The Chaktomuk Consort (from left) Heang Sophon, viola, Uy Tach, violin, Him Savy, flute, Sim Ratha, violoncello, will play music by Mozart and Khmer composr Him Sophy. The group was founded in 2002 and is having an inspirational effect on the development of musical ensembles in Phnom Penh.
When people question the usefulness of Anton Isselhardt's mission in Cambodia-the
development of western classical music-the artist has a response ready made.
"Man cannot live from only bread," Isselhardt says, paraphrasing the famous
Biblical verse. "We need food programs but we also need music."
He's sticking by his motto. Working through his NGO, the Foundation for the Advancement
of Western Classical Performing Arts, Isselhardt has played a key role in organizing
Cambodia's first international music festival in recent memory.
The event, to be held in early December, will feature musicians from abroad performing
items selected from 300 years of western classical music.
"A festival on western art music in a rising third-world country may invite
some comment," Isselhardt wrote in a release about the event. But "the
increase of concert performances on an international level should be of great benefit
not only for the performing artists, but also for the arts community at large.
"Consequently, this should create a sense of dignity and promote a spirit of
international cooperation and mutual respect."
Although Cambodia's history with western classical music spans roughly 150 years-the
art form first arrived with colonial Vietnamese military bands-much knowledge was
lost under the Khmer Rouge regime, Isselhardt said.
"The festival definitely has an educational component for the arts community
and students," he said. "If you go to all five events, you get an overview
of the development of western classical music."
Isselhardt said he hopes many Cambodians attend the event, to learn about another
section of their country's musical history.
"We want to give people choices, to say 'tonight I can go to the karaoke bar,
the cinema, or the western classical music festival,'" he said. "We want
to give bread to Cambodia's musicians."
The program includes baroque (Purcell, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel), classical
romantic (Hadyn, Schubert, Beethovan, Schumann), impressionism and contemporary (Ravel,
Debussy), lectures and workshops, and a special piano summit Sunday matinee at Raffles
le Royal to support the Sihanouk Hospital-Center of HOPE.
The festival will be held December 3-7 at the Royal University of Fine Arts, Faculty
of Music, north campus, St 70 (near old stadium). For further info, www.music-festival-phnom-penh.org.