Exile is the main theme of the XXXIII Banchetto Musicale international early music festival, which takes place from 5 to 24 September 2023.
Leaving home to save one’s life, or simply in search of an easier life; as an outcast, whether innocent or guilty; living a secret spiritual double-life due to one’s religious views not being accepted in one’s homeland or in a foreign country – all of these and more are forms of exile. But as well as being a fate suffered by millions, exile can also represent a blessing – a chance for self-preservation, for survival, for evolution.
To explore the theme of exile, this year’s festival welcomes soloists and ensembles from Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Iceland, South Korea and Japan.
The official opening of the festival’s 33rd edition will be marked by a concert dedicated to this year’s 700th anniversary of Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. The chamber choir ‘Brevis’, vocal ensemble ‘Duodeco’, as well as the Gregorian choir ‘Schola Gregoriana Sancti Casimiri’ from Poland, organists Aušra and Vidas Pinkevičius, and an instrumental group led by acclaimed German conductor Detlef Bratschke, will perform a 16th-century mass by Italian composer Teodoro Riccio. This work was composed in Königsberg (presently known as Kaliningrad), and is dedicated to the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Stephen Bathory.
Conductor, organist and harpsichordist Detlef Bratschke is the artistic director of the famous Balthasar Neumann Choir, director of the Orlando di Lasso Ensemble, and professor at Bremen University of the Arts. Prior to the festival’s opening concert at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Detlef Bratschke will lead a course for choral singers and soloists in the performance of 16th-century polyphonic music.
In the Renaissance Great Hall of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, world-renowned French group ‘Capriccio stravagante’ and its director, harpsichordist Skip Sempé, will present ‘Pavana Lachrimae’. This programme of dances and fantasias is dedicated to the renowned 16th-17th century harpsichordist and composer William Byrd, the 400th anniversary of whose death is being celebrated this year throughout the world of music.
Two further events will also take place in the Renaissance Great Hall at the Palace of the Grand Dukes. The first of these is ‘Crossing the Red Sea’, an educational programme for children and families. The second – ‘Cantabimus in tierra aliena: Songs of the Mediaeval Spiritual Exile’ – will be presented by ‘Magister Petrus’ and their director, Prof. Mauricio Molina, a mediaeval music ensemble from Spain already well known to Lithuanian audiences.
Belgian vocal ensemble ‘Graindelavoix’ and their leader Björn Schmelzer promise a vey special surprise at St. Catherine’s Church, where they will present ‘Tenebrae Responsoria’ – a programme of motets by the famously controversial Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa. The composer, who inherited the title Prince of Venosa, was long persecuted by both church and state.
In another festival concert dedicated to the 700th anniversary of the city of Vilnius, the Lithuanian sacred vocal music collective ‘GŠ Ansamblis’, led by Gabija Adamonytė, will present their new programme, ‘Hymns suitable for the Catholic faith’. The concert, which takes place at Vilnius University Church of St. Johns, will present hymns printed in Vilnius during the 17th century by Jesuits.
Polish lutenist Michał Gondko, who himself lives far from his homeland, in Switzerland, will explore the musical horizons of other well-travelled personalities from the Renaissance.
Each year, the festival organises a ‘Fringe Day’ on its Facebook page and YouTube channel, featuring remote concerts by ensembles of young early music performers, chosen through a virtual selection process.
The crowning concert of this year’s festival will be a performance of the opera ‘Dido and Aeneas’ by Henry Purcell (1659–1695). This will be led by the festival’s new artistic director, Italian conductor and Vilnius University professor, Christian Frattima, who will conduct the baroque orchestra ‘Coin du Roi’ from Italy. In the exile of the Trojan hero Aeneas and fellow citizens who survived the destruction of the city of Troy, we can see close parallels with the geopolitical reality of Europe today.
Festival events will take place from 5 to 24 September 2023 at the Cathedral Basilica of Vilnius, Church of St. Johns and in St. Catherine’s church, the Palace of the Grand Dukes, the Vaidila Theatre, the lecture hall of the Domus Maria hotel, and over the Internet.