One of the world’s most renowned classical music festivals is getting ready for its 66th edition from 31st July to 13th August.
August 12, 1949: André Böröcz, a Hungarian first-time visitor to Menton, meanders through the sleepy French-Italian border town. Winding his way through cobblestoned alleys past centuries-old houses, he arrives at the Parvis St. Michel and savours the view… suspended high above the Riviera, halfway between mountains and sea. A gentle breeze carries music from a crackling radio on a window sill nearby: Bach’s second partita for violin, played by Jasha Heifetz. That moment in time defines the beginning of André’s lifelong love affair with Menton, and just one year later, one of the world’s most beautiful annual music festivals is born.
In its 66th edition this year, the Festival de Musique de Menton, which has been called “one of the seven wonders of the world” by Sviatoslav Richter, arguably the greatest pianist of the 20th century, has lost nothing of its magic. The program that Artistic Director Paul-Emmanuel Thomas (pictured below) has compiled is a cornucopia of international artists and composers, a firework of different styles and instruments… with the violin as the star of this year’s festival, but also with piano, bel canto, Russian melodies, and music from the baroque and romantic era – a veritable Best Of Classical Music with a modern twist.
A closer look at the program confirms what Paul-Emmanuel Thomas says, “Impossible to pick a highlight, I feel like a father who loves all his children the same way and cannot pick a favorite”:
Setting the tone, quite literally, on opening night on July 31 in the gorgeous Parvis de la Basilique Saint-Michel Archange: world renowned Israeli violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman who together with the Salzburg Camerata performs Stravinsky, Mozart, Haydn and Tchaikovsky… a concert that is representative for both the top quality and the diversity of the festival. Following over the course of the opening week, highlight after highlight such as Christian et Tanja Tetzlaff with Lars Vogt; Janine Jansen and Kathryn Stott; the Europa Galante Ensemble and Fabio Biondi; the Basle Chamber Orchestra and Franco Fagioli.
Week two is kicked off with a playful note when on August 8, magical music becomes musical magic as harpist Xavier de Maistre and magician Stefan Leyshon perform together, each one his own art. Over the next days, musical rendezvous with soprano Olga Peretyatko and Giulio Zappa (piano), Khatia Buniatichvili; Fazil Say, the Minetti Quartet, and Josef Niederhammer.
For the grand finale of this 66th festival on August 13, Nikolaï Lugansky and the Warsaw Symphonic Orchestra under conductor Alexandre Vedernikov will perform Chopin’s Concertos for piano and orchestra.
But the Parvis is not the only venue in town that enjoys the spotlight: The Cocteau Museum hosts a series of “6 o’clock concerts” featuring some artists that are sure to make the hearts of classical music lovers leap: Yevgeny Subdin; the Hermès Quartet; Kotaro Fukuma; Pierre Génisson et David Bismuth; Alexandra Soumm and Ismaël Margain; the Talweg trio; Béatrice Rana; Janina Baechle and Anne Le Bozec.
And last but not least, there is the Off on Square des Etats-Unis and the Esplanade Francis-Palmero, starting on July 30 with a pre-festival concert by Pavel Sporci and the Gipsy Way Ensemble which ranges from Brahms to film music and anything in between, followed on August 2 by young English formation VOCES8 with its repertory from polyphonics to jazz by way of Queen, and for good measure, on August 6, the Smart Is Brass quintet takes the audience on Broadway. These three concerts are free.
An ambitious and sophisticated program that Paul-Emmanuel Thomas has compiled there for his third Festival de Musique de Menton… but also one that has a youthful freshness to it, reflective of its director. One of the new generation of French conductors, he has an eclectic and versatile global trajectory, and his openness to influences from around the world shows in his program. Sadly, the Festival’s founder André Böröcz has since passed away but there is no doubt he would be delighted to see what has become of his love child over the years: a festival that Menton, and all of France, can be rightly proud of.
For more details on the concerts and the artists, dates/time, and ticket booking information please visit the official Festival de Musique de Menton website.
All photos courtesy Festival de Musique de Menton; photo of Paul-Emmanuel Thomas via his website