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Posted by portugalpress on June 14, 2018
Conservatório Regional do Algarve Maria Campina

After founding the Amigos do Museu de Trajo in São Brás de Alportel, Peter and I decided that we should concentrate on historical and cultural events, and centre our activities in Tavira and Lagoa. It seemed to us that many expatriates know next to nothing about the history and culture of their adopted country, and to overcome this lacuna, we now arrange monthly historical and cultural talks, and have recently also begun guided historical walks in Tavira.

At São Brás, we began a series of classical music concerts in partnership with Irene Ainstein, who is employed in her day job as a piano teacher at the Conservatório Regional do Algarve Maria Campina (CRAMC), based in Faro. The Conservatório specialises in music and dance and serves about 400 students. In 1988, CRAMC was awarded the Medal of Cultural Merit by the Secretary of State, and in 2004 Faro town hall added the municipal Gold Medal of Merit.

Irene has made her home Quintinha da Música available to host concerts, beginning with the annual 40 Fingers piano concert. Three concert level pianists travel from the Netherlands to join her at her two grand pianos, and the audience enjoys an unusual and captivating grand piano duet. There are even pieces which require all four players to play at the same keyboard, which is fun.

Our concert programme has expanded, and we now host 11 concerts per year. At first, we found it difficult to accept that many musicians of international standing like to perform at our small concert venue in the outskirts of Tavira. The reasons they give are informative. First of all, those musicians from the north of Europe are drawn to this unusual concert venue in a holiday location like the Eastern Algarve. Second, Irene provides a relaxed and musical environment. And third, our guest musicians like an appreciative and knowledgeable audience, and performing so close to the audience gives them both energy and immediate and positive feedback. By way of contrast, one performer related the depressing experience of playing in a half-full concert hall, where members of the audience consulted the screens of their mobile phones as he played.

Our experience is that none of our guest musicians refuses an invitation to return. And we on our side find good reasons for wishing for repeat performances. A highlight of our concert series is the end-of-year participation of students from CRAMC at the Young Persons Concert at the Quintinha da Música. This year, the concert will take place on Sunday, July 1 at 5pm.

Peter and I were delighted recently to be asked to join a júri, or judging panel, at the Conservatório. The aim was to hear all of the piano students and to determine which should benefit from this summer’s annual masterclass at the International Piano Academy “Incontri col Maestro” at Imola, near Bologna in Italy. This school of advanced piano performance aims to help young musicians from all over the world to develop their talents at the piano. We agreed with Irene that CRAMC from Faro should be represented, and last year, CRAMC sent three young people to Imola, under Irene’s watchful eye. For our participation in an internal competition, the staff at CRAMC gave us truly heartwarming thanks.

Another benefit arising from the concerts held at Quintinha da Música is that many of the performers also give their time to run masterclasses at the Conservatório, classes which would not exist but for the fact that they are engaged for a concert at the Quintinha. The recent concert given by the Russian pianist Maria Nemtsova and saxophonist Vitaly Vatulya, for example, was preceded by two days of contact with piano and saxophone students at CRAMC.

The saxophone is an unusual instrument for chamber music, but Vitaly’s concert rendition of ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ by Arvo Pärt was stunning. One audience member admitted that this concert was the best he had ever heard.

At the Algarve History Association, we feel that it is important that people of our age and experience should support and sponsor young people on the threshold of their adult lives.

In this aim, we are willing partners of the staff at the CRAMC and, as a result of our successful concert and lecture programme, we are able to donate funds for the benefit of the piano school at the Conservatório.

It is important to give an extra chance to those pupils in the Algarve who may require and deserve additional financial support.

International Museum Day was this year on May 18, when Peter and I visited the Portuguese National Museum of Music in Lisbon. We were privileged to hear the principal cellist of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, Varoujan Bartikian, in recital with pianist Lucjan Luc. Varoujan had a once in a lifetime chance to play on the museum’s priceless Stradivarius cello (once owned by D. Luís, King of Portugal), which is not allowed to leave the museum’s premises. They played the Brahms’ Sonata op 38 no. 1, Britten’s Sonata opus 65 and for an encore Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante. Varoujan and Lucjan will repeat this concert at Quintinha da Música on Sunday, June 17 at 5pm. Sadly, this time without the Stradivarius.

Tickets are €25. To book, email

By Lynne Booker

Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association.



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