Cellissimo Festival 2024 to Focus on 'Burning Issues' with World Premieres and Keynote Talks

Finghin Collins, Catherine Cotter, Neil Martin and Eszter Cetinceviz at the launch of Cellissimo in Galway. (Photo: Andrew Downes)

Cellissimo Festival 2024 to Focus on 'Burning Issues' with World Premieres and Keynote Talks

Nine-day festival in Galway will include a keynote from Mary Robinson on climate justice.

The programme for the international cello festival Cellissimo, which takes place in Galway over nine days from 18 to 26 May, has been announced by Music for Galway.

A triennial festival, the first edition of Cellissimo took place under pandemic constraints in 2021, but this will be the first fully live festival and features a substantial programme of concerts, masterclasses, world premieres, international and Irish artists, talks, a children’s theatre show, a film screening, an Inishbofin Cello Trail, a student showcase, traditional music sessions, and more.

Burning issues
Curated by Artistic Director Finghin Collins and Anna Lardi, CEO of Music for Galway, Cellissimo has a considerable social and political element, with aspects that explore the ‘two burning issues of our time: climate change and migration’. A central programming strand, Songs of Travel, a partnership with festivals from Sweden (Fairplay Chamber Music), Norway (Valdres Sommersymfoni) and the Netherlands (Piano Biennale), and the Austria gaming company Cause Creations, supported by Creative Europe, aims to develop a sustainable model for specialised music festivals while improving access to contemporary classical music.

Speaking at the launch at the Hyde Hotel in Galway yesterday (20 February), Lardi said:

Any artist that is travelling as part of Cellissimo’s ‘Songs of Travel’ is travelling slow. We have also asked all of the eight masterclass students that they travel slow, so we have quite a number of flights that are not happening for this festival. But sustainability is not just about travel, it’s also about music’s sustainability. Very often you might commission a new work and this work gets the world premiere and that’s it. In our festivals, it will receive four premieres at the four festivals, and all of the festivals have committed to finding at least two other promoters who will programme the suite of works from Songs of Travel.

In addition, there will be a number of talks on migration that will be embedded in the concerts rather than being side events.

Mary Robinson keynote
The festival opens on Saturday 18 May at Leisureland with the world premiere of a concerto for cello and piano by Serbian composer Đuro Živković performed by Alban Gerhardt and Finghin Collins with the National Symphony Orchestra. As part of the same concert, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson will give a keynote address on climate justice. The concert will also feature Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2 and Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage.

That afternoon in Leisureland at 1pm, cellist Naomi Berrill and conductor Matthew Berrill will perform with the Galway Jam Circle in a community project that aims to explore marine life and how we influence the ocean and how it influences us.

Songs of Travel and Bach Plus 1
The Songs of Travel strand begins on 19 May at the Black Box Theatre with the world premiere of Elaine Agnew’s Waiting, a piece written to accompany a new interactive motion comic that explores migration and is developed by the Austrian company Cause Creations. Later that evening, French cellist Camille Thomas will perform with the Irish Chamber Orchestra in a programme including works by Chopin, Bach and Franchomme.

On Monday 20 May at St Nicholas’ Church, the Bach Plus 1 strand begins. In each concert, a renowned cellist – from Natalie Clein to Jakob Koranyi – will perform one of the Bach cello suites and combine it with a world premiere by an Irish composer. The composers are Donnacha Dennehy, Garth Knox, Kevin O’Connell, Amanda Feery, Jennifer Walshe and Anne-Marie O’Farrell.

Also beginning on 20 May is a Classic Hour series, where cello and piano duos perform classic duets from the repertoire. The duos include Alban Gerhardt and Hugh Tinney, Killian White and Daria van den Bercken, and Natalie Clein and Finghin Collins.

Cellissimo Ambassador
As part of the original concept for Cellissimo, the festival commissioned a new cello from local luthier Kuros Torkzadeh, and the instrument is given to a talented cellist to act as Cellissimo Ambassador. The first person to hold the role is Mullingar cellist Catherine Cotter who will give a concert at the Town Hall Theatre on Monday 20 May accompanied by Collins. 

Songs of Travel continues on 21 May with the world premiere of Norwegian composer Lasse Thorosen’s Every Minute Opens Doors at the Town Hall Theatre combined with a keynote on migration from Adedotun Adekeye, as well as works by Beethoven. From 21 to 24 May, the children’s theatre group Branar will present a show titled The Song of the Trees featuring Little John Nee (narrator) and Neil Martin (cello).

Eimear Noone and the NSO
Eimear Noone will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra on 22 May in a programme that includes ConTempo Quartet’s Adrian Mantu performing Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger Cello Concerto and the Elgar Cello Concerto, as well as works by Noone and Craig Stuart, and Austin Wintory.

Dutch composer Hawar Tawfiq’s Voyage will be premiered on 22 May by Jakob Kiranyi, and Dutch-Israeli composer Karmit Fadael’s new work for cello (Killian White) and dance artist (Stephanie Dufresne) will be premiered on 23 May, and will also feature a talk on sustainable travel by Pol Ó Conghaile.

German-French cellist Nicolas Alstaedt will make his Galway debut, presenting works by Nadia Boulanger, Martinu, Kodály and Dvořák on Friday 24 May, and the penultimate event, a Cellissimo Spectacular on 25 May, will feature the eight cellists of Cello Ireland, soprano Claudia Boyle, Alstaedt, Mantu, Cotter and eight international cello students performing a range of work from Vivaldi to Daniel McDermott at Leisureland.

The final event is an Inishbofin Cello Trail where audiences can travel to the island by ferry and will be led on a cello trail with short performances, lunch and a cello octet concert in the island church.

As part of the festival there will also be a screening of Living the Tradition, focusing on the journey of cellist and composer Ilse de Ziah around Ireland as she searches for the secrets of ten Irish airs (25 May), a student showcase concert (24 May), and a Songs of Travel Evaluation Workshop at the University of Galway (25 May).

At the end of each evening, the Jekyll bar in the Hyde Hotel in Galway’s city centre will host an Irish traditional music session led by fiddle player Michael Chang; the festival programme notes that ‘some adventurous cellists might join in…’.

Booking is now open for Cellissimo and there are a range of ticket categories, including social inclusion tickets. For full details, visit https://musicforgalway.ie/cellissimo-2024.

Published on 21 February 2024

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