I'd never heard live chamber music before coming to this festival. But after the experience, I have a true feeling for it. Hearing world-class musicians performing exquisite compositions in a small room surrounded by tapestries woven for Marie Antoinette -- I understand. These are the key ingredients. We totally lucked out and heard some amazing chamber music. I feel so fortunate to have experienced this festival; it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Highly recommended.
Set in the mid-18th century Bantry House mansion library, a room of leather-bound books, we heard Lenneke Ruiten's soprano voice soar in the air, cradled by Sharon Kim's virtuosic clarinet and Finghin Collins' piano. Kim also performed Six German Songs by Louis Spohr, commissioned by the Princess of Sondershausen. I really enjoyed Cradlesong. I was a sumptuous lullaby, a poem with vivid natural imagery, articulated so serenely by Kim's voice that I felt like a babe in Mother Nature's arms.
Next we heard very abstract, improvisational sounds of the world premier of re:play, by Irish composer Ian Wilson. It was fabulous to hear a saxophone, blown by Irish improving musician Cathal Roche, leading a string section. Roche's improvisational playing style inspired Wilson to write the piece. The tenor saxophone started with very dissonant sounds, lots of squeaking and buzzing and squawking, seemingly from the corridor of the subconscious -- the noise of a single soul. The rest of the septet answered back, like chaotic echoes of ancestral voices. It was a super avant-garde performance that I found very refreshing and new.
To top it off, we were so lucky to hear Georgian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja perform with the Spanish Cuarteto Casals. They played Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat Op. 44, and it was unbelievable. The way her fingers touched the keys with such immaculate feeling - it was pure artistry of the finest quality. The violin player Vera Martinez Mehner was fabulous. She played with her entire body. The woman next to me was fascinated by this and whispered, "I love the way she plays with her ass," because Vera kept lifting her body off the seat to get into her playing. The festival was loaded with musicians from the old USSR states, and this performance by Leonskaja was truly stellar.
The next day was the fourth of July, and to commemorate America's Independence, we heard operatic versions of Bob Dylan poems performed for the Coffee Concert. They were sung by Irish soprano Mary Hegarty. The change in style did not quite capture the revolutionary quality of Dylan's words, though Dylan would've gotten a kick out of it.
RTE Lyric FM is a festival sponsor. They were on location recording the music for radio and online broadcasting.
How to get there
From Skibbereen, take N71 north to Bantry.
From Cork City, for a scenic drive over the Shehy Mountains, take N22 west to Macroom, transfer to R584 west to Ballylickey, transfer to N71 south to Bantry.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
Festival runs during the first week in July. Five shows per day:
12:00 Coffee Concert
14:15 Town Concert
16:30 Stars In the Afternoon
20:00 Main Evening Concert
22:30 Late Night Concert
Single performance tickets range from 5-55 euro.
Master classes are 5 euro.
All Week Ticket Savers available for 225-440 euro.
Friends or Patron subscriptions are available.
All concerts are located at The Bantry House or St. Brendan's Church in Bantry.
West Cork Cork Music
13 Glengarriff Road
Int'l Tel: +353 (0)27 52788/9
Local Tel: 1850 788 789
Written by Liz O' Malley - Summer of Travel 2007