The Festival Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo confirms that we can indeed start anticipating the pleasures of the spring season on the Riviera.
The 32nd edition of the Festival, which runs from 19th March to 10th April, is defined by a number of special features, amongst which are The Repertoire of the Era of King Louis XIV, The Great Quartets, Two Prominent Pianists, and Musical Traditions of Brittany.
The most prominent one, however, is a celebration of the work of Gustav Mahler which includes a monograph exhibition dedicated to the life and works of the Austrian late-Romanic composer, the screening of Andy Sommer’s documentary, Gustav Mahler – Autopsy of a Genius, and performances of no fewer than seven of Mahler’s symphonies.
Now under the Presidency of Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Hanover, Printemps des Arts has been celebrated almost every year since its founding in 1984. It was instigated by Princess Grace and Antoine Battaini, at that time Director of Cultural Affairs in the Principality of Monaco. Tibor Katona, a former conductor of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, was the artistic consultant. The one year in which the Festival did not take place was 2005, when the Principality was in mourning following the death of Prince Rainier III.
Throughout its history, the Festival has attracted some of the most illustrious names in classical music – artists such as Daniel Barenboim, Tereza Berganza, Maria-João Pires, Nathan Milstein, Alicia de Larrocha, Yehudi Menuhin, Montserrat Caballé, the Juiliard Quartet, Yo-yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich, Murray Perraia, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Radu Lupu, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and the great Pavarotti.
The Festival saw debut performances by names such as Vadim Repin, Maxim Vengerov and Cecilia Bartoli, and – in addition to presenting performances by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic – has hosted orchestras of the calibre of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with André Previn, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly, the Czech Philharmonic led by Vaclav Neumann and the London Philharmonic conducted by Lorin Maazel.
The Gustav Mahler Exhibition opens the Festival in the Auditorium Rainier III on 19th March and features a selection of original pieces and reproductions – including photographs, handwritten letters, musical autographs and concert posters – from the Henry-Louis de La Grange collection which is housed at the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler in Paris. It runs for the duration of the Festival.
Andy Sommer’s documentary on Mahler will be screened in the Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo Opera House, on the same evening, followed by a concert – Lieders de Gustav et Alma Mahler – sung by mezzo-soprano Maria Riccarda Wesseling, accompanied on the piano by Peter Nilsson.
The first of the Mahler symphonies on the programme – No 6 – will be performed the following evening by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, led by Music Director conductor Tugan Sokhiev, who is also Music Director of Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, under Artistic and Musical Director Gianluigi Gelmetti, plays Mahler’s Symphony No 9 on 26th March, and the Symphony No 4 on 1st April, on this date under Kazuki Yamada – currently Principal Conductor of the Orchestra, and its Artistic Director Designate, a post which he will take up at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
The Mahler Symphony No 3 – on 7th April – features the Bamberg Symphony under the direction of Principal Conductor Jonathan Nott, who is also Music Director of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor & Artistic Adviser of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie.
The following evening, 8th April, sees Andrew Manze, Chief Conductor of the NDR Radiophilharmonie, leading the orchestra in a performance of the Mahler Symphony No 5.
This is followed, on 9th April, by the Symphony No 7, played by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Eliahu Inbal, Conductor Laureate of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Mahler’s Symphony No 1 – Titan – is the closing work of the Festival, taking place on Saturday 10th April. In this performance, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra is led by Daniel Harding, Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Partner of the New Japan Philharmonic. He is Artistic Director of the Ohga Hall in Karuizawa, Japan, and was recently honoured with the lifetime title of Conductor Laureate of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The concert also features the Adagio from Mahler’s unfinished Symphony No 10.
The soirée entitled Two Prominent Pianists is quite an event. It’s a two-part programme, taking place on 2nd April, and featuring Till Felner and Arcadi Volodos. Felner plays music by Schumann, Berio and Beethoven, and Volodos performs works by Brahms and Schubert.
The Repertoire of the Era of King Louis IV covers three concerts. The first features music by Biber – Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, an extract from his Rosary Sonata – performed by Ensemble Les Dominos under the direction of Florence Malgoire. The second is an evening of music by French baroque composers, with organist Olivier Vernet, and takes place in the beautiful Eglise St Charles. The third in the series features pianist and harpsichordist Andreas Staier, and includes music by Froberger and Couperin. Both this performance and the first, take place in the Oceanographic Museum.
The two Night of the Quartets concerts illustrate the versatility of this musical genre, featuring music from the golden age of the quartet – by Haydn, Beethoven and Arriaga – to works by Schoenberg, Cage and Adámek. The three quartets appearing are the Signum Quartett, Quatuor Tana and Quatuor Diotima.
Add to all of this the Academy Day – on which students from the Rainier III Academy of Music and the Nice Conservatory combine to provide a surprise programme – performances of the traditional music and dance of Brittany – and a Surprise Journey, on which the audience is taken to a venue outside Monaco to attend performances which will not be revealed until the last minute – and you have three weeks of wonderful music-making with which the Principality of Monaco celebrates the arrival of spring.
Further information, and a complete list of events, can be found on the Festival website, which has details of all these performances, and some fascinating background information on each of the Mahler symphonies. The website also introduces a new feature, Festival Radio, which will be available online 24 hours a day.
All images courtesy Printemps des Arts; lead image Matthew Barney © Michael James O’Brien