Ballake Sissoko/Vincent Segal
Lionel Louke Ensemble
At 8 p.m. March 25, Lucas Theatre
French cellist Segal, who plays in the trip hop group Bumcello, has found an experimental musical equal in Malinese kora player Sissoko. As with Bela Fleck's banjo-led incursions into different world musics, the two seemingly disparate instruments seem to flow together quite naturally. The kora, of course, is a 21-string African harp, and Sissoko is considered one of two absolute masters of the instrument (along with his good friend Toumani Diabate, with whom Sissoko recorded the stunning New Ancient Strings album). In performance, Sissoko and Segal trade off as lead and support players, and their live shows are reportedly rife with thrilling improvisational interplay. Guitarist Lionel Louke takes the first half of this concert (titled "African Interplay"), with a group that includes woodwinds, percussion and strings. Louke is from the Republic of Benin, and his music naturally has roots in Western Africa, but incorporates elements of jazz and other contemporary forms of world music.
Ludwig van Beethoven
March 26 will mark the 184th anniversary of the German composer's death, and thusly he'll be a major figure in 2011 Savannah Music Festival performances. At the very first SMF show, on March 24, pianist Sebastian Knauer performs Herr Beethoven's piano sonatas; longtime friends of the festival David Finckel and Wu Han present Beethoven's complete sonatas for cello and piano ( a cycle of five) March 25; Violinist Daniel Hope and his chamber music group perform the first segment of the complete Violin Sonatas on the 26th; Hope's March 27 recital features (among other works) Beethoven's Judas Maccabeus; on the 29th, violinists Benny Kim, Lorenza Barrani and others continue the cycle of violin sonatas - the cycle is completed with the March 31 performance. And down the road, the April 7 "Daniel Hope & Friends" performance will include two more works by the great master.
At 6:30 p.m. March 30, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
We can't imagine a better venue than the cavernous and utterly beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to experience this lush British vocal ensemble. Stile Antico, which literally means "ancient style," focuses on the rich legacy of 16th and 17th-century polyphonic composition - using as a springboard the compositions of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and his Italian, Flemish and Spanish contemporaries. This astonishing a capella choral group - made up of young people, by the way - also draws from English sources, from Elizabethan madrigals to the Eton choirbook to the works of Tavener, Sheppard, Tallis and Byrd. As if it mattered, Stile Antico not long ago toured the world with the rock star Sting, as part of his Songs From the Labyrinth project.
For details and ticket information, see savannahmusicfestival.org