The Festival is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Rare are the musical events that can pride themselves on such longevity in France and in Europe. The Festival’s unique character is no doubt what allows it to reach this venerable age – a character born of the challenging combination of a 12th century Royal Basilica standing in the heart of a working-class town.
Nearing its fifties, the Festival leans on its fundamental principles while pursuing the renewal of the recent years and continuing to gather momentum, growing its European dimension.
With this aim, and with the counsel of Jean-Pierre Le Pavec, whom I brought on board as a special 50th anniversary consultant, we chose to invite in residence for our first celebratory initiative the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, a brilliant Berlin-based ensemble, with its two musical directors: Teodor Currentzis for the opening, and Daniele Gatti for the heart of the event.
Three diptychs elaborated around Mahler, Mozart and Monteverdi also illustrate both what revealed the Festival’s identity in the past as well as what informs it today.
To Mahler’s Lied von der Erde (“Song of the Earth”) with the Orchestra National de France conducted by Robin Riccati will answer the Lied der Nacht (“Song of the Night”, Symphony No. 7) performed by Le Balcon ensemble and Maxime Pascal.
There will be two Mozart programmes with the Chœur de Radio France: one around the Vesperæ with the Orchestre Philharmonique conducted by Sofi Jeannin, and the Requiem for the closing night, with the National conducted by James Gaffigan. In addition, more glorious Vesperæ with Monteverdi, performed by the authoritative Monteverdi Choir with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, as well as the Orfeo by Leonardo García Alarcón in a new, never-seen mise-en-scène by Jean Bellorini.
Along with these great, grand offers in the Basilica, I am inviting you to more intimate recitals at the Légion d’Honneur: from early music with Jean Rondeau and counter-tenor Iestyn Davies to 19th century works with pianist Varvara and cellist Edgar Moreau.
For Métis, a new creation entrusted to Ibrahim Maalouf featuring guests, with, shining ever bright, his famous quarter tone trumpet.
This creation inspires the other Métis performances centred on the trumpet – an instrument which transcends cultures – as well as three Near- and Middle-Eastern countries: Lebanon, Iran and Syria.
More than ever, music is alive and thriving. Happy fiftieth anniversary, and long live the Festival!
Head of Festival de Saint-Denis