2014 is a bittersweet year for the festival, as it also bids farewell to Artistic Director Chris Latham.

The Canberra International Music Festival will celebrate its twentieth anniversary when it opens next week. This year’s festival also heralds Chris Latham’s last as Artistic Director.

The 2014 program, The Fire and The Rose, commemorates the centenary of the commencement of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII. With featured works by composers who were also soldiers, the program highlights the role that music and musicians played in war.

“One of the curious things about this year’s festival is that it’s actually a festival of young composers,” said Artistic Director Chris Latham. “Because these were composers who went off to war, they’re largely in their early 20s. And they’re being played by young musicians. Ultimately I think musicians are the embodiment of The Fire and The Rose.”

Latham’s final program lasts ten days and two weekends, and fuses the classical and the contemporary, the familiar and the new. He has scheduled works by Bach, Mozart, and Brahms, as well as composers in residence, prominent Australians Kats-Chernin, Westlake and Sculthorpe. A variety of ticketed and free events showcase these composers, and acclaimed international and Australian artists including Michael Askill, Christopher Saunders, Simone Riksman, and Elizabeth Wallfisch and the Wallfisch Band.

“I’d encourage people to come along. It’s not what you think – if you think you’re going to see a festival about the war, you’re probably imagining some dark experience,” said Latham. “But what you’re going to hear is this very strong affirmation of life.”

One of Latham’s most exciting program decisions is the Australian debut of Rued Langgaard’s dramatic Music of the Spheres. The symphonic work is of great complexity and is one of the most important pieces written in WWI. Latham also continues the dialogue between architects and musicians in the award-winning Amazing Spaces series. This iniative turns some of Canberra’s most unique buildings into performance venues.

“If you have any instinct towards the beauty of the world being revealed to you, and that being a good thing, please, come and see what we’re going to make. I assure you, if you’re only going to come to one festival, this is the one to come to.”

The Canberra International Music Festival will be held from May 9 – 18. For further information, visit www.cimf.org.au