The cello and other musical delights

  23.02.2023 Arts & Culture, Events, Arts & Culture

The 23rd “Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad” music festival, ended on 4 February after nine days of intensive concerts, was all about the cello. The promotion of young musicians – is a central focus in the traditional concept of this winter music event – once again culminated in awarding of prizes in two competitions.

The festival closed on a peak, in the church of Saanen with two orchestral works – the overture to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and the whirling fourth symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven – as well as the charming, sensitive second cello concerto by Joseph Haydn, played by the world-famous English cellist Steven Isserlis. “The Orchestra Consuelo,” led by Victor Julien-Laferrière, impressed with its precision and particularly with the graceful accompaniment of the soloist. The musicians maintained a moderate tempo and allowed the music to reach its full potential.

Haydn’s Cello Concerto touches the soul musically, providing the soloist with ample opportunities for expression, which Isserlis made the most of with a flexible and delicate cadenza, followed by a heartfelt encore of a Catalan folk song made famous by virtuoso Pablo Casals, arranged by Sally Beamish. A Stradivarius facilitated Isserlis’s stunning performance, the “Marquis de Corberon” from 1726, loaned him by the Royal Academy of Music.

The mentor Steven Isserlis
The festival provides a one-of-a-kind platform for both emerging talents and seasoned musicians, featuring concerts at the St. Niklaus Chapel in Gstaad and the opportunity to participate in two competitive events. The most outstanding performer will receive the André Hoffmann Prize, which comes with a 5000 Swiss franc reward.

Furthermore, the festival founder established the Prix Thierry Scherz in collaboration with Marguerite Dütschler, the former owner of the Claves publishing house. This competition judges the performance of the commissioned piece by the current “Composer in Residence,” who this year was Mexican composer and singer Diana Syrse and her composition “Black Fire.” The prize is a recording session with a renowned orchestra to be released and distributed by Claves Verlag.

Steven Isserlis accompanied the young talents as a mentor and also gave master classes. In addition, he sat on the jury with Diana Syrse and Patrick Peikert from Claves Verlag. Also participating in the jury discussion was the festival’s artistic director, Renaud Capuçon. This year’s Hoffman Prize winners are Madelyn Kowalski and her pianist Anna Han, who played works by Wallen, Britten, Saint-Saëns – and Syrse – on Monday, 30 January.

Tim Posner was awarded the Thierry Scherz Prize. He performed on February 3rd, accompanied by pianist Kivell Dörken, featuring works by Debussy, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and, of course, the competition piece by Syrse.

In past years, various instruments performed the commissioned piece, but for some time now, the same instruments have been competing against each other, simplifying the jury’s evaluation. This year it was the cello, and next season it will be the piano.

Four Concerts Sold Out
The three church concerts in Saanen, with a capacity of 600 seats, on 27 January (opening concert) and 3 February (both featuring Renaud Capuçon), and the closing concert on Saturday, 4 February, were all sold out. The concert featuring David Guerrier on trumpet and Kit Armstrong on organ, held in the Rougemont church with a capacity of 250 seats on 2 February, was also completely sold out. The audience mainly consisted of local attendees, as the newly renovated organ debuted in concert for the first time, marking the first-ever concert featuring an organ.

Schubert’s “Winterreise,” performed by baritone Peter Mattei and pianist David Fray, made a profound impact.

In conclusion, the organisers are delighted with the outcome. The Sommets Musicaux festival was a resounding success once again. The organisers are particularly grateful that the children’s concert, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, was successfully held this year.

Loyal sponsors
Annually, the festival attracts prominent sponsors. They continue to support the festival year after year. In addition, music enthusiasts who enjoy giving back come together under the “Amis des Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad” in various categories. Patrons are entitled to concert tickets, dinner invitations, parking privileges, and other benefits based on their category. With this steadfast support, the winter classical music event is secured.


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