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Festival 2022

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By an extraordinary coincidence, just after the outbreak of Russia's attack on Ukraine last February, a concert took place in Berlin, which happened to contain a cello concerto by my late father, Dmitri Smirnov, in the form of a dark farce on the Russian government and its history. It was commissioned by the legendary cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, as a response to his horror when the Soviet National Anthem was reinstated in 2000, nine years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Showing his solidarity, the chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, conducted its world premiere alongside Ukraine's national anthem and even though my father and Rostropovich are not with us anymore, their message resounded most powerfully. LICMF's Chair, Esther Ward-Caddle and an LICMF volunteer flew over for this concert and it became clear to us that our next Festival should reflect what we had experienced together. 


In their search for freedom, my parents decided to leave Russia in 1991, escaping a totalitarian regime and further censorship of their music. They also wanted my brother and me to have a chance of a better future. The composer Arvo Pärt made a similar decision with his family when he left Estonia in 1980. It is terrifying to think of how all these events are inevitably linked to one train journey back in 1917, when Vladimir Lenin was returning to Russia after a period of exile in the West, bringing back with him explosive ideas, which subsequently led to the October Revolution and made composers like Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev leave their homeland. In the first two concerts, we will hear works from all these composers. 

The third concert pays tribute to Ukraine with Mussorgsky's Great Gate of Kyiv and concludes with Rachmaninoff's moving Vocalise, expressing the beauty of the Russian soul, in contrast to its suffering in the long-lasting fate of the Soviet Union, which rather scarily sees the 100th anniversary of its official formation this year. On a lighter note, we are pleased to celebrate some truly positive birth anniversaries, with Schubert's 225th - proving how music can withstand the darkest of times and live on forever, with every programme including one of these eternal gems. There will also be two works by Vaughan Williams this year, celebrating his 150th anniversary. 

In the final programme, the ideas of eternity and transcendence are further explored in Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, which he wrote whilst imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, as well as in my own Reunion, written as a response to the COVID pandemic. Finally, we hear a rather rare outing of Hindemith's remarkable Clarinet Quartet, which was written as he was escaping Nazi Germany. 

I look forward to us all coming together to celebrate this music, which reminds us of how important it is to cherish our freedom. 

Alissa Firsova

Artistic Director, Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival

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