I don’t know where to start.
Exactly a week ago, a short but so intense project ended and I am not sure how to sum up the essence of it.
Let’s take it from the start: for the third year in a row, we were invited by the freshly re-born summer festival in Evian-les-Bains (located at the Leman lake), Les Rencontres Musicales d’Evian. In 2015 for the first time with Mahler 4th symphony in chamber version, in 2016 for two concerts (one with a chamber music programme, one with Fauré’s Requiem) and this year with Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto and a keystone of the orchestra’s repertoire, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. The orchestra played it last in September 2016 without conductor but with great success at the Beethovenfest Bonn. What a memorable moment it had been!
This piece, so well known and favorite of many, is also the one the orchestra played when I last wrote a tour diary. It’s also the piece my grandfather had wished for his funeral, so being in Evian, where part of my family lives and came to the concert, with it, just seemed to make sense to me.
Les Rencontres Musicales d’Evian was revived four years ago, with the Modigliani Quartet at its artistic head. A music festival existed in Evian since 1976 thanks to an initiative of Antoine Riboud, then CEO of BSN (later Danone, main employer of the town). The festival took place at these times in the Casino by the lake, and later, after Mstislav Rostropovich took over the direction of the festival, in the Grange au Lac, where it still takes place today.
This kind of “wooden tent”, as called by Rostropovich himself was offered to him by Riboud in 1993, a bit as the datcha of the lost home country Rostropovich would never return to. The Grange (literally “barn” in French) is entirely made of wood, in the middle of woods located a bit up hill in Evian. It has no closing doors or windows, and therewith lives with the nature around, being hot and potentially humid on summer days, cold and dry during the winter. The atmosphere, aside being each time different for the musicians performing on stage, has something of a cosy chalet for the audience, with white cushions on wooden benches, real trees at the back of the stage (they were not supposed to be cut down as the house was built) and cracking, breathing benches, stairs and walls. Music and nature reunite harmoniously, and listening to music there just seems like the most natural thing to do.
This year again, the energy and enthusiasm of the festival and its young direction and production team seem to match perfectly with MCO, and that’s I believe a shared feeling on the night of our concert. Gustavo Dudamel, who conducted the orchestra last in 2004 and whom we were so excited to welcome again, shows a promising trust in the orchestra from the very first rehearsal on, and the concert is a storm. Edgar Moreau, the brilliant cellist playing Shostakovich in the first part, leads a perfect dialogue with José Vicente Castelló, the MCO’s amazing principal horn in the concerto, and Dudamel’s joy and energy in the symphony hits back and forth with that of the orchestra.
What an excitement, what a pride I feel to work with this group of people and their magic powers!
Oh dear, I’ve been too long already, dear Diary. Just add to this ecstatic moment dreamy rehearsing conditions in a little French paradise, the presence of loved ones, a fantastic pétanque tournament – led by my not less fantastic partner-in-(boulistique)-crime Matthias – with orchestra members and two special guests, an impromptu visit of a very dear friend of the orchestra (who was also, by the way, a central part of this amazing Beethoven project we had in September 2016 :-)), and for me a few free days with family and friends, and quoting the words of our unexpected visitor, I can only say:
I am a damn lucky one.
Photos: Hélène Delanglez / Rencontres Musicales d'Evian / Evian Resort / Matthieu Joffres