As well as his very active performing career at home and abroad, the Dublin-born pianist Finghin Collins is also artistic director of two important events occurring outside the capital.
The first is the New Ross Piano Festival, which since its foundation in 2006 takes place in late September and is centred on the acoustically vibrant St Mary’s Church of Ireland in the Co. Wexford town.
The other is Music for Galway, a more extended series of concerts spread throughout the year and which has locally based Áine Ó Maille as its chairperson and Anna Lardi Fogarty as its executive director. Finghin Collins is currently artistic director.
This year’s ‘Let’s dance’ theme celebrates many of the links joining music and dance together but Music for Galway also incorporates a short Midwinter Festival in its varied programme.
Under the banner of ‘Beloved’, and running at the Town Hall Theatre from Friday January 19 to Sunday January 21, it focuses on works written by composers in love. These include the great Romantics Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner as well as husband and wife Robert and Clara Schumann.
The festival also touches on the classical figures of Beethoven and Schubert and wanders into the last century with pieces by Leoš Janáček through his disturbing ‘Intimate Letters’ Quartet, Benjamin Britten and his marvellous setting of seven Michelangelo Sonnets and Arnold Schönberg’s magical string sextet ‘Transfigured Night’. Fear not, the piece dates from 1899 before Schönberg ventured into atonality and virtually turned compositional technique on its head.
Opening with Collins playing Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, the artistic line-up is quite impressive with the Galway-based ConTempo Quartet playing Janáček and being joined by Simon Aspell, viola and Christopher Marwood, cello for the Schönberg and Brahms’s impressive second String Sextet.
South African soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon, second prizewinner in the 2010 Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition, returns to Ireland for a selection of songs by Richard Strauss as well as Lieder by the Schumanns. English tenor James Gilchrist will be heard in Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebter (‘To the distant beloved’) as well as the Britten Sonnets. He will also join Sarah-Jane Brandon for an evening of operatic love songs and duets accompanied by Dearbhla Collins.
Besides, the weekend presents a showing of the 1983 film ‘Spring Symphony’ by the late Berlin-born director Peter Schamoni. The movie brings to life the passionate relationship between Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck and her father’s attempts to thwart it. The couple married in 1840 when the Appeal Courts overruled Wieck’s opposition.
The remarkable Clara was Robert’s muse and devoted wife through many matrimonial tribulations until his death in the asylum at Endenich near Bonn in 1856. They had seven children and Clara also managed to continue her performing career even playing in Dublin’s Antient Concert Rooms some months before Robert died. Her platonic relationship with Brahms lasted until her own death in 1896.
Booking for the Midwinter Festival may be done on line at www.musicforgalway.ie or by phoning Town Hall Theatre, Galway, 091 569777.