TOGETHER with rustling trees and the songs of hikers, the Tatras will this week echo with the delightful melodies of centuries past, as an unusual festival is held at the very foot of the mountains. The organisers say that for “the culture-loving public, young professional musicians, teachers, students, experts and those eager to discover” it will be a platform for artistic, scientific as well as philosophical exchanges, and a celebration of music in all its forms.
MEMA, or Middle European Music Academy, will take place in the northern Slovak town of Poprad from November 3 to 7. Although it will be the very first MEMA, the programme already rivals some of the most prestigious classical music events in the country. One reason is that its organisers are no greenhorns: the same team also produces the highly successful Strings of Autumn festival in Prague.
In comparison with the Prague event, however, MEMA puts a greater emphasis on education. Its programme, in fact, consist mostly of master classes, workshops, lectures and round-table discussions dealing with historical music and performance on period instruments such as the harpsichord, lute, basso continuo or earlier types of violin, cello and flute.
Nevertheless, several events have also been prepared for the ‘lay’ audience. Among them is a show with dance numbers performed using authentic Baroque choreographies and costumes, an exhibition of artworks with dance themes from the 16th to 18th centuries and, most prominently, five classical music soirées featuring top Slovak and foreign musicians.
Perhaps the greatest highlight is the closing concert with compositions by Bach, Haydn and Dvořák performed by, among others, German harpsichordist Barbara M. Willi, Italian bassoonist Sergio Azzolini, and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It will be conducted by Milan Turković, the Vienna-based instrumentalist, conductor and pedagogue who is also the festival’s honorary president.
Turković described one of MEMA’s goals as being to bring modern instrumentalists playing modern instruments closer to historical performance practices.
“We hope that MEMA’s motto, ‘Contextual Interpretation of European Cultural Heritage’, inspires a dialogue involving comparisons and discussion of contrasts, possibly even confrontations, from the viewpoints of different musical traditions,” he stated. “Our hope is to obtain a higher degree of recognition of each other, and to learn from one another.”
For more information about the Middle European Music Academy, visit www.mema2009.eu.