March musical treats to enjoy

March musical treats to enjoy Cellist Mischa Maisky

Among artistic ventures falling victim to Covid-19 last year were Feis Ceoil and Music for Galway’s Cellissimo festival – a celebration of the cello in one form or another. Happy to relate both events have been reconstituted with Feis Ceoil, supported by the RDS and celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2021, already under way and Cellissimo running from March 25-31.

However, both are a little different this year with the Feis excluding choirs and orchestras from its competitions and Cellissimo having its live and recorded concerts and recitals streamed online. Feis Ceoil’s international adjudicators will view and give their verdicts also online with feedback scanned or emailed to competitors. Winners’ names will be posted on its website and engraved on cups and trophies.

Cellissimo comes under the artistic direction of Finghin Collins, no stranger to Feis Ceoil by the way, and, with his committee, has devised interesting and wide-ranging programmes that include unusual ‘seasoned’ attractions including cheese tasting, Connemara beer sampling, an Aran knitting workshop and a Cellissimo scent kit!

Some of the festival concerts and recitals will involve what has become known as The Galway Cello – made from local materials by German-born Co. Galway instrument maker, Kuros Torkzadeh. Cellissimo also offers master classes and cello-themed films together with interviews and conversations. ‘A little bit of everything’, one might say.

Directed by French cellist Marc Coppey, the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s opening concert on March 25 will be streamed live from Kylemore Abbey. The music includes a Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto with Coppey and his illustrious Irish protégé Christopher Ellis as soloists.

Besides Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Barber and Bartók, the concert also brings the world première of Music for Galway’s commissioned Fragments by Bill Whelan played by Naomi Berrill on The Galway Cello.

Sweden’s Jakob Koranyi, Russia’s Tatjana Vassiljeva, Britons Adrian Brendel and Hannah Roberts as well as Marc Coppey and Christopher Ellis will highlight Bach’s six solo Cello Suites during the festival’s lunchtime programmes.

Friday (March 26) evening’s event comes from Tigh Neacthain on Galway’s Cross Street, a venue famed for its traditional music sessions and where Irish artist Naomi Berrill will present one of her personal choice entertainments.

Saturday evening (March 27) moves out of the city again, this time to Claregalway Castle for a near-marathon recital of Beethoven’s five Cello and Piano Sonatas with Christopher Ellis, Marc Coppey, Christopher Marwood, William Butt and Adrian Mantu. Finghin Collins is the partnering pianist in each with musicologist Richard Wigmore adding insightful comments as well.

With the ConTempo Quartet and Christopher Marwood, Sunday evening (March 28) shifts to Portumna Castle for a programme entitled From Prussia with Love. With Mozart’s D major String Quartet K 575, written for cello-loving Prussian monarch Friedrich Wilhelm II, and Schubert’s marvellous C major String Quintet D 956, this should be another highly agreeable gathering.

The closing recital on Wednesday March 31 showcases brilliant Latvian-born Israeli cellist Mischa Maisky accompanied by his pianist daughter Lily. Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango rounds off music by Beethoven, Britten, Tchaikovsky and Rakhmaninov.

More about Cellissimo and The Galway Cello here.