The 15th edition of the International Spring Orchestra Festival (ISOF) will unfold next month. Inspired by music from Germany labelled ‘Degenerate’ and banned by the Nazi authorities between 1933 and 1945, the ISOF will host seven concerts over five days in various locations, mainly in Valletta. International guest artists – including some familiar faces on the local classical music scene – are flying in from all over Europe to join their Maltese counterparts in making music of the highest calibre.
“Despite the pandemic-imposed delay, the International Spring Orchestra Festival remains a highlight of Malta’s Cultural Calendar,” says artistic director Karl Fiorini. “Year in and out, it attracts fresh blood in the form of music new to Malta that has been regarded for decades as ‘modern repertoire’.”
Opening the festival on 15 June is Brikkuni team with Karl Fiorini at Metanoia Theatre in Luqa. The concert features the popular Maltese rock and folk band Brikkuni with arrangements for strings by the ISOF’s artistic director.
On the festival’s second day the Somogyi String Quartet will perform at the Malta Society of Arts (MSA) at 8.00pm. The Hungarian ensemble and ISOF regular will premiere Albert Pace’s and Sebastian Themessl’s string quartets, as well as Leo Weiner’s String Quartet No. 3 in G Major Op. 26.
On 17 June at 12.30pm, the MSA will host a concert by Annabelle Berthomé-Reynolds and Luka Okros. The French violinist and Georgian pianist will perform works by Grażyna Bacewicz and Paul Hindemith, with Stravinsky’s effervescent Suite Italienne to close the recital in style. The London-based Ukranian pianist Dinara Klinton, Professor at the Royal College of Music, will later perform a recital with music from the ex-USSR’s infamous enfants terribles, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.
The following day, Polish duo Emilia Wiśniewska and Julia Miller will perform works by Milhaud, Lutoslawski, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Mendelssohn at 12.30pm, while in the evening, concert cellist Sébastien Hurtaud and pianist Pamela Hurtado take to the stage. The French duo, whose recording of Hindemith’s cello works has been released by Naxos, will be giving their audience a taste of Mendelssohn, Bartok, Hindemith and Milhaud’s memorable works.
On 19 June, the curtain will come down on this year’s festival with Victor Ullmann’s one-act opera, The Emperor of Atlantis, which is based on a libretto by Peter Kien. Ullmann and Kien collaborated on the piece while interned at the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt in 1943. In collaboration with the Valletta Cultural Agency, The Emperor of Atlantis will be semi-staged at St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral in Valletta. Delighting the show’s attendees will be well-known Maltese singers Clare Ghigo, Louis Andrew Cassar, Ken Scicluna and Charles Vincenti, who will be joined by the Marseille-based Ensemble Télémaque and its musical director Raoul Lay.
The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has forced the cancellation of many artistic and cultural plans and performances in 2020–21. However, rather than being called off, this year’s ISOF was postponed to June. Nevertheless, stringent precautions are still being taken to ensure safe and enjoyable performances for all participating artists and audiences.
“Despite COVID-19-related restrictions, and with less than a quarter of the theatre’s space open to audience members, I am thrilled that live music and performances are starting to take place in Malta once again,” says Mr Fiorini. “Online performance streaming and broadcasting cannot compare to listening to live music in person. Theatre shows and concerts are two of the few cultural experiences one may enjoy right now, so why not make the most of it by attending one of our ISOF performances?”
All information correct at the time of going to press. For updates about the 15th ISO Festival and to book tickets, visit www.teatrumanoel.org.mt, call on 2124 6389 or email email@example.com. Tickets must be booked in advance and cannot be purchased at the door. The ISO Festival is supported by Arts Council Malta.