The Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival was founded in September 1998. The unique spiritual and historical atmosphere in Jerusalem made it a natural choice as a home for the festival, drawing artists from around the world to this cradle of culture. Under the artistic direction of renowned pianist, Elena Bashkirova, the Festival earned enthusiastic reactions in Israel and abroad from its inception. The dedication of the participants created a familial atmosphere, with each artist generously contributing his free time and appearing without remuneration. Participants continue to include such luminaries as Daniel Barenboim, Lang Lang, Maxim Vengerov, Julia Fischer, Miriam Fried and Emmanuel Pahud as well many other distinguished artists from Europe, North America and Israel.
Each year the Festival chooses a different theme, a thread that weaves its way through ten or twelve consecutive concerts. The first year was experimental, featuring eclectic programs, each one representing a different country. Throughout the years, the Festival has celebrated "Departing Centuries," which features compositions written at the close of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the turning points in musical history, and composers whose revolutionary vision changed the existing musical language and the path of creation. "Transcriptions and Transformations" rediscovers well-known pieces in a different light, either transformed by the composers themselves or transcribed by their colleagues.
The 2003 Festival was dedicated to Vienna, the city that, above all others, influenced and determined the path of music. Despite the city's cultural complexity, and the reality that the children of its creativity were often blighted by exile, poverty and lack of recognition, the history of music is unthinkable without Vienna. Embracing a different theme, the 2004 Festival was built around the composers of Eastern Europe, who for over two centuries, have made a significant contribution to the development of music. Special emphasis was given to the music of Dvorak to mark one hundred years since his death. Apart from Dvorák, works by Smetana, Janácek, Enesco, Bartók and Lutoslawski, to name but a few, were highlighted.
Each year the Festival commissions a new piece, which receives its world premiere in Jerusalem. Some of these pieces have become an inseparable part of the repertoire on tour. Festival ensembles tour Europe and the USA, performing regularly in Berlin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, London, Vienna and New York. They are also regular guests of international summer festivals such as Lucerne, Rheingau, Menton, Bad Kissingen, Schwetzingen, Stresa and the Schleswig-Holstein.
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