Plenty of stand-outs at Kilkenny Arts Festival despite the rainfall

The rain put a damper on the outdoor events at Kilkenny Arts Festival, but there were plenty stand-outs among the classical music events, writes Cathy Desmond.

Plenty of stand-outs at Kilkenny Arts Festival despite the rainfall

The rain put a damper on the outdoor events at Kilkenny Arts Festival, but there were plenty stand-outs among the classical music events, writes Cathy Desmond.

Heavy rain put a damper on the open-air Shakespeare performances at the first weekend of the 46th Kilkenny Arts Festival.

In the classical music strand, new festival director, Olga Barry programmed performances from a range of Irish and international ensembles in the city’s sacred spaces.

On Saturday afternoon, Musici Ireland, coordinated by violist Beth McNinch deployed a string quartet and three singers in work by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt at The Black Abbey.

The sequence opened with an instrumental piece; ‘Fratres’ like his minimalist hit, Spiegel im Spiegel, featured his signature ‘tintinnabuli’ or movement on the three notes of a chord; Es Sang vor langen jahren, a secular song of lament for lost love with a similar sentiment to Schubert’s Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel featured mezzo-soprano, Sharon Carty accompanied by violin and viola.

Tenor Eamonn Mulhall, soprano Róisín O’Grady and Sharon Carty joined the musicians for the most substantial number, a setting of Stabat Mater. All three were secure in delivering their exposed lines in a restrained, unadorned style that suited Part’s austere compositions.

Less satisfactory were the spoken programme notes that at times lacked clarity.

Barry Douglas stepped in to replace Alexander Gavrylyuk at a Saturday night solo piano recital at St Canice’s Cathedral.

The Belfast native gave a vivid an evocation of Mussorgsky’s Picture’s at an Exhibition and was my highlight of the day.

The big programme included six Moments Musicaux by Rachmaninov and Beethoven’s Appassionata all performed from memory.

Over at the Set Theatre, the Ukrainian team behind Balaklava Blues invited the audience on the floor with loud, relentless drum rhythms but I was transfixed by the mesmerising video projections mixing archive footage and Russian cartoons.

Musical highlights next week include recitals by period-instrument quartet, Quatuor Mosaiques and a rare opportunity to hear Nathalie Stutzmann combine the roles of singing and conducting in an all Bach programme.

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