to join his pupils.

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Franco Fagioli on performing the Baroque: 'a challenge is to interpret beyond the musical notation'

Franco Fagioli

I started singing when I was nine years old in my primary school choir. I sang plenty of solos there before moving on to another children’s choir; that was a formative experience for me. At this point, I was singing the soprano part and from here I was invited to sing in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. This was my first experience of opera, and one that gave me great joy and satisfaction.

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