This year’s celebration of the performing arts in Monte-Carlo – Printemps des Arts – is taking place from 8th March to 2nd April. This festival, under the patronage of HRH the Princess of Hanover, has supported creativity and contemporary composers for many years, and regularly commissions works to be introduced to the public – 71 pieces from 47 composers since 2004.
The opening concert was presented by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Artistic and Music Director Kazuki Yamada, and featured percussionists Julien Bourgeois and Bruno Mantovani in Steve Reich’s Clapping Music (one of the many American works in this festival), and pianist Michel Dalberto. Also on the programme were César Franck’s Symphonic Variations and Bruckner’s Symphony No 2 in C minor which was created in Vienna for the closing ceremony of the 1873 World Expo.
Subsequent concerts promise a wide range of musical delights. The Insula Orchestra, the Accentus Choir and a quartet of vocal soloists perform excerpts from Mendelssohn’s unfinished oratorio Christus and his First Walpurgis Night under the direction of Laurence Equilbey and Frank Markowitsch.
There is a special concert devoted to young musicians from the Rainier III Academy of Monaco and the region’s music schools, who present a programme of music which ranges from the Baroque to the contemporary.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra, led by Eva Ollikainen, presents Samuel Barber’s First Symphony, a piece by contemporary composer Betsy Jonas with pianist Nicolas Hodges, and Sibelius’ En Saga.
In Tribute to Chet Baker, the Riccardo Del Fra Quintet and the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie led by Léo Margue, celebrate the legendary American trumpeter in an original tribute programme, and also perform music from a star-studded range of composers – George and Ira Gershwin, Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter.
The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic makes another appearance, this time with conductor Case Scaglione, in a programme which features the music of American composers Charles Ives – The Unanswered Question – and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No 3. Between these two works is the first performance of a work for reciter and orchestra by François Meïmoun, with Laurent Stocker narrating the myth of Antigone.
The final symphonic work of the festival features chamber orchestra Ensemble TM+, led by Laurent Cuniot, with an all-American programme – Steve Reich’s City Life and Elliott Carter’s Capitol of A Mirror on Which to Dwell – providing a panoramic soundscape of the United States of the 20th century.
Interspersed between these orchestra concerts is a wide selection of recitals. These include pianist Michel Dalberto with a programme of music by Franz Schubert, and in his second appearance, he performs with baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer in a selection of works by César Franck, Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré and Schubert.
The Bernard Trio performs a series of musical miniatures in Debussy’s Children’s Corner, György Kurtág’s Játékok (Hungarian for games) and pieces by Bach and Debussy. Father and son duo Aurélien Pascal on cello and pianist Denis Pascal play some of Gabriel Fauré’s works for cello and piano, three of his Nocturnes and a selection of his sonatas. American harpsichordist Jory Vinikour pays tribute to German Baroque composer and virtuoso keyboardist Johann Jakob Froberger, and also to one of his followers, contemporary composer Christophe Maudot in a premiere presentation of his Désordres passagers pour clavecin.
The Diotima Quartet rounds off the festival with two concerts, the first featuring György Ligeti’s String Quartet No 1 Métamorphoses nocturnes, Philippe Schoeller’s Extasis for string quartet (a work commissioned by the festival) and Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No 6. In the second concert, the Diotima Quartet plays Ligeti’s String Quartet No 2, Bartók’s String Quartet No 1 and Steve Reich’s Different Trains.
Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo takes place from 8th March to 2nd April, and further information, as well as details for ticket reservations, can be found on the festival website.
A version of this article first appeared in Riviera Buzz