Posted by: viewfromtheriva | September 8, 2013

Korcula’s International Baroque Festival begins!

cover of programThe second annual Korkyra Baroque Festival got off to a rousing start last night inside St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Old Town’s most cherished symbol of grand Renaissance architecture.  Although St. Mark’s was built on the site of an original 13thC Romanesque church, it’s a majestic example of Croatia’s most gifted builders, most notably, Marko Adrijic. The thrill of playing period music in such a fabulous environment, under a glorious Tintoretto painting to boot, is surely one the rare perks of being invited to perform.

the program

The Festival is a labor of love by the owners of Lesic Dmitri Palace, a gorgeous restoration that is the Old Town’s most luxurious and celebrated 5 star boutique hotel (there are only five rooms–more like sophisticated apartment suites–each one completely different and furnished in period) who spare no expense to bring in some of the world’s most gifted ensembles and artists.

This year, the Festival is represented by artists from Poland, Italy, Hungary, France, the UK and Croatia.

Arte dei suonatori from Poland was the ensemble chosen to perform the first concert and we were lucky to get tickets.  Here’s how the ensemble is described in the program:

“…Founded in Poznan in 1993, this Polish Baroque orchestra regularly co-operates with the most renowned global conductors and soloists. The orchestra has received many prestigious awards, such as Diapason d’Or, Choc du Monde de la Musique, Luister 10, 10 de Repertoire, Classics Today, Classic CD. Their album featuring Vivaldi’s compositions and flutist Rachel Podger was chosen as the “Baroque CD of the Year” by Gramophone magazine. Their recording of Handel’s Concerti grossi with Martin Gester, which we will also hear in Korčula, has also received exceptional recognition –  “CD of the month” from BBC Music Magazine and the Prelude Classical Music award “CD of the Year 2009”. In their second concert, the orchestra will present exceptionally rare music for a special Baroque instrument – psalterium – which is not in use anymore today.

So, as you can see, a VERY accomplished ensemble!

no flash allowed, so the photos all turn out looking  like paintings, which is fine with me!

no flash allowed, so a bit dark, but adding to the magical ambiance!

Being a cathedral, most of the best seating was in pews.  Chairs were set up around the pews to allow about 300 fortunate souls to hear marvelous music by Vivaldi, Albinoni and other masters of the Italian baroque.

The audience

Since no flash was allowed, a lot of my photos wound up looking like old paintings

It was cool to see that the audience wasn’t just folks like me, in their late 90’s (joke!) but in their 20’s and 30’s as well.  Fortunately, I have loved all kinds of music from ancient airs and dances to Van Morrison, so getting a chance to hear live Baroque music played by such consummate musicians with such passion, on a fabulous island, was truly memorable….and I can come back next year since Korcula is only two hours by catamaran from Split!

Hats off to Masa and Micahel Unsworth, the visionary Croatian-American couple whose passion conceived and developed Lesic Dmitri, the major sponsors of the Festival (they could have brought Van Morrison and I would have showed up, but it’s far more brave to bring in world-class Baroque!) and Sasa Britvic, the artistic director of the Festival, for making it all so damn classy and wonderful.

And so successful that I couldn’t even get one of the cool, black logo T shirts–300 of them were sold out way before the opening concert even began!





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