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The joy of chamber music

By Alix Norman

It’s all happening down in Paphos this week, as the Annabelle Hotel plays host to the Apollon International Chamber Music Festival, the first in what organisers hope will be an annual event bringing the joy of chamber music to our western shores. Taking place over four evenings, the festival aims to foster a “greater appreciation of classical music in the Mediterranean region by presenting performances by world-class artists while emphasising the development of a broad-based, sustainable audience through education”.

If that all sounds a little complicated, let’s break it down: put simply, it’s going to be “a gathering of people and musicians to enjoy an evening out” in the words of Festival Director, Saskia Constantinou, who has put a great deal of work into ensuring the success of the event.

“It’s an idea I’d been working on since September last year,” she says, “which came about as a culmination of everything I wanted to do.” Explaining that classical music is deemed by many to be elitist, she describes the struggle to find alternative ways to encourage people to attend concerts, such as her cooperation with travel agency Top Kinisis in delivering specially created packages for people from all over the world to hear the world-class line-up of musicians.

Drawing on the pool of talent under the umbrella of the Apollon Artists – a grouping of gifted musicians, artists and sports people – the festival promises to be an enjoyable few days for audiences both local and foreign. “As Apollon Artists, we organise events globally,” says Saskia. “And though it’s the first, this festival is a major event on our calendar. What we’re doing is trying very hard to bring people to Cyprus to enjoy this, so there are hotel packages designed to make it easy for people to attend, boosting cultural tourism to the island, and most to especially Paphos.” An area, she clarifies, which is of great importance due to its upcoming status…

“Paphos is going to be the cultural capital of Europe in 2017,” she explains, “and I feel that people aren’t taking this seriously enough. They haven’t realised the level of exposure we’re going to be privy to in international terms; the impact of Paphos 2017 is going to be phenomenal. What we need to do from now is build up to that, and then continue the attraction after that year.”

With such a high level of interest amongst foreign musicians prepared to come to Cyprus, she says – noting the “recent development of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra and their travels abroad” – there are many positive aspects on which to build. And holding the Apollon Festival at this time of year ensures that “tourists are attracted to Cyprus at a time when the hotels are not full to capacity and the focus is not merely the beach”.

But, if the emphasis seems to be on foreign audiences, fear not: there’s still space for us locals to enjoy the delights of chamber music: “There’s a need in Paphos for a high level of artistry,” Saskia adds. “While we do want to attract new audiences, there are discerning listeners out there who know what they’re looking for: the music is so varied and diverse in terms of both ensemble and composers – sometimes a trio, or a duo, or solo piano; all quite different – that it should capture everyone’s attention.”

Headed by Artistic Director Yuri Zhislin, who’s equally at home on the violin and the viola and enjoys an illustrious global career both as a soloist and a chamber musician, the five-man ensemble will be sure to delight, both with their skill and their choice of works. In fact, the festival certainly seems to be offering enough conventional pieces to keep everyone happy, featuring all the best-known composers, from Mozart to Mahler, Schubert to Scarlatti and Borodin to Brahms.

So, if a night away and a series of chamber music concerts (or even just a one-off evening performance) sounds like your thing, why not book yourself a ticket to the first Apollon international Chamber Music Festival. “What we’re hoping for is a merging of different cultures,” Saskia concludes, referencing the mixture of nationalities who attended a recent concert she organised in the Tala Recital Hall, “and that everyone enjoys it. Come to one and maybe you’ll enjoy it. And then maybe you’ll come to another!”

Apollon International Chamber Music Festival
November 7 to November 10, starting at 8pm each evening at the Annabelle Hotel in Paphos. [email protected] or call 7000 9303. Tickets can be purchased by clicking on Box Office on the website www.apollonartists.com or by calling 7000 9303 and also from Kyriakou Bookshops in Paphos and from Hearns Bookshop

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