2015 Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy: Irony & Music

7 August 2015

Humour and irony have their fixed place in classical music but all too often it seems that the world of classical music comes off too serious and too stiff. The Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy 2015 seek to demonstrate not only how entertaining classical music can be, but also its qualities of irony and intelligence. Therefore, the motto of the 59th Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy (16 July – 5 September 2015) is “Irony & Music”.

Rossini suffered from severe depression. For 30 years Haydn served at the behest of his prince in Eisenstadt, suffering from loneliness and isolated from the goings-on in Vienna, Paris and London. Schubert’s melancholy was marked by gruelling self-doubt and feelings of inferiority. Mozart channelled his vitality and energy for life into workaholism and an uncontrolled lifestyle. For most of his life Beethoven suffered from serious hearing problems, eye disease and constant gastric colic. Schumann’s life ended in mental derangement having spent his entire life suffering from severe depression. Mahler struggled with serious psychological problems as he was confronted with death, despair, separation and pain in every phase of his life. Strauss was known as an egomaniac who lived through the most barbaric wars and who suffered from the upheaval of times from late Romanticism to Modernism. Shostakovich lived through the repression of Stalin’s dictatorship, working under the constant fear of censorship as well as the threat of removal to the dreaded labour camps. Like Shostakovich, Prokofiev suffered through Stalinist times, eventually dying on the same day as his ideological tormenter in 1953.

Yet all these musicians also stand out for their strong sense of musical irony, this at a time when music was intended to bring a smile to the listener. Irony in music is a means of expression, normally standing in contrast to the real message of the composer, a message thereby intensified, underlined or emphasized through the use of such irony. And so it is that “Ironie comme expression” shall be the name for the chamber music series for the summer of 2015. It is left to us listeners whether we choose to be entertained by the subjective listening experience or if we engage in the intended inspiration of the composer.

Some programme highlights:

  • Great Stars of the classical music scene: Jonas Kaufmann, Cecilia Bartoli, Fazil Say, András Schiff, Daniil Trifonov, