Fife festival to celebrate 20 years of world class live music

Cellist Su-a Lee returns to East Neuk Festival with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 30 June 2024. [pictured in Anstruther at 2023 Festival].  (Photo: Neil Hanna)

THIS year, East Neuk Festival [ENF] begins 2 years of celebrations with the 20th anniversary of its founding in 2024, and its 20th festival in 2025. In the past two decades it has presented more than 400 events featuring nearly 3000 performers playing to a total audience of just over 200,000 people in the unique and intimate venues of Fife’s East Neuk. In June the festival will begin celebrating with curated performances by top international and Scottish artists, old friends returning and new faces debuting. 

The 2024 festival programme boasts musicians of 18 nations converging on East Neuk for a 5 day feast of live music ranging from classical to jazz, experimental, traditional and contemporary. 

Headliners include three acclaimed string quartets – the Doric, Pavel Haas (making their UK debut), and the remarkable young Scandinavians Opus 13; the Belfiato Wind Quintet; pianists Hisako Kawamura and Boris GiItburg; legendary bassist Renaud Garcia Fons with his alternative ‘string quartet’ featuring Qanun player Serkan Halili, flamenco guitarist Kiko Ruiz, and kemenche player Derya Turkan; three harpists, Catrin Finch, Esther Swift and Margret Köll; Irish fiddler extraordinaire Aoife Ni Bhriain; recorder virtuoso Stefan Temmingh; and clarinettist Julian Bliss solo and with his Septet.

ENF does not ‘do’ themes, but some invariably emerge each year and these are some key ideas that weave their way around the music this year:

MEETINGS OF GREAT COMPOSERS: the friendships, rivalries and animosities between some of the most famous names in music history are brought together in a series of special programmes, most notably the love-hate relationship between Tchaikovsky and Brahms and the lifelong friendship of Reicha and Beethoven. 

ČEŠTÍ HUDEBNÍCI!   Czech musicians – this year, the festival is pleased to welcome two wonderful ensembles: Pavel Haas Quartet which was recently counted among the 10 greatest quartets of all time in Gramophone Magazine; and the Belfiato Wind Quintet which is a highly acclaimed young ensemble making its debut this year. Between them they will play music by five generations of Czech masters including Haas,Janáček, Suk, Reicha and Smetana.

MY COUNTRY’S MUSIC:  The Czech ensembles will play the music of their homeland, but audiences will also have the opportunity to hear from Japan, Hisako Kawamura playing Akio Yashiro’s colourful Sonata for Piano;  from Scandinavia, Opus 13 playing music by Andrea Tarrodi and Grieg. From Scotland, Ian Watt  includes John McLeod on his Mediterranean journey; from Russia, Boris Giltburg plays Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky; plus Renaud Garcia Fons brings a host of collaborators from around the Mediterranean, each performing on traditional instruments; and Catrin Finch and Aoife Ni Bhriain draw on the traditions of Wales and Ireland in their new collaboration.

HARPS: This festival we welcome three thrilling harp players: Margret Köll (Germany) who is a superb exponent of early harps and plays a baroque triple harp; Catrin Finch (Wales) who plays in duo with Aoife Ni Bhriain; while Scot, Esther Swift is the creator of 2024’s Big Project, ZULU.

ZULU: ENF is delighted to collaborate with the Scottish Fisheries Museum to celebrate and explore the history of the Zulu fishing boats that were once ubiquitous on Scotland’s coasts. Harpist/composer Esther Swift will create a new piece for community and professional musicians which will be premiered in the Museum’s dramatic gallery which holds what remains of the largest surviving Zulu boat.

ENF Founder and Chair, Donald MacDonald CBE, said: “Founding a festival has been a dream – and the past two decades hold many highlights and special memories. I am very appreciative of the many people who have helped us with their support: the major public funders such as Creative Scotland, the many trusts, and above all the many individuals who have given so generously and without whom we could not have achieved what we have.”

ENF Director Svend McEwan-Brown said: “For ENF, the next two years is going to be all about celebrating the gift of live music and the fantastic opportunity the East Neuk has given us to fill its churches, halls, caves and gardens with it over the past two decades. I cannot wait to welcome back such old friends as the Pavel Haas Quartet and Renaud Garcia Fons alongside new faces who will be coming to Fife for the first time.”

Clare Hewitt, Music Officer at Creative Scotland said: “Two decades on, East Neuk Festival continues to delight audiences with the inventiveness of its programming. The richness of the Fife coast in summer is the perfect setting to discover this musical treasure trove of virtuosity and variety in the company of new and returning friends. Celebrating the Festival’s 20th anniversary of bringing world-class live music to the East Neuk, we look forward to hearing sounds from around the world blending with our own in Scotland.”Full details of this year’s programme are available at

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