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A local furore.

By Alix Norman

In most European countries, September signifies autumn. But in Cyprus, the ninth month is still summer: searing temperatures, constant sunshine and swimming in the sea. In fact, it's not till October that we really begin to feel the changing of the seasons and all it implies: slightly cooler weather, a spot of rain if we're lucky, and a delightfully refreshing cultural programme. The highlight of which is the annual International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival.

It is, indeed, the perfect time of year for such an invigorating series: under the artistic direction of renowned Cypriot composer Evis Sammoutis, the festival combines the well-established masterpieces of the 20th century with new works from the younger generation of composers; often providing a launchpad for world debuts of specially commissioned pieces. Firmly established as an innovative annual music events, the event has been both a platform for composers and performers and an inspiration to local audiences. So it's no surprise to learn that 2015 sees a week packed with concerts, screenings, lectures and educational workshops.

Taking place between October 2 and 11 at The Shoe Factory in Nicosia, the programme opens on Friday with an exciting concert from the renowned Dutch percussion group Slagwerk Den Haag (SDH). Far from ordinary, this is an ensemble that employs the traditional percussive range to perform works both established and unconventional, often improvising on custom-made instruments constructed from materials such as porcelain, glass and three-dimensionally printed objects!

Sunday sees another eminent ensemble gracing our shores: the Het Collectief of Belgium, whose intriguing, idiosyncratic sound with its daring crossovers between classical and contemporary repertoire has created, say organisers, "a global furore". And in this spirit of originality, the Collectief has chosen to include two of the 20th century's most momentous works, neither of which have been previously performed in Cyprus: Arnold SchE[micro]nberg's Chamber Symphony No.1 (written towards the end of the composer's first stylistic period during which he composed his more conventional masterpieces, such as 'VerklEnrteNacht') and Louis Andriessen's subversive 'Workers Union' (a striking piece composed in the 1970s,which reveals the composer's resistance to the status quo of the times).

The third concert, on Tuesday, October 6, presents the combined talents of violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved, pianist Roderick Chadwick and horn-player Carly Lake. All renowned musicians, the trio have chosen to perform the two most important works ever written for the specific combination of instruments: The Horn Trios of Johannes Brahms and GyE[micro]rgy Ligeti. The former, a deeply-contemplative piece written in 1865 while Brahms was mourning the loss of his mother, promises "both a tenderly nostalgic mood and a wistfully rustic quality", while Ligeti's pursuit of new compositional forms and means of expression led him to compose his own 'Horn Trio', more than a century later, as an homage to Brahms' earlier work. The concert will also feature works by Olivier Messiaen, David Gorton and young Cypriot composer Maria Avraam, and will be followed by a performance on the terrace of Luigi Nono's'La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura' for violin and tape.

The Festival ends on Sunday with the Cyprus premiere of Frederic Rzewski's 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated'. Performed by Robin Green-- one of the most talented young pianists of his generation -- this piano piece is a tour de force consisting of 36 variations on the emblematic Chilean protest song 'El pueblo unido jamEis sera vencido'. A fitting conclusion to a festival that has revolutionised the region's contemporary music scene.

Of course, there's a great deal more to the series than just the concerts. Along with the comprehensive educational programme (run in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture, and open to the public), audiences will also have the opportunity to attend two screenings (A Temporary Arrangement with the Sea directed by West and Martland, and Leaving Home: Dancing on a Volcano and After the Wake, written and presented by Sir Simon Rattle), as well as a lecture by Peter Sheppard SkOorved entitled Facing the Past / Facing the Future. In fact, Pharos has, yet again, provided us with a programme that encompasses all that is truly progressive. And, of course, contemporary.

7th International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival

Taking place at the Shoe Factory in Nicosia between October 2 and 11. Tickets for the concerts cost e1/410; all other events are free. For more information and bookings call 96 669003 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 3pm) or visit www.pharosartsfoundation.org

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Sep 28, 2015
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