The Canberra International Music Festival has announced its 2019 program with the theme Re/Discover Bach, and international guests including the Brodsky Quartet and Quatuor Voces.

“It’s our 25th anniversary, and this is my anniversary present to all those people who have stood by us for 25 years, who have ensured we are still a going concern,” Artistic Director Roland Peelman tells Limelight. “And that we’re stronger than ever, as a matter of fact!”

“If I were to pick one composer I might design a festival around, Bach would have to be it. Our Canberra patrons love Bach – they’re quite outspoken about it, dare I say – so we have Bach every year,” Peelman says. “But instead of doing it just on one morning or one evening, we thought, OK, let’s do the whole festival around Bach.”

The Brodsky Quartet. Photo: supplied

While Bach isn’t the only composer featured on the program, which runs from May 2 – 12 at venues around Canberra next year, everything can be tied back to the composer, whether it’s through elements of counterpoint, adaptation or improvisation. The opening concert, A World of Bach, for instance will set Bach’s music (concertos, chorales and more) against an improvisation by didjeridoo virtuoso William Barton and Bach Remix by Nick Wales, Bree Van Reyk and Jess Green – who are the 2019 festival’s composers’ collective-in-residence

Each year the festival features an opera or oratorio as a centrepiece, and this year’s will be Bach’s St John Passion, featuring Madeleine Easton’s Bach Akademie Australia, while Canberra-born violinist Kristian Winther will perform Bach’s complete works for solo violin in an epic odyssey across one day of the festival. The complete Cello Suites will also feature across the length of the festival, performed by a series of different cellists including Daniel Yeadon, Blair Harris and David Pereira

Roland Peelman, Canberra International Music FestivalCanberra International Music Festival Artistic Director Roland Peelman. Photo © William Hall

The festival’s two guest string quartets, the Brodskys and Quatuor Voce will go head to head in a concert on the Wednesday titled Brexit Blues, featuring the music of Elgar and Franck, while the Brodsky’s program on the Thursday explores the fugue in music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Bartók. Earlier in the festival Quatuor Voce will perform The Three Bs, with music by Bach, Beethoven and Bruckner.

In addition to the string quartets, international guests at the festival will included Taiwanese percussionist Chin Cheng Lin, pianist and composer Dan Tepfer (who will perform the Goldberg Variations interspersed with his own improvisations), bolero band Los Pitutos, Canadian pianist Eve Egoyan, Belgian harpsichordist Korneel Bernolet, the Berlin-based sonic.art saxophone quartet, the French percussion ensemble SR9 Trio and Russian pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov.

Sonic.art saxophone quartet. Photo: supplied

The festival will also feature a wide range of Australian guests from baritone David Greco and soprano Natalie Christie Peluso to violinist Véronique Serret and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

Barbara Blackman’s Festival Blessing returns in 2019 with a concert at the National Gallery of Australia titled Bach in the Central Desert, featuring the Ntaria Ladies Choir with William Barton and sonic.art. Composers Moya Henderson, Ella Macens, Chris Sainsbury and Michael Dooley will also be creating new work for the festival’s 25th anniversary.

“The festival really is a discovery festival. A way to discover Bach – the Bach you perhaps may not know yet, or certain aspects of Bach which are not so obvious – and to rediscover Bach in case you really know and love him already.”


The Canberra International Music Festival runs May 2 – 12

Season Details

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine