2020 East Neuk Festival Programme Announced
Svend McEwan-Brown has announced his 16th East Neuk Festival, unveiling an imaginative and wide-ranging programme which runs from Wednesday 1 July - Sunday 5 July 2020.
Festival Director, Svend McEwan-Brown, comments: "Thinking about ENF's programme this year began with rubbish - literally! We are a coastal festival and I am delighted that composer and instrument maker Graeme Leak will be leading our Big Project to clear East Neuk beaches then turn some of what we uplift into brilliant instruments to play. There's a bit of alchemy there. This year is also a time to relish what enduring relationships can bring to a festival. The Tallis Scholars (regular visitors for a decade) offer an exceptional, huge work - Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen - which they sing for the first time. Our 3 retreaters - Benjamin Baker, Mei Diyang and Maxim Calver - return to tackle one of the greatest of all chamber music pieces, Mozart's Divertimento in E Flat, but they have also seized the invitation to step into other programmes, adding something unique and special to each one. Our 2 quartets allow audiences to get very close, as they offer the chance to explore and listen to 2 recent quartet masterpieces. Every single event at ENF is unique and curated - something we are all proud of - I hope that there's something to delight every kind of music lover."
Amongst the host of internationally-renowned artists travelling to Scotland's remote East Neuk coastline this summer are old friends of the festival making welcome returns. South Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son, following her acclaimed appearance at the 2018 ENF, will open the 2020 festival with an enticing sequence of waltzes before being joined by the Calidore Quartet for Dvořak's Piano Quintet. She also gives a second recital offering a sharp juxtaposition of two sets of variations: Pärt's tiny Variations for the Healing of Arinushka side by side with Beethoven's amazing voyage of discovery: 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli. In a major event for the festival, The Tallis Scholars will return to Fife to perform Arvo Pärt's powerful and rarely-performed Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance) for the very first time. The will also give an intimate recital of music by Renaissance masters. ENF also welcomes back Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams for two recitals. The acclaimed Beethoven interpreter will perform two of the great composer's sonatas, the Appassionata and the thunderous Hammerklavier, as well as an all-Russian recital of Mussorgsky & Tchaikovsky. Two of the world's most exciting young string quartets - the Castalian and Calidore quartets - will also return to ENF with programmes tailored to the festival, ranging from music by the 'father of the quartet' - Haydn - to recent acclaimed works by Caroline Shaw and Thomas Adès. Rarely do quartet and orchestra come together but in a magnificent close the 2020 festival the Castalian Quartet and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra will join forces for two all-time favourites of string music.
There are two sharply contrasted composer focuses: Beethoven and Arvo Pärt, who come together in the closing concert. Every year is a 'Beethoven year' at ENF but for his 250th birthday, McEwan-Brown decides to focus on a quality that Beethoven brought to music which no musician before him achieved - the astounding vision that enabled him to write masterpieces that contain sublime mystery Cheek by Jowl with knockabout humour; mind boggling complexity next to powerful simplicity. McEwan-Brown focuses on three late mega-works - the Hammerklavier Sonata performed by Llŷr Williams, the Grosse Fuge quartet performed by the Calidore Quartet and the Diabelli Variations performed by Yeol Eum Son - adding in an early quartet (Op18 No 2 played by Castalian Quartet) and Symphony No 2 (played by the SCO conducted by Daniel Blendulf) to offer further perspective.
Mystery, reflection, the sacred and a sense of the immensity of things lie at the heart of Arvo Pärt's music. ENF features 8 dramatically contrasted pieces by him, some familiar but many less well known. The shortest piece is minutes long, his captivating Variations for the Healing of Arinushka performed at the 2020 ENF by Yeol Eum Son. At the other end of the scale, The Tallis Scholars sing an hour-long sequence from his rarely performed Kanon Pokajanen for the very first time - a dark, magnificent, spectacular piece inspired by Russian Orthodox choral tradition. The Belfiato Quintet include his tongue in cheek miniature, Quintettino, while Tom Wilkinson juxtaposes Pärt's organ music with that of Bach. Benjamin Baker is joined by the harpist Oliver Wass to play Spiegel im Spiegel (again complemented by Bach). ENF's focus on the Estonian composer concludes with his Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten performed by the SCO.
