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Gianluca Marcianò announces Bach-inspired programme for 25th Al Bustan Festival featuring world class Bach interpreters Steven Isserlis, Gautier Capuçon, Andreas Scholl and more
13 February – 21 March 2018
Artistic Director Gianluca Marcianò and Festival president Myrna Bustani announce a Bach-inspired programme for the 25th Al Bustan Festival.  The Festival’s anniversary year features concerts in churches that date as far back as the Roman Empire, with a range of musicians and styles from world class Bach interpreters, included The Swingle Singers, Steven Isserlis and the Luzerner Symphony Orchestra, Gautier Capuçon, Kit Armstrong, Mahan Esfahani, Accademia Bizantina and Andreas Scholl.
Set in a quiet suburb on a picturesque hillside overlooking Lebanon’s vibrant capital, the Al Bustan Festival presents an annual programme of world-class music, dance and theatre – the most innovative and high-profile music festival in the Levant. Enterprising Myrna Bustani, Lebanon’s first female Member of Parliament, founded the Festival in February 1994 as the Middle East’s most high-profile platform for international classical virtuosi, symphony orchestras and opera companies.  Bustani received an IAMA Award in 2014 for her valuable work  and dedication to promoting music in the Middle East through the Al Bustan Festival for the last two decades. The festival takes place in the Emile Bustani Auditorium and the Crystal Garden conservatory at Al Bustan Hotel in Beyt Meri and at some of Lebanon’s historic churches. A few minutes walk from the hotel, there is an ancient archaeological site with Roman ruins, thermal baths and Byzantine mosaics. The festival, this year, contains numerous performances outside of the Al Bustan hotel – the festival’s home. Many of the venues are churches with rich and long cultural histories.
This year, the Al Bustan Festival features a wide range of musicians and styles centred around the music of JS Bach. The Festival opens on 13 February with a performance by The Swingle Singers where they will perform a variety of music from their Jazz Sebastian Bach repertoire.  In the following concerts, Gianluca Marcianò brings together soloists Gemma Summerfield, Anna Harvey, Nicholas Mulroy and Matthew Brook with the Collegium Musicale Choir and Corelli Baroque Orchestra to perform Bach’s Magnificat in D Major, St John Passion and Mass in B minor, some of Bach’s most favoured vocal works. The first will be performed at the Saint Louis Capuchin Church, which was built in 1864 by the Capuchin missionaries and is named in the honour of King Louis IX of France. St John’s Passion will be heard at the Saint Elie Church in Kantari. It was originally a chapel constructed in the eighteenth century, and was expanded into a church at the end of nineteenth century. Seriously damaged during the Lebanese civil war, the church was restored to its former glory and adorned with stained glass on its main façade. It stands today as a proud symbol of unity between the country’s different communities who congregate to it for quiet meditation.
Although Bach was known for his counterpoint, displayed in his large scale works such as the B minor Mass (performed on the 21 February), he was also a composer of music in dance forms, particularly the Gavotte, Minuet, Passpied, Bourée and Gigue. These dance elements in Bach’s music have often been used for many dance projects from ballet to breakdance. On 25 February, Flying Steps – a b-boy crew forms in 1993 – perform breakdance to Bach’s Keyboard Music.
The Bach family counted several composers including not only JS Bach, but also his two sons Wilhelm Fredemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel. Steven Isserlis and the Luzerner Symphony Orchestra capture this in a concert of the Bach Family (alongside Haydn) on the 26 February. They are then joined, the following day, by harpsichordist Maggie Cole for a programme of J.S. Bach’s Suites, Sonatas and Brandenburg Concertos.
The festival includes a strong cello theme, including Gautier Capuçon, who is joined by pianist Jérôme Ducros to perform a varied programme of Bach, Fauré, Dvořák, Piazzolla, Tchaikovsky and Grieg on 5 March. Bach’s Violin and Cello Suites are widely considered among the most profound in the repertoire. Cellists Antonio Meneses and Victor Julien-Laferrière perform the 6 cello suites on 8 and 10 March respectively. Actor Rifaat Torbey and actress Mireille Maalouf are joined by cellist Roman Storojenko for an evening of Arabic poetry accompanied by Bach’s solo cello works at the Crystal Garden, at the Al Bustan hotel, on 1 March.
Julien-Laferrière performs the Bach suites in Maad in the Mar Charbel Church; a medieval church built on the foundations of a Roman temple. Several Roman architectural elements, such as column bases tombstones, and mosaic fragments, are still remain within the Byzantinesque church or are scattered about the site.
Bach’s repertoire also included extensive Keyboard Music. American pianist Kit Armstrong performs an all-Bach piano recital on 3 March. On 11 March, award-winning harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani performs two of JS Bach’s English Suite’s in addition to his Sonata in A minor and Toccata in D.   Conductor and harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone and his early music ensemble Accademia Bizantina perform an all-Bach programme with countertenor Andreas Scholl on 13 March ahead of their performance of Bach’s Harpsichord Sonatas and Vivaldi’s Concertos for Strings on 15 March.
French jazz pianist Edouard Ferlet presents his unique Think Bach Op. 2, based on the album of the same name, which came out in January 2017.   In the second half of the concert, Ferlet joins harpsichordist Violaine Cochard for a duo of Bach Plucked Unplucked – watch a trailer here.   Continuing the theme of duos, Sergei Krylov and Lana Trotovsek perform Bach’s Double Violin Concerto with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra.
Making his debut at the festival is German pianist Martin Stadtfeld, one of the leading interpreters of Bach’s music, who will perform the composer’s Goldberg Variations.   His recording of the work won an Echo Klassik Award. Also making their debut at the Festival are three young musicians – violinist Florian Willeitner, pianist Maria Radutu and cellist Ivan Turkalj who, together, will perform as a trio on the penultimate day of the Festival.  
Gianluca Marcianò conducts the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra in a concert of orchestral suites on 21 March to celebrate J.S Bach’s birthday and bring the 2018 Festival to a close.  
“Gianluca Marcianò […] who has been Al Bustan’s artistic director since 2010, delights in the Arab influence on European music”
The Guardian
“The Al Bustan Festival has presented a beacon of hope and a sign of cultural continuity”
Opera Now
The Al Bustan Festival has enjoyed 25 years of the highest quality music making. Over the years, the Festival has invited artists such as Maria Ewing, Angelika Kirschlager, Evelyn Glennie, Helikon Opera, the Jacques Loussier Trio, Irek Mukhamedov, June Anderson, the Labeque sisters, Sumi Jo, Gautier Capuçon, Emmanuel Pahud, Anna Tifu, Boris Berezovsky, Antonio Meneses, Vadim Repin, Gidon Kremer, Antoni Wit and the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The Festival has a history of commissioning contemporary composers such as John Taverner, Naji Hakim and Roxanna Panufnik.
Presenting around 30 performances each year spanning opera, dance, orchestral and chamber music over five weeks, with additional workshop and educational programmes for the Lebanese National Conservatoire, it provides a further draw to visit Lebanon’s capital in a country already brimming with historic sites from the Assyrians to Ancient Romans, to the glories of Baalbek.
Full Festival Programme

Tuesday 13 February
Jazz Sebastian Bach
The Swingle Singers
Jazz Bach
Thursday 15 February
VV Louis Capuchin Church, Beirut
Gemma Summerfield soprano
Anna Harvey alto
Nicholas Mulroy tenor
Matthew Brook bass-baritone
Lembit Orgse harpsichord
Collegium Musicale Choir
Corelli Baroque Orchestra
Gianluca Marcianò conductor
Bach Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
Sunday 18 February
Saint John Passion
St. Elie Church, Kantari
Gemma Summerfield soprano
Anna Harvey alto
Nicholas Mulroy tenor
Matthew Brook bass-baritone
Collegium Musicale Choir
Corelli Baroque Orchestra
Gianluca Marcianò conductor
Bach Saint John Passion, BWV 245
Monday 19 February
Toccata and Fugue
Collège du Sacré Coeur Gemayzeh
Thomas Ospital organ
Programme to include
Bach Toccata and Fugue BWV 565
Wednesday 21 February
Mass in B Minor
Saint Joseph Jesuit Church, Beirut
Gemma Summerfield soprano
Fflur Wyn soprano
Anna Harvey alto
Nicholas Mulroy tenor
Matthew Brook bass-baritone
Collegium Musicale Choir
Corelli Baroque Orchestra
Gianluca Marcianò conductor
Bach Mass in B minor, BWV 232
Friday 23 February
The Goldberg Variations
Martin Stadtfeld piano
Bach The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Sunday 25 February
Breakdancing Bach
Flying Steps
8 breakdancers, piano, harpsichord
Breakdance on Bach music
Monday 26 February
The Bach Family and Haydn
Steven Isserlis cello
Lucerne Symphony Orchestra
JS Bach Sinfonia to Cantata “Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats” BWV42
WF Bach Sinfonia in F major, F. 67 “Dissonanzen-Sinfonie”
CPE Bach Cello Concerto in A – H432
Haydn Symphony No.59 in A Major “Fire”, Hob. 1:59
Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major
Tuesday 27 February
Lucerne’s Bach Playlist
Steven Isserlis cello
Maggie Cole harpsichord
Lucerne Symphony Orchestra
Bach Suite No. 1 in C major BWV 1066
Bach Cello suite No. 5 in C minor BWV 1011
Bach Sonata No. 2 in D major BWV 1028 for cello and harpsichord
Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major BWV 1048
Wednesday 28 February
Jasmin Toccata
Indie Crossover Music
Jean Rondeau clavecin
Thomas Duford luth
Keyvan Chemirani zard/santour
Persian and Baroque Music
Thursday 1 March
Arabic Poetry and Bach Evening
Crystal Garden
Mireille Maalouf actress
Rifaat Torbey actor
Roman Storojenko cello
Saturday 3 March
All Bach Piano Recital
Kit Armstrong piano
Italian concerto in F major, BWV 971
Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828
Busoni Bach Chaconne in D Minor, BWV 1004
Preludes de choral
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor BWV 903
Monday 5 March
Gautier’s Favourites
Gautier Capuçon cello
Jérôme Ducros piano
Bach Sonata No. 3
Fauré Elégie
Dvořák Silent Woods
Piazzolla Grand Tango
Tchaikovsky Andante Cantabile
Grieg Cello Sonata

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Southbank House
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Simon Goldstone
Jessica Cowper


Rayfield Allied
Southbank House
Black Prince Road
London, SE1 7SJ
United Kingdom
Simon Goldstone
Jessica Cowper

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