Published on January 14th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut
Music in the Air in Cartagena
The warm Caribbean breezes, historic architecture, and horse-drawn carriages lend an undeniable elegance to Cartagena’s historic city center, known in Spanish as the Centro Histórico or Ciudad Amurallada (walled city). Add a few string instruments, perhaps a piano or two and a bevy of talented classical musicians from around the world, and you’ve got quite a breathtaking experience.
Such is the setting for the Cartagena Festival Internacional de Música — the Cartagena International Music Festival, which I’ve been invited to attend. Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert in this field of music (when is Lady Gaga going to take the stage?). But I can say that the week has been filled with moving performances of classic works, set in stunning locations. The fourth annual festival has brought an array of musicians and singers from Europe, Asia and the Americas, and the settings — which include scenic public squares, the historic Adolfo Mejía theater and private chapels at two luxury hotels that were once convents — only add to the intoxicating effect of the music.
Artists participating this year include pianist Stephen Prutsman from the United States (who also serves as the event’s artistic director), violinist Bella Hristova from Bulgaria, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Quartet, to name a few. The music itself includes the work of Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and a host of others.
Throughout the week, sleek black Audis (the automotive sponsor of the event) have been whisking attendees from hotels to concerts, which take place nearly every morning and evening. “We found out about the festival a few years back in the BBC Music Magazine,” a couple from Boston told me as we rode to one concert. “We have a Colombian friend who had always been telling us how beautiful Cartagena is. So the idea of a music festival in Cartagena was a big selling point.”
They waited a couple years before attending. “We read the reviews of the first year’s festival, and they were very good,” the guy told me. “We read the reviews of the second year, and they were very good too. So we finally came last year, and we’ve come again this year. It’s a wonderful event.”
When he realized that I am writing articles about the city and the festival, the woman said, “You should definitely recommend that people attend. Just don’t recommend it to too many people. We’d kind of like to keep this to ourselves!”
Dates haven’t been announced yet for 2011, but they should be up soon.
www.cartagenamusicfestival.com (photos for this entry are provided by the festival; all other photos in this blog so far are mine)