The southwest coast of Ireland is one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in all Europe. There are towering mountains, rugged cliffs and magnificent long, deep bays; but the climate is mild, encouraging the growth of lush, verdant woodland and a profusion of wild flowers. There is something about being amid fertile nature, far removed from the clamour of modern urban life, that is perfectly suited to the experience of chamber music: the subtlest, most confidential form of music in the Western classical literature.
The picturesque little harbour town of Bantry, convenient but intimate, is the ideal location, as its founders realised when they established the West Cork Chamber Music Festival 24 years ago, and Bantry House, an eighteenth-century stately home with glorious ornamental gardens, makes a superb location for concerts. From modest beginnings, staffed by volunteers, the festival has developed into one of Europe’s leading chamber music events, attracting visitors and performers from all over the world, while at the same time building strong connections with the local community, especially through its ambitious outreach projects involving schools throughout the county.
Local Irish talent is featured, and there is an impressive showing by women composers, from Felix Mendelssohn’s brilliantly talented sister Fanny through to the powerfully imaginative Bulgarian-born Dobrinka Tabakova. Familiar classics sit alongside fascinating new discoveries. Here, the listener can be both challenged and soothed. It is the perfect antidote to the deadening frenzy of so much of modern life.
Bantry. The coach leaves Cork airport at midday or meet in the hotel. Drive to the small, charming harbour town of Bantry, renowned for its brightly decorated houses and views across Bantry Bay. Visit the 18th-cent. Bantry House. An introductory lecture precedes dinner and evening concert in the library of Bantry House. Quatuor Zaïde: Fanny Mendelssohn, String Quartet in E flat; Chiaroscuro Quartet: Beethoven, String Quartet No.1 in F Op.18 No.1; Dahlkvist Quartet: Andrea Tarrodi, String Quartet No.3 ‘Light Scattering’; Borusan Quartet: Pēteris Vasks, String Quartet No.4.
Bantry. 11.00am concert in St Brendan’s Church. Quatuor Zaïde: Mozart, String Quartet in C K.465 ‘Dissonance’; Beethoven String Quartet No.3 in D Op.18/3. Break for lunch before an early afternoon concert in St Brendan’s Hall. Dahlkvist Quartet: Mozart, String Quartet in B flat K.458 ‘The Hunt’; Beethoven, String Quartet No.2 in G Op.18 No.2. Some free time and dinner before the evening concert in Bantry House. Quatuor Zaïde: Haydn, String Quartet in G minor Op.74 No.3 ‘Rider’; Mairéad Hickey, Izabella Simon: Beethoven, Violin Sonata No.6 in A Op.30 No.1; Delta Piano Trio: Shostakovich, Piano Trio No.2 in E minor Op.67.
Bantry, Garinish Island. 11.00am concert in St Brendan’s Church: Ensemble Dagda: Isabella Leonarda, Ave Suavis Dilectio; Lucrezia Vizzana, Amo Christum; Francesca Caccini, Maria dolce Maria; Settimia Caccini; Barbara Strozzi, Hor che Apollo. In the afternoon travel by boat to Garinish Island, an island garden designed by Harold Peto. Evening concert in Bantry House: Delta Piano Trio: Lera Auerbach, Piano Trio No.2, Triptych: ‘This Mirror has Three Faces’; Dalhkvist Quartet: Ravel, String Quartet in F; Viviane Hagner, Johannes Moser, Barry Douglas: Beethoven, Piano Trio in D Op.70 No.1 ‘Ghost’. An option to stay for the late-night candle-lit concert in Bantry House. Finghin Collins: Schubert, Piano Sonata in B flat, D960.
Bantry. 11.00am concert in St Brendan’s Church: Chiaroscuro Quartet: Mozart, Quartet in E flat K.428; Beethoven, Quartet No.6 in B flat Op.18/6. Break for lunch and some free time before returning to St Brendan’s Church for the late afternoon concert: Johannes Moser, Dénes Várjon: Chopin, Cello Sonata in G minor Op.65; Britten, Cello Sonata Op.65; Beethoven, 7 Variations on Mozart’s ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’ WoO 46. Some free time and dinner before the evening concert in Bantry House. Azahar Ensemble: Endre Szervánszky, Wind Quintet No.1; Viviane Hagner, Johannes Moser, Barry Douglas: Beethoven, Piano Trio in E flat Op.70 No.2; Emanuelle Bertrand, Pascal Amoyel: Charles-Valentin Alkan, Sonate de Concert Op.47.
Bantry. 11.00am concert in St Brendan’s Church: Fieri Consort: Italian Madrigals. A coach leaves for Cork Airport at c. 1.00pm to meet the 4.00pm Aer Lingus flight to Heathrow.
Prices, per person
Two sharing: £1,580. Single occupancy: £1,790.
Travel by private coach; accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 3 dinners and 2 lunches with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Flights from London to Cork are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options when they are available to book and ask that you make your own flight reservation.
First category tickets to 11 concerts are also included, costing c. £340.
The Maritime Hotel, Bantry: comfortable 4-star hotel in the centre of Bantry. Most rooms have views across Bantry Bay. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Access to performances would be difficult with impaired walking. There is very little coach travel throughout apart from the journey to and from Cork Airport on the first and last days. Average distance by coach per day: 25 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.fco.gov.uk.