The first Festival of its kind to have been inaugurated in Cyprus, in 2009, the International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival has established itself as one of the most innovative and cutting-edge annual music events in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Festival is dedicated to the promotion of new music: The well-established masterpieces of the contemporary music literature of the 20th century as well as new works by the younger generation of composers. The Festival has so far presented hundreds of Cyprus premieres as well as a great number of world premieres by composers who have been especially commissioned by the Foundation to write new pieces for the occasion.
The Festival is rooted in the Pharos Arts Foundation’s deep commitment to music creativity and innovation. Pharos has been the first exponent of contemporary music in Cyprus, having identified important and hugely talented young Cypriot composers and commissioning them to write new works, which were subsequently premiered in Nicosia by international ensembles. Examples include, Réflexions by Vassos Nicolaou, which was premiered by Ensemble intercontemporain; et in terra by Yiannis Kyriakides, which was premiered by the London Sinfonietta; Echopraxia by Evis Sammoutis, which was premiered by Ensemble Modern, and went on to win the Royal Philharmonic Society Award and the prestigious Irino Prize.
Organised between 4 and 13 October 2019 at The Shoe Factory in Nicosia, the 11th International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival featured four unique concerts, as well as a number of educational workshops and other extracurricular activities for the youth of Cyprus.
The Festival opened with the C Barré Plucked Trio performing the The (plucked) Strings Theory Project – a truly exciting programme for the unusual combination of mandolin, harp and guitar, that offers numerous timbral and technical possibilities.
The second concert featured one of the Festival’s closest collaborators, Grammy-nominated violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved in an extraordinary programme for solo violin, entitled Time Traveller – The Nicosia Etudes. Inspired by the sounds, textures, architecture and poetry of various medieval cities, predominantly Nicosia, Peter assembled a programme of newly composed works by a number of leading composers, who have incorporated in their music material from the past, as for example, the extraordinary ‘Cyprus Codex’ (the only known Codex of medieval Western music in the region), the medieval Totentänze, and the colossal ‘Klagenfurt Codex’.
The celebrated composer and vocalist Agata Zubel teamed up with pianist Krzysztof Ksiazek to deliver a unique recital of songs by Crumb, Ravel, Barber, Szymanowski and Obradors. Boasting a rich discography and a number of important prizes, and renowned for her unique vocal range and for her fearless use of techniques that defy stereotypes, Zubel has appeared in some of the world’s most prestigious venues with ensembles and orchestras such as Los Angeles Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Ensemble Inter-Contemporain, Klangforum Wien, London Sinfonietta, amongst many others.
The Festival concluded with the multimedia musical performance FACE, by Cypriot composer Yannis Kyriakides, photographer Johannes Schwartz and writer Maria Barnas, performed by the ELECTRA Ensemble for New Music. The performance delved into the infinite expressiveness of the face, which has fascinated man for centuries. In the past, scientists assigned all kinds of character traits to people’s faces and the shape of their heads. Now computers and smartphones classify and analyse our most minimal facial expressions for fun, for identity control, or to gauge our mood for commercial gain. In this thrilling multimedia concert for voice, piano, violin, recorders, live electronics and video, composed music merged with facial recognition algorithms translated into sound.
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