Incredible artists coming to city for Kilkenny Arts Festival

Patrick Rafter, performing with Michael McHale in a programme of Debussy and Franck

Incredible artists coming to city for Kilkenny Arts Festival

Magical classical music programme for Kilkenny Arts festival

Today, Festival Director Olga Barry announced details of the main highlights of the classical music programme for Kilkenny Arts Festival 2019.

“We’re proud to announce our main classical music programme for our 46th Festival. Kilkenny Arts Festival has a long and venerable tradition of inviting great Irish and international artists to perform masterworks each summer and this year we’re delighted to present a number of Kilkenny debuts alongside Festival favourites. It is a joy to present such wonderful artists in the stunning historic spaces of Kilkenny and I’m honoured to continue this fine tradition.

We’re looking forward to the coming weeks where we will announce our full Festival programme which includes a thrilling and diverse array of theatre, music, literature, exhibitions, talks, dance, spectacle and surprise!”

This year’s classical music programme offers an exciting mix of debuts and returning talent. Kilkenny Arts Festival is delighted to present the first Irish appearance of the rising star pianist, Alexander Gavryluk, in a mouthwatering programme including works from Brahms, Listz and Mussorgsky. The Festival also welcomes the renowned international baroque ensemble Orfeo 55 to Ireland for the first time in the company of its founder – artistic director and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann – to perform a very special Bach programme.

The Festival is delighted to continue its partnership with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and leader Katherine Hunka, bringing with them – for his first visit to the Festival – the star violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair alongside violist Ruth Killius in a mammoth Beethoven programme also featuring Britten’s Double Concerto.

2019 will also see the Festival welcome, for the first time, Belfast actor Ciarán Hinds with the Fews Ensemble, led by Joanne Quigley, in a special presentation of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.

Continuing Kilkenny’s lifelong commitment to presenting the finest chamber music, this year’s programme sees a stellar collection of international and Irish ensembles and artists perform a diverse range of music from the ‘canon’ of the European Art Music tradition and beyond. The 2019 series – Chamber Music in the Afternoon – offers a variety of forms and styles and features a wide range of composers including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clara Schumann, Britten, Elgar, Debussy, Brahms and Pärt.

The series will be kicked off by the Festival orchestra in residence, the ICO, directed by Katherine Hunka, in a delightful programme of masterpieces from Elgar and Britten. For the first time the Festival welcomes the young chamber music collective, Musici Ireland, for a pair of concerts, starting with chamber and choral works by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, whose unmistakable sound has thrilled audiences all over the world for more than 40 years, while the second concert focuses on Brahms’ String Sextets – two of the most radiantly melodic works in the composer’s repertoire.

Two young Irish artists will perform at St John’s Priory: Cork-born pianist Fionnuala Moynihan presents an intriguing programme of Clara Schumann, and Kilkenny native and rising star Patrick Rafter, performing with Michael McHale in a programme of Debussy and Franck.

Kilkenny Arts Festival welcomes back Festival favourites Quatuor Mosaïques for a fresh trio of concerts in the Black Abbey. Focusing on some of Beethoven’s greatest string quartets, complemented with works by Mozart and Haydn, these concerts offer a rare opportunity to hear ‘the world’s leading period-instrument quartet’ (The Independent) performing at the height of its powers.

After its sold-out, late-night concerts exploring choral works through the ages, Chamber Choir Ireland returns to the Festival with a radical new approach. Led by celebrated Norwegian conductor Grete Pederson, the choir performs a suite of contemporary pieces by a wealth of European composers. Featuring Louis Andriessen’s gorgeous Un Beau Baiser, as well as recent works by leading Irish composers Rhona Clarke and Deirdre McKay, this truly is, as The Journal of Music put it, ‘new music for everyone’.

And no Kilkenny Arts Festival would be complete without Malcolm Proud, one of Europe’s finest organists, offering a programme of Bach at St Canice’s Cathedral.


Kilkenny Arts Festival is one of the leading festivals in Ireland, celebrated for its effortless blend of tradition and innovation, and for its electrifying range of events, staged in some of the country’s loveliest venues.

Since its foundation in 1974, Kilkenny Arts Festival has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Ireland’s medieval city. For ten days each August, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters between audiences and artists.

From outdoor theatre to contemporary dance, the Festival is dedicated to staging events of the highest calibre, thrilling audiences of all kinds. Classical music has been at the core of the Festival from the very beginning, with concerts featuring globally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de los Angeles, Alfred Brendel, Jordi Savall, Steven Isserlis, Dawn Upshaw, Nigel Kennedy and Joshua Bell, among many others.

In recent years the Festival has enriched its music programme with major new initiatives like The Marble City Sessions, a cross-genre series of unique musical collaborations featuring a range of artists, hosted and co-curated by the great Irish traditional musician Martin Hayes. 

Indeed, artist residencies now lie at the heart of everything the Festival does, offering a combination of continuity and innovation that gives the Festival its unique spirit. The Festival’s orchestra-in-residence, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, collaborates with leading national and international performers on a range of concerts combining the traditional with the thrillingly modern, while in recent years the position of poet-in-residence has been graced by everyone from Paula Meehan and Eavan Boland to Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky.

