Music Festival Has Upbeat Finish

The 7th International Music Festival truly ended as the “Grand Finale” described in its program on Monday night, with the Festival-Workshop Orchestra having to play an encore before being allowed off the stage at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center in Phnom Penh.

The evening started in an atmosphere of quiet excitement, as more than 550 people-roughly half of them Cambodians-made their way into the concert hall, forcing organizers to create an extra seating area near the stage. All additional chairs were quickly filled, and some latecomers resolved to sit on the floor along the wall during the first part of the concert.

The evening started with Japanese pianist Miki Aoki, German clarinetist Maja Pawelke and German cellist Heike Schuch filling the silent hall with the fluid melody of an early work by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Then came a few moments of peaceful commotion as musicians from the Angkor Youth Orchestra-aged between 5 and 16-found their chairs under the calm supervision of teachers from the Secondary School of Fine Arts. The young violinists and cellists played in perfect harmony under the direction of Ram Daravong who heads the school’s music department and has been training the orchestra for three years.

After a few short pieces, the youngest of the 70 musicians stepped down and were replaced by teenagers. The performance by the orchestra’s “older” contingent clearly demonstrated the talent of this upcoming generation of musicians.

The evening ended with the Festival-Workshop Orchestra, consisting of 15 of Cambodia’s leading musicians accompanied by four musicians from the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra who conveyed a whole range of emotions as they played pieces from composers Bela Bartok and Jean Sibelius. The conductor was Anton Isselhardt of the Art+ Foundation who has taught musicians in Cambodia since 1999 and launched this festival seven years ago.

After the concert, people slowly dispersed in the upbeat atmosphere of a premiere: Obviously they had enjoyed their evening.

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