Orkney concluded its 40th St Magnus International Festival (16 - 26 June) in a final weekend of performances including the resounding success of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Festival Chorus.
This year’s festival was an extended ten-day event, with 230 artists and musicians coming from all over the world to our tiny archipelago off the north coast of Scotland to take part. Forty new works of music and forty new works of art marked the 40th festival, and there were commemorations for one of the festival founders, the composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who died earlier this year. Performances of his music took place throughout the festival, and notably Wendy’s Wedding Music, received its world premiere, in what was probably the last ever premiere of Max’s music at the festival.
Other highlights included three operas - one of which was a new chamber opera The Iris Murder by composer and festival artistic director, Alasdair Nicolson; the Danish Sinfonietta, and the Orkney folk duo Saltfishforty, who also had 40th birthdays this year.
After six years of fundraising, the festival’s new Steinway Concert Grand Piano arrived just in time for the festival. Its “christening” included piano duo Samson Tsoy and Pavel Kolesnikov and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto performed by Alexei Volodin and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This was only the BBC SO’s second visit only to St Magnus International Festival.
Next summer’s festival will run from Friday 16 to Wednesday 21 June 2017 and will bring another vibrant, international programme to the idyllic island setting of Orkney. 2017 is the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Magnus, and there will be a series of events on Orkney throughout the year, including at the St Magnus International Festival.
Artistic Director, Alasdair Nicolson said, “Programming the St Magnus International Festival each year is a great joy, and work is well under way for 2017. Following festival tradition, new works will naturally play an important role, and one of next year’s will be a piece celebrating the life of St Magnus, with words by the famous Norwegian author and dramatist, Jon Fosse. We will look forward to announcing the full programme in the spring.”
Leonie Bell, Director, Arts and Engagement, Creative Scotland, who attended the festival this summer said: “Congratulations to St Magnus International Festival on their 40th anniversary festival, a festival that brings the world to Orkney and Orkney to the world. It felt like a particularly special year, with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies remembered and his work celebrated in concerts from Hebrides Ensemble, Orkney Camerata, Stockholm Chamber Brass and others. The festival continues to provide a fantastic platform by presenting an impressive array of world premieres and specially commissioned new work to mark the festival’s anniversary. Congratulations again to all the artists, volunteers and staff.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events said, “We are delighted that the 40th St Magnus Festival provided a wonderful opportunity for local, national and international talent to create and exhibit new work and that, once again, the festival was so strongly supported by the Orcadian community as well as art lovers from much further afield.
Supported through EventScotland’s Beacon Funding Programme, the festival importantly engages the Scottish arts community and reaches out to the wider world, demonstrating Scotland’s reputation as the perfect stage for events to a considerable audience. We look forward to another significant anniversary celebration in 2017.”