Featuring Opera Stars Cecilia Bartoli, Riccardo Muti & Sir Neville Marriner

Like your Brahms with some balmy weather? Then head for Spain's Canaries this winter. Sonatas and symphonies will fill the air of eight of the Canary Islands from January 10 through March 1, 2008 when the 24th Annual Music Festival of the Canaries "“ one of Europe 's only classical music festivals in the winter "“ kicks off on January 10.

The first concert will take place at the spectacular Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with a program of Beethoven's Concert No. 3 for piano and orchestra, directed by Pedro Halffter and performed by the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra with the Children's Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria (OFGC). The festival will end on March 1 with the final concert in Santa Cruz de Tenerife featuring the Orchestra of Cadaqués with Sir Neville Marriner conducting Mozart's Concerto No. 23 and his Symphony No. 38.

During the eight-week festival, there will be 65 performances "“ 21 each in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Tenerife "“ and 22 performances on the smaller islands of Lanzarote, La Palma, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro. Even the tiny La Graciosa "“ the smallest of the islands "“ will host a concert, a performance of Beethoven's Quartets on January 12.

Mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, a four-time Grammy winner, will perform on January 31 and February 2, and the world-renowned Riccardo Muti will conduct the London Philarmonia Orchestra in four performances, February 25-28. Led by Sir Neville Marriner, the Orchestra of Cadaqu̩s will perform on February 27 and 29 with the Women's Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria and well-known Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta. Other top orchestras from several European countries will perform including: The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, directed by Yakov Kreizberg (January 17-20); the Budapest Festival Orchestra, with Ivan Fischer conducting (January 24-27); the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Daniel Harding (January 28 РFebruary 2), and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Sakari Oramo (February 12-15).

Year round sunny weather with average temperatures in the 70's has been drawing visitors to the Canary Islands since the 1960s. Lying just 62 miles off the African coast in the Atlantic, these volcanic islands offer beautiful beaches, every water sport imaginable and a variety of striking landscapes. The chain's largest, Tenerife is crowned by the majestic dormant volcano of Mount Teide, Spain's highest peak at 12,195 feet. Surrounding peaks are carpeted with thick forests. Tenerife has miles of beaches to the south where many of the resort hotels can be found and small unspoiled villages surrounded by vineyards and banana plantations in the green north. Backed by mountains and shaded by palms, Santa Cruz is an important regional deepwater port and boasts many historic buildings including a church dating from 1500, archaeological and fine arts museums and the bustling food market/bazaar Mercado de Nuesta Señora de África. In Puerto de la Cruz there is a wine museum, the Orotava Botanical Garden and Loro Parque, a subtropical garden with over 1000 parrots and the world's largest penguin zoo. The island offers plenty of shopping, sports and nightlife options

Gran Canaria has one of the archipelago's most beautiful stretches of beach "“ some five miles long "“ backed by towering sand dunes and an oasis of palms at its southern end. At night this area of Maspalomas becomes "party central." To the north, the busy port of Las Palmas has a two-mile long beach lined with hotels, restaurants, bars. Tourists flock here for the duty-free shopping and the lovely atmospheric Barrio Vegueta, while hikers head for the rural interior with its steep highland reaching almost 6,500 feet. With scenery as diverse as the desert-like terrain in the south, impressive canyons in the west, pine groves on the central plateaus and strange volcanic monoliths on the summits, it's no wonder the island is described as a continent in miniature.

Least populated of the islands, Fuerteventura has endless strands of white sand, towering dunes and clear blue waters perfect for windsurfing. Tourism is relatively new here and the interior is undeveloped. The futuristic landscape of Lanzarote with its hardened lava and dark dunes suggests a scene from a science fiction movie. The entire island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and conservation and controlled development make it an attractive vacation choice. Called the " Green Island ," La Palma was prosperous before tourism. Now visitors come for its lush foliage, black sand beaches and the huge crater national park in its interior. The capital, Santa Cruz is a beautifully preserved Spanish colonial city with elegant 16th century buildings. La Gomera's rugged mountains "“ its forest was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site "“ attract hikers who want to get away from it all. The smallest and least visited, El Hierro also draws travelers of a solitary bent with deserted black sand beaches and a quiet pine forest. About a mile north of Lanzarote lies La Graciosa with streets of unpaved sand and some of the best beaches in the island group.

While the Music Festival of the Canaries began in 1985 on the tercentenary of Bach, Haydn and Scarlatti, the Canary Islands have a long history of music appreciation. The Philharmonic Society of Las Palmas was founded 150 years ago. Later in the early 1900s, European opera companies stopped at the Canary Islands on their way to South America, and these early classical music performances created an important musical tradition.

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