Travel across the globe this summer as we live up to the ‘international’ part of our name by showcasing spellbinding music from around the world. We’ve picked out a selection of just some of the concerts in our programme that shine a light on the phenomenal musical heritage of countries from China to the Czech Republic.
There’s no shortage of Czech representation at this year’s International Festival, with Rusalka leading our opera programme, appearances by the Czech Philharmonic and Pavel Haas Quartet and pieces by Mahler, Martinů, Janáček and others popping up in a number of repertoires. This rich musical heritage is the focus of the Czech Philharmonic’s first concert with us this summer, which opens with Dvořák’s Carnival Overture. It’s a fitting choice for this orchestra, since their first ever concert in 1896 featured a programme exclusively made up of works by Dvořák and was conducted by the maestro himself.
Born in Morocco in 1304, Ibn Battuta set out on a pilgrimage to Mecca aged 21 and spent the next three decades travelling across Africa, Asia and Europe. On eventually returning home, he dictated his recollections of such far-flung cities as Mogadishu, Constantinople, Damascus, Delhi, Quanzhou and Sumatra to a scribe. The resulting travelogue, catchily titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, but generally known simply as The Travels, provides the inspiration for this concert from the Hesperion XXI ensemble, led by Jordi Savall. Playing pieces from each major stop on Ibn Battuta’s journey, The Traveller of Time is a fascinating window into the musical worlds of the 14th century.
Susanna Mälkki has been the Chief Conductor of Scandinavia’s oldest orchestra since 2016. For this concert, she’s leading them in a glorious celebration of Finnish composers past and present, opening with a piece that received its live world premiere just last year. Composed by Kaija Saariaho specifically for Mälkki and the Helsinki Philharmonic, Vista was inspired by drives along the Californian coast, taking in its astonishing natural beauty. It’s followed by a piece from Finland’s best-known composer, Jean Sibelius, whose Tapiola conjures up the world of the Tapio, a Finnish forest spirit described in the Kalevala.
Arooj Aftab made several firsts at the 2022 Grammy Awards, becoming both the first Pakistani artist to win an award and the first-ever recipient of a newly introduced category, Best Global Music Performance. A Brooklyn-based musician who primarily sings in Urdu, Aftab has been a critical favourite ever since releasing her first cover songs online in the early 2000s. Her third album, Vulture Prince, pays homage both to the ghazals she grew up listening to and the wide range of jazz, folk and classical traditions she has absorbed since.
The Aboriginal Australian musician and composer William Barton has been one of the world’s most renowned didgeridoo players since he first performed with Queensland Symphony Orchestra as a teenager. Taught to play by his uncle Arthur Peterson who was an elder of the Wannyi, Lardil and Kalkadunga people, Barton has described his musical ambition as to “take the oldest culture in the world and blend it with Europe’s rich musical legacy”. This summer, he joins the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble as part of our UK / Australia season, to perform a programme that includes the European premiere of his composition The Rising of Mother Country.
Our next concert takes us across the Atlantic to the United States, where Florence Price’s First Symphony was first performed in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was described after its premiere as ‘a faultless work... that speaks its own message with restraint and yet with passion... worthy of a place in the regular symphonic repertoire.’ Yet despite the rapturous praise it received, ninety years after that first concert her name remains unfamiliar even to many devoted classical music fans. That’s hopefully set to change now; The Philadelphia Orchestra’s recording of her first and third symphonies, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, just won the 2022 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. Hear the work for yourself this summer and we’re sure you’ll agree with those 1930s critics that it deserves much wider recognition.
For decades, the village of Clejani in Romania was renowned locally for the astonishing talent of its folk musicians, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they were introduced to an international audience under the name Taraf de Haïdouks. With many founding members now playing alongside their sons, the newly renamed Romany group has accumulated a wealth of fans over the decades, including the late great violinist Yehudi Menuhin, film composer Danny Elfman and fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. It’s not hard to see why – dizzyingly fast fiddle-playing underscored by accordion, double bass, cimbalom and more make for an unmissable evening’s entertainment.
It seems only fitting to end our globe-trotting in Scotland, with the unmistakable sound of bagpipes to welcome us home. But don’t expect any slow Gaelic airs here – the electronic stylings of this Skye four-piece are a far cry from the traditional tunes that welcome tourists to Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. On a Niteworks track, Scottish folk songs and instruments alike are reinvented as electronica, with irresistible beats underpinning haunting melodies. Their third album A’ Ghrian was released earlier this year and is certain to get the Leith Theatre crowd dancing through the night.