Stars gather in Verbier for annual music extravaganza

The Alpine village of Verbier welcomes some of the greatest names in classical music to its mountain home over the next two weeks, as the 2021 Verbier Festival takes place. Launched in 1994 by Founder and Director Martin Engstroem, the Festival – with its glittering selection of events, both large-scale and intimate – is one of the highlights of the international music calendar.

This year, the Verbier Festival Orchestra will not be appearing at all, due to quarantine restrictions, but, committed as the Festival is to presenting a summer of exceptional musical events, the programme as originally scheduled is being adjusted, and symphonic concerts will be performed by the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. All changes will be reflected on the Festival website, and the website provides details of all performances to be streamed from Verbier.

Valery Gergiev, Music Director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra © Nicolas Brodard

Opening the 2021 Festival is the illustrious conductor Valery Gergiev, Music Director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra. He leads the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra in two performances, the first featuring soloist Denis Matsuev in the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 1, followed in the second by Mr Matsuev’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3.

Further MainStage concerts are led by Gábor Takács-Nagy, with Josef Špaček playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 3, Mao Fujita performing the composer’s Piano Concerto No 20, violinist Augustin Hadelich in Mendelssohn’s Second Violin Concerto, and Marc Bouchkov playing the re-creation of an unpublished concerto for violin by Eugène Ysaÿe – the second-ever performance of this concerto.

Antonio Pappano conducts the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No 1 with soloist Janine Jansen, and Maestro Pappano will also lead a performance of Sergei Babayan’s interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27.

Klaus Mäkelä leads a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto by Daniel Lozakovich, and another concert featuring Schumann’s Cello Concerto played by Festival favourite Mischa Maisky.

James Gaffigan makes his debut as Music Director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra in an all-Russian programme featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev – with pianist Behzod Abduraimov playing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Op 4. Maestro Gaffigan also leads a performance in which violin virtuoso Joshua Bell plays Chausson’s Poème for Violin and Orchestra.

Salle des Combins, Verbier © Nicolas Brodard

Exciting piano recitals include those by luminaries Behzod Abduraimov, playing works by Scarlatti, Schumann and Rachmaninoff; Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performing Haydn’s 31st sonata, alongside works by Clementi and Liszt; Evgeny Kissin presenting a programme of contrasting masterpieces by 20th century composers, alongside Romantic miniatures by Chopin; Nikolaï Lugansky playing Rachmaninoff’s Études-Tableaux and pieces by Bach and Beethoven; Mikhaïl Pletnev preforming a selection of Beethoven piano sonatas; András Schiff with works by Bach, Mozart and Schubert; and Arcadi Volodov performing works by Schubert and Brahms.

The Chamber Music section features a fascinating array of talents. Think of the combination of Janine Jansen, Mischa Maisky and Mikhaïl Pletnev playing a Tchaikovsky trio; or Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Evgeny Kissin performing a selection of works inspired by Jewish themes. Joshua Bell also appears with Lahav Shani, Michael Barenboim, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Lawrence Power in a programme of music by Brahms. Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires make their first appearances at the Festival, playing the music of Schumann, Debussy and Beethoven, as do Augustin Hadelich and Alban Gerhardt who appear in a performance with Alexander Sitkovetsky, Antoine Tamesit and Denis Matsuev. Steven Isserlis performs with Connie Shih in a programme of works by 20th century French composers, Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason play music by Britten, Rachmaninoff and Bridge, and Lawrence Power, Mischa Maisky, Lucas Debargue and Nikolaï Lugansky, together with wind players from the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra, play a selection of Festival favourites.

Open Air Music in Nature © Francesca Sagramoso

High profile names conducting Masterclasses include soprano Barbara Frittoli, Gábor Takács-Nagy, pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, cellist Steven Isserlis and baritone Thomas Hampson.

There are vocal concerts featuring Benjamin Appl and James Baillieu. Soprano Olga Peretyatko brings Summertime to the Verbier Festival in a recital of music by the masters, and Matthias George, accompanied by Nikolaï Lugansky, treats us to Schubert’s Winterreise.

Other performances of note include the results of Daniel Hope’s extensive research into composers of film scores who fled fascist persecution during the 20th century, and who relocated in Los Angeles. Also starring Thomas Hampson and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, this performance additionally features Lawrence Power, Stéphane Logerot and Julien Quentin.

One of the VF KIDS Storytellers ‘Les Trois petits cochons’ © Marc Philippin

The Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet portrays the history of their country – the battles, suffering and heroism of the Georgian people. Singers and musicians of the Verbier Festival Academy perform numbers fro Cole Porter’s Great American Songbook.

In the category of electronic music, the Festival features a performance by jazz pianist André Manoukian moving between musical styles, and Jeanne Gérard presents Lost Heritage – an electro concert complete with video and lighting installation, described as “somewhere between electronic, classical and experimental music”.

As the Festival Finale, James Gaffigan leads singers of the Academy and the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra in a concert version of Puccini’s beautiful tragedy, La bohème.

Full details of the Festival and programme can be found on the Verbier Festival website, and details of all performances to be streamed from Verbier can be found on the website.

Information sourced from:

Verbier Festival website

ArtsPreview home page

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