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Music is the message

Musicians from around the world have descended on Cambodia’s capital as the five-day lineup of the 11th International Music Festival Phnom Penh gets underway

By Lauren Vardy
Cambodia’s capital is experiencing an influx of music lovers this week as the 11th International Music Festival Phnom Penh showcases a keenly awaited lineup of music treats brought to audiences by the Art Plus Foundation and the InterContinental Phnom Penh.

Anton Isselhardt, director of the Germany Cambodian Cultural Centre and the 2014 International Music Festival says the annual event has become an important part of cultural life in Phnom Penh

The hotel’s general manager, Stefan Voogel, says he is delighted with the stellar bill of artists who are taking part this year. “Events such as this give Cambodia the opportunity to be in the limelight, as people of a high calibre come to Phnom Penh to perform,” he said. Voogel says that now the city has again been exposed to such influences, its performing arts scene must focus on continuous development on a local level.
“This is a growing scene. When you look at the programme, you see a big range of international musicians. That shows you how important classical music is as a driver of cultural interaction. It’s a wonderful medium to connect cultures,” he explains.
The festival, started in 2004, initially began as a way to pave the way for the development of Western classical music in Cambodia. Anton Isselhardt, this year’s festival director, says it is doing just that, and has also become an important part of the country’s growing and diversifying cultural landscape.
“In times of serious global turmoil and tensions, music can bring us back to the essentials of humanity and human existence,” he says, adding that this year’s programme presents compositions based on myths and legends from various parts of the world.
“Myths and legends tell us a lot about former societies and their spiritual conceptions, their beliefs and even their fantasies,” he says. “Music based on myths and legends enables us to create our own stories in our minds. This may lead to quite new artistic experiences.”
Five Cambodian musicians are part of the festival’s programme this year, including Him Savy, who has performed as a soloist in baroque and classical ensembles, on the flute and Cheak Bunhong on clarinet. Violinist Pisey Oum, Sethipanha Khuon on the violoncello and Rong Sereyvann on piano will also perform. Sereyvann first learned to play at the age of 16 before joining the Royal University of Fine Arts. He gained international experience in the opera production of Where Elephants Weep in the US and has undertaken master classes with the pianist Stephan Rahn.
Musicians from Uzbekistan, Japan, Malaysia, France, Thailand and Germany will round out the lineup of artists scheduled to perform this week. The festival began with a gala opening at the InterContinental Phnom Penh yesterday and will conclude with a piano recital at the same location on Monday, November 17. For more information and bookings, log on to


Show time!
Thursday, November 13 – Gala opening, 7pm, InterContinental Phnom Penh
Friday, November 14 – Arie Antiche, 7pm, Meta House gallery
Saturday, November 15 – Gregorian chant, 7pm, St. Joseph’s Chapel
Sunday, November 16 – Piano recital, 11am, Meta House gallery
Monday, November 17 – Impressionism/Exoticism, 7pm, InterContinental Phnom Penh

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