Kilkenny is spoiled with some of Ireland’s most magnificent historic spaces, such as St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey– sites of countless breathtaking concerts – and the Castle Yard, home to dazzling theatrical productions by the likes of Rough Magic, Shakespeare’s Globe and Druid Theatre. From St John’s Priory to the Set Theatre, few festivals can boast such a wealth of venues, and the  Kilkenny Arts Festival is constantly devising unique events for the city’s hidden gems.


10th August, 7:30PM

St Canice’s Cathedral


MOZART: Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545
BRAHMS: Rhapsody No. 2 in g minor, Op. 79
BRAHMS: Intermezzi Nos. 2 & 3, Op. 117
LISZT: Étude No. 6
SAINT-SAЁNS: Danse Macabre (Liszt/Horowitz)

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition


NATHALIE STUTZMANN (conductor, contralto), LEON KOSAVIC (bass)

15th August, 7:30PM

St Canice’s Cathedral

Bach – Devotion

BWV 42 – Sinfonia

BWV – Vergnüte Ruh

BWV 4 – Sinfonia

BWV 74 – Ich gehe hin

BWV 133 – Getrost!

BWV 33 – Wie Furchtsam wankten meinne Schritte

BWV 56 – Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen

BWV 42 – Jesus ist ein Schild

BWV 35 – Gott hat alles wohl gemacht

BWV 35 – Sinfonia  (no. 5)

BWV 106 – In deine Hände, befehl’ ich meinen Geist

BWV 12 – Sinfona (no. 1)

BWV 82 – Ich habe genug


THOMAS ZEHETMAIR (conductor, violin)


16h August, 7:30PM

St Canice’s Cathedral

Beethoven: Corialanus Overture

Britten: Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in Eb Major, ‘Eroica’


Chamber Series #1


9th August, 4pm

The Black Abbey

Britten: Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge

Elgar: Serenade for Strings

Fennessy: Hirta Rounds

Elgar: Allegro and Introduction


Roisín O’Grady (soprano), Sharon Carty (mezzo soprano), Eamonn Mulhall (tenor)

Helena Wood, Siun Milne (violin) Beth McNinch (viola), Bill Butt (‘cello)

10th August, 3:30pm

The Black Abbey

Arvo Pärt: ‘Es sang vor langen Jahren’

Arvo Pärt: Fratres

Arvo Pärt: Summa

Arvo Pärt: Stabat Mater

Chamber Series #3


11th August, 3:30pm

St John’s Priory

Debussy: Sonata for violin and piano, L.148

Debussy: Estampes, II. La soirée dans Grenade; III. Jardins sous la pluie

Ysaÿe: Sonata No.3 for solo violin “Ballade”

Franck: Sonata in A major for violin and piano

Chamber Series #4


12th August, 3:30pm

St John’s Priory


Clara Schumann: Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 20

Clara Schumann: Piano Sonata in G minor

Clara Schumann: Drei Romanzen Op. 21

Chamber Series # 5,6,7


13th, 14th, 15th August, 3:30pm

The Black Abbey

Programme- 13th

Mozart: String Quartet K156 in D Major

Haydn: String Quartet Op. 74, No.3 (“Emperor”)

Beethoven: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59. No.1

Programme- 14th

Haydn: String Quartet Op. 42 in d minor

Mozart: String Quartet K464 in A major

Beethoven: String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2

Programme- 15th

Mozart: Adagio and Fugue in c minor

Haydn: String Quartet Op. 64, No. 6

Beethoven: String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3

Chamber Series #8


GRETE PEDERSON (conductor)

16th August, 3:30pm

The Black Abbey


Kaija Saariaho: Nuits, adieux  
Orjan Matre: Orphic Songs Prologue, Rite, Hyphnos  
Louis Andriessen: Un Beau Baiser  
Deirdre McKay: Sable sui glisse
Rhona Clarke: The Kiss 
Maja Linderoth: Sonnet form denatured prose 

Chamber Series #9


Harriet MacKenzie, Jane Hackett (violin)

Beth McNinch, Andreea Banciu (Viola)

Bill Butt, Grainne Hope (Cello)

17th August, 3:30pm

The Black Abbey


Brahms: String Sextet No. 1 in Bb, Op. 18

Brahms: Sextet No. 2 in G, Op. 36

MALCOLM PROUD – organ recital

17th August, 11am

St Canice’s Cathedral


Bach: Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537

Bach: Three chorale preludes on ‘Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland’, BWV 659/660/661

Bach: Canonic variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her’, BWV 769

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 54



The Soldier’s Tale

Stravinsky, Ramuz

13th August, 7:30pm

14th August, 7:30pm

Watergate Theatre

It’s just over a century since Stravinsky penned his second masterpiece at the end of the First World War. Based on an old Russian fable, The Soldier’s Tale (L’histoire du Soldat) tells the story of a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil in return for untold wealth. Or so he believes…

One of Ireland’s most successful actors, Ciarán Hinds, plays narrator, soldier and devil in this gripping concert performance of Stravinsky’s masterpiece. Performed by the Fews Ensemble (led by Joanne Quigley), Northern Ireland’s outstanding new chamber music group, with movement from contemporary dancer Emily Ayers, The Soldier’s Tale is a thrilling Faustian story with a score every bit as inventive as The Rite of Spring.

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