The 13th edition of the International Spring Festival (ISOFestival) opens tomorrow, raising the curtain on nine days of classical music performances featuring acclaimed international and Maltese artists.

This year’s line-up includes names such as soprano Gillian Zammit, mezzo-soprano Clare Ghigo, baritone Joseph Lia and conductor Brian Schembri.

Other renowned artists include French mezzo-soprano Brigitte Peyré, the Zürich based Ameraldi Trio, and the Estonian Sinfonietta.

Nine concerts will take place at the Manoel Theatre, the National Museum of Archaeology and the Malta Society of Arts (Palazzo De La Salle) – starring soloists, chamber ensembles and orchestras in repertory ranging from Schubert through Shostakovich, Poulenc and Hindemith to new premieres.

This year’s theme revolves around the tenebraic Der Tod und das Mädchen – Death and the Maiden, Schubert’s Lied on Matthias Claudius’ poem of the same name, but which Schubert also composed as a string quartet – described as ‘a pillar of chamber music’, and which Mahler at the end of the19th century orchestrated for strings.  Mahler’s version will be performed on the opening night, to be held at the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta tomorrow at 8pm. The concert will feature the all-female string orchestraHarmonia Consort.

At the same venue on Sunday, the Somogyi String Quartet, Budapest, will perform the original Schubert version, which will also feature Schoenberg’s String Quartet No.1 in the first half – a Malta premier.

The following day at the Malta Society of Arts, Valletta (Palazzo De la Salle), the Aquilon Trio, London, will perform a rather bold programme of contemporary music, including the late Charles Camilleri’s New York Trio, Thea Musgrave’s Pierrot and two world premieres by French composers Roland Conil and Dominique Lièvre.

On Tuesday, Azerbaijani pianist Saida Zulfugarova will perform Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata and the final Op. 111 Sonata, together with Schumann’s Kinderscenen (Childhood scenes).

The voice will also feature a major role in this year’s edition.

Tomorrow, the opening night, Ghigo will perform the highly expressionist and quasi-erotic Das Buch der hängenden Gärten from Schoenberg (The book of Hanging Gardens) orchestrated for strings by Fiorini.

On Saturday, soprano Zammit will perform a series of Lieder accompanied by the principle harpist of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Britt Arend, and on Wednesday baritone Lia will perform Schubert’s Der Tod und das Mädchen among other highly evocative repertoire at the Malta Society of Arts at the Museum of Archaeology.

The last three nights will find the Zürich based Ameraldi Trio, and the Estonian Sinfonietta at the Manoel Theatre. The Ameraldi will perform Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 1 and Five pieces for piano trio and Schubert’s E Flat Piano Trio.

For the closing concert conductor Schembri, long-time champion of Fiorini’s music and collaborator of the ISOFestival, and after a year’s absence from the Maltese music scenario, will be taking the podium to conduct the Estonian Sinfonietta.

In the first half of the programme Schembri will be joined by pianists Charlene Farrugia – performing Hindemith’s Kammermusik no.1 and Lucia Micallef – Poulenc’s Aubade (piano concerto).

In the second half, French mezzo-soprano Peyré will world-premiere Fiorini’s Quatre miniatures (Four miniatures) based on the text of the French poet Sophie Charpentier and Malta-premier Mahler’s ‘provocation to Providence’ Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the death of Children).

In addition the concerts at the Manoel, will open with young piano prodigy 12-year old Daphne Delicata, who is the first Maltese to be admitted to the Menuhin School of Music, UK.

All concerts start at 8pm.

For more information and updates, visit the ISO Festival’s website, www.iso-festival.com. Tickets are available from the Manoel Theatre’s booking office or online: www.teatrumanoel.com.mt

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