ENF's award winning Big Projects continue in 2020 with a new project bringing together professional artists with amateur and local performers and musicians to shine a spotlight on ocean pollution and the unwelcome rubbish which contaminates food chains and washes up on beaches everywhere, even along Fife's lovely golden stretch of sand. ENF joins forces with the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Plastic Free Anstruther and the Cellardyke Sea Queen Festival to respond to the crisis. The festival will invite community groups, families and individuals to join beach cleans along the Fife coast over the coming months. Plastic pollution collected will be transformed into wind and percussion instruments in workshops led by veteran junk-instrument maker and music leader Graeme Leak. The project will culminate in the creation of a "Fantastic Plastic Parade Band" of over 100 people who on Saturday 4 July will join Cellardyke's famous Sea Queen Festival. For more information about the 2020 Big Project and how to sign up, visit www.eastneukfestival/fppb
ENF's commitment to new work is reflected too in a brand new "in conversation" series in 2020. Listen Closely sees festival director Svend McEwan-Brown join both of this year's string quartets to look in depth at recent works they have championed, to offer listeners the chance to examine and hear them close up. Calidore Quartet will discuss Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw's Essays before they give its Scottish premiere at the festival, and the Castalian Quartet will unpack the music of Thomas Adès's Arcadiana before performing it immediately after the discussion.
A new 6-concert series, Wide Open, will invite audiences to open their minds and ears as they embark on a musical journey through Iraq to Sweden via Cuba and the Scottish borders. Artists include Cuban violinist Omar Puente and his sextet; the Julian Bliss Septet presenting a brand new show inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood; Scottish harpist, singer and composer Esther Swift; hot jazz guitarist Martin Taylor; and The Taqasim Ensemble led by Oud master Ahmed Mukhtar who perform a programme of Mukhtar's original music alongside traditional Arabic music. A musical roam across the Nordic lands with David Chadwick and Marit Fält will see Chadwick performing on the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish fiddle, and Fält on låtmandola (a kind of mandolin).
ENF is dedicated to providing a platform for the best emerging talent and introducing its audiences to artists they might not have seen perform live before. From Prague, the Belfiato Quintet travel to Fife to make their UK public debut performing music from their homeland including from Janáček, Rejcha and Förster. Other debut artists include organist Tom Wilkinson who contrasts three of Pärt's works for organ with major Bach masterpieces, creating a powerful juxtaposition of ancient and modern, minimal and Baroque. Harpist Oliver Wass will also make his debut in an intimate recital exploring the many sides of his instrument, from the spectacular fireworks of Falla and Posse to Britten's touching gift to his friend, the legendary Welsh harpist, Ossian Ellis.
The festival continues its support and commitment to young artists through its celebrated chamber music seminar, ENF Retreat. In a continued evolution of the programme and its relationship with its family of musicians, three past 'Retreatants' - violinist Benjamin Baker, cellist Max Calver & violist Diyang Mei - return to the festival to take part in three concerts in the main festival programme including, under the guidance of legendary cellist Valentin Erben, a performance of Mozart's late Divertimento K563. They will also appear elsewhere in the festival programme to perform solo Tavener, Pärt and Bach. Further retreat residencies will be underway at the festival behind closed doors, in preparation for performances in 2021.
Selected concerts will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3, bringing the festival's concerts to a global audience of more than 2 million listeners.
The East Neuk Festival gratefully acknowledges financial support of many private individuals, Trusts and Foundations, and sponsors. It is thankful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Creative Scotland for their continued support and to Hedley G Wright for generously supporting the Belfiato Quintet concerts.