Kilkenny Arts Festival celebrates half a century of


For the past 50 years, music has been at the forefront of Kilkenny Arts Festival, and this year is no exception.

Kilkenny Arts Festival 2023 will see the return of festival stalwarts Irish Chamber Orchestra in the majestic St Canice’s Cathedral.

This will feature Thomas Zehetmair performing pieces including Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor alongside Cork composer Linda Buckley’s Fall Approaches.

Led by violinist and chief conductor Thomas Zehetmair, the Irish Chamber Orchestra performs a wonderfully broad-ranging programme that embraces everything from Linda Buckley’s gorgeous Fall Approaches, inspired by Icelandic poetry, to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, featuring the most famous of all symphonic themes. The concert also features Schubert’s Scherzo in B Flat Major D.593 from his Symphony No. 8, the Unfinished. One of his most popular orchestral works, it has two complete movements with an outline sketch for a third movement, a Scherzo which Violinist Thomas Zehetmair has reinvented and completed, in a new edition published by Schott.

The beautiful St Canice’s Cathedral will also be the setting for Chamber Choir Ireland to perform some deeply spiritual works by Arvo Pärt, an Irish premiere of Rhona Clarke’s Requiem and Caroline Shaw’s much-anticipated piece, How to Fold the Wind.
Barry Douglas will also make his eagerly awaited return for a solo piano recital featuring a programme of Schubert and Liszt.

For the first time since 2014, award-winning classical pianist Barry Douglas returns to the festival, bringing an enticing programme that features two of Schubert’s ‘impromptus’ (free-form compositions that sound improvised), the much-praised Piano Sonata in A minor, and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, dedicated to Robert Schumann.

The lunchtime music series for the Festival features both the Carducci String Quartet and Camerata Kilkenny. The Carducci String Quartet return to St John’s Priory for an eclectic programme throughout their four lunchtime concerts, while Camerata Kilkenny led by soprano, Zoe Brookshaw will feature the work of Bach and other composers over two concerts.

Organist Malcolm Proud and cornetto player Darren Cornish-Moore perform a wonderful programme of renaissance music. Cuban Viola da gamba virtuoso Lixsania Fernández explores the work of José Marín with musicians Jorge Juan Morata and Eduardo Eguez in a late night show.

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra will perform a song cycle based on Seamus Heaney’s poem Sweeney Astray composed by Neil Martin and conducted by David Brophy, with vocals from Iarla Ó Lionáird and narration by Ciarán Hinds.

Seamus Heaney performed at our very first festival in 1974, and this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of his death, Sweeney brings Heaney’s words to life in a memorable tribute to one of Ireland’s greatest poets. Broadcaster John Kelly will interview Neil Martin before the show begins.



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