Two very different concerts formed the pillars of the newly established FORTE Festival, a series of disparate classical music events which took place in 18 venues around Cork city last weekend.
Cork Orchestral Society organised the festival with the specific intention of bringing so-called classical music to the widest possible audience, just to demonstrate that such music is for everybody. Consequently, 15 free ‘pop-up’ concerts took place in pubs, cafés, hospitals, the GPO, bus station, and even in the offices of this newspaper.
The programme chosen by the Irish Baroque Chamber Soloists was made up of most attractive, easy-on-the-ear, rarely performed music, written in the 17th century by composers whose names are largely known only to scholars. With the exception of the Capriccio stravaganza á 4 by the Italian virtuoso violinist, Carlo Farina (1604-1639), there was nothing particularly memorable on the programme. Monica Huggett was her usual relaxed, virtuosic self but even she seemed unable to lift the playing quality of those around her to their normally brilliant standards.
The charismatic, ebullient Gabor Takács-Nagy, on the other hand, brought their brilliant best out of the players in the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Introducing Beethoven’s ‘Grosse Fuge’ Op. 133 as “mad” and elements in Bartok’s Divertimento similarly, he drew attention to the intentions of the composers to explore ideas and emotions that needed excessive dynamic and rhythmic contrasts to fully express themselves.
The performances of both works were almost frightening in their intensity. Takács-Nagy’s loving respect for the music drew astonishingly ethereal playing in addition to huge aggression, brilliant dancing rhythms, and sublime majesty from the ICO. Kristof Barati was the virtuosic, beautifully-toned, stylish, soloist in Haydn’s Violin Concertos Nos 1 and 4 and the ICO accompanying matched his elegance.
Haydn, or his patrons, the Hungarian Esterhazy family, could never have imagined the variety of emotions, colours, level of dissonance when needed, depth of sadness, or levels of excitement that Bartok created in his 1939 masterpiece, magnificently interpreted by Takás-Nagy.
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