Musical treats in Zante

I must confess that I didn’t expect to enjoy one of the most celebrated works of chamber music on the Ionian island of Zakynthos – also known as Zante – interpreted by an equally celebrated music ensemble. The work in question was Franz Schubert’s Quartet for Strings No 14 in D Minor, D 810, otherwise known as «Death and the Maiden,» gloriously interpreted by the prominent Belcea Quartet. This little miracle took place at the newly established outdoor municipal Dermatoussa Theater, which is situated in the island’s Tragaki district. The people behind this treat – besides the musicians, of course – are the Municipality of Arcadia and composer Vassilis Stamatis, the organizers, for the second time round, of the classical music Paolo Carrer Ionio Festival. The event, which debuted last year with encouraging response, is divided into three categories: «The Family of Classical Strings,» «The Classical Music of Eastern Europe» and «Zakynthian Interpreters of Classical Music.» Highlights of the festival, which opened its doors on July 21 and runs to August 14, include the Silesian Guitar Octet – the world’s only permanent guitar octet comes from Poland and boasts BBC recordings – the Carlo Munier mandolin quintet as well as Greece’s Cirquito ensemble, the latter in a musical performance titled «World Medeas.» It is worth noting that this year, running parallel to the main festival are a series of classical music events, including tributes to composers Yiannis Papaioannou and Dionysios Visvardis, a piano recital by soloist Nelly Semitekolo, a live concert featuring young Ionian interpreters as well as a master class on violin technique and interpretation. No doubt one of the principal successes of this second holding of the festival was the participation of the Belcea Quartet. A string quartet founded in 1994, the ensemble quickly stood out on BBC’s Radio 3 and became the recipient of various awards. In 2001, the quartet signed an exclusive recording contract with EMI, earning Gramophone magazine’s award for best newcomer ensemble. Although based in London, the Belcea Quartet’s members hail from Poland, Switzerland, Romania and Britain. Here’s a heartfelt, if somewhat banal wish: May the Zakynthos effort live on. For more information on the festival log onto