Thursday 10 June 2021

Up Close and Musical: Shiry Rashkovsky's new festival aims to foster a deeper connection and understanding with what musicians do.

Fidelio Cafe, Clerkenwell
Fidelio Cafe, Clerkenwell

Viola player Shiry Rashkovsky conceived the idea of her Up Close and Musical Festival after being asked 'what her day job was' one too many times by audience members post-concert, but there were always other members of the audiences who were keen to chat and learn more. So with her new festival Shiry wants to not just make music, but foster in the audience a greater understanding of what musicians to. Originally scheduled for 2020 but twice postponed due to the pandemic Up Close and Musical takes place at the Fidelio Café from 17 July to 15 August 2021.

As artistic director of the festival Shiry has brought together a diverse group including DJ and composer Gabriel Prokofiev, cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe, violinist Chloë Hanslip violin, Trio Klein & pianist Yulia Chaplina, jazz-bass player and composer Misha Mullov-Abbado , soprano and composer Héloïse Werner, author Jessica Duchen and composer Nimrod Borenstein. And the festival will not only provide a performance platform, but with interviews and talks Shiry wants to take the foster a deeper connection between performers and audience.

The festival's postponements have been a challenge (she jokes about the 2021 being the second edition), but the 2021 version is not vastly different to what was originally planned, except that events are rather more spread out and are shorter. And she has benefited from the learning process, each postponement giving her the possibility of tinkering with things. She has taken arts leadership roles before, but this is the first event she has created from scratch, so is in some ways grateful for the experiences.

When she first conceived the idea of the festival she wanted a venue which was cosy and convivial, which would foster conversations, and the Fidelio Cafe has this atmosphere, evoking the idea of hauskonzerte. But whilst it is a relaxed place, there is also respect for the music, you don't eat and listen at the same time! In fact, Shiry used to live down the road from venue when it was a pizzeria that she used to visit. Then the pizza place closed and the construction workers arrived. She was intrigued by the name, Fidelio Orchestra Café and popped in to talk to them and loved the energy.

The festival will have six concerts and two talks over four days (17 and 29 July, 14-15 August 2021). Almost all the artists in the festival are boundary crossing, as Shiry wanted to show what classical music can be, as she feels that there is a lack of public awareness of the potential of the genre.

The first day begins with composer Nimrod Borenstein giving a live demonstration of how he made the final compositional choices for one of his works. Then Trio Klein perform favourite works, including Bach's Goldberg Variations, and the String Trio 1944  by Gideon Klein (which was composed in Theresienstadt in 1944) and they will be joined by pianist Yulia Chaplina for Caroline Shaw's piano quartet Thousandth Orange (Shiry calls it 'fabulous') and after dinner there is a set from Gabriel Prokfiev combining live electronics with Shiry playing viola, and this forms the launch of his forthcoming album and is a collaboration with Prokofiev's Nonclassical.

Then on the Thursday evening, cellist Abel Selaocoe will be performing his own pieces, African music, Bach and much more. Shiry describes herself as a 'massive fan'.

The August weekend begins with violinist Chloe Hanslip performing Bach, Biber and Ysaye, then after dinner there is Misha Mullov-Abbado and his jazz sextet performing some of his recent works. On Sunday, Jessica Duchen will be reading from her novel Immortal about the identity of the ‘Immortal Beloved’ of Ludwig van Beethoven’s love letter following the composer’s anniversary year. After dnner, soprano Heloise Werner will be performing solos from her new album, including Récitations by George Aperghis and a piece by Cheryl Frances-Hoad. There will also be the world premiere of Werner's new work, commissioned by Shiry, The Erl-King for soprano and viola which is inspired by Angela Carter’s reworking of the Erl-king fairy tale in The Bloody Chamber. Shiry and Heloise Werner will be recording this in August alongside an arrangement of Schubert's setting of Goethe's version of the tale, Erlkönig.

Many of the artists are friends or people Shiry has known a long time, and all are good speakers with unique personalities so she is confident that the mix of music, conversation and talk will come out right.

The event takes place at the Fidelio Cafe which is a project of the Fidelio Orchestra

Further details from the Up Close and Musical website.

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