Going Baroque at the International Music Festival

The lunchtime concert Saturday started with a salute to tomorrow’s musicians: 11-year-old Bosba Panh in­terpreted a Handel sonata on guitar with her music teacher, classical guitarist Chan Kiri, and her 8-year-old brother Lauv on flute.

It ended with an orchestra of 15 Cambodian and international musicians gloriously playing a Johann Bern­hard Bach suite with Anton Isselhardt conducting and Mao Sam­nang as concertmaster.

This was the workshop concert of the 5th International Music Fes­tival held under the theme “Cam­bo­dia goes Baroque.”

Held at the Russian Cultural Cen­ter on the third day of the five-day concert series, the workshop featured Western-music artists from Cambodia accompanied by foreign musicians, some of them part of the Cambodian Art+Foundation’s music teacher network.

They performed as an orchestra with great verve and in perfect harmony during the last portion of the concert, even though the group had little time to rehearse because of the international artists’ schedules.

“To me, this workshop is the highlight of the festival,” said Isselhardt, the festival’s program director.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, a Ger­man composer might choose to write baroque music in the French style or a Frenchman in the Italian style, he said, since at the time, trends and fashions crossed bor­ders just as they do in today’s world of globalization.

This global outreach could be seen in action at the concert. Cam­bo­dian violinist Uy Thach played a Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach so­nata with Japanese pianist Issei Sa­kano, who afterwards accompanied Mao Samnang and German violoncellist Friedrich Kleinknecht in a Johann Jakob Bach sonata.

Although a 21st century Cam­bodian may choose to make a ca­reer in Western classical music, getting adequate training is not al­ways easy, Mao Samnang said. Wes­tern music teachers at the Ro­yal University of Fine Arts, where the 29-year-old violinist studied, were often visiting rather than fulltime teachers, he said.

This is why the Art+Foun­dation’s teacher network’s goals include regularly getting Western music pro­fessors to help train fulltime Cam­bodian teachers, as well as pro­moting Cambodian professional musicians, said Isselhardt, who initiated the foundation and the network.

The festival ends tonight in the in­timate setting of the 95-year-old St Joseph’s Chapel on National Road 5 with a recital by Japanese violinist Rieko Suzuki. Admission is free.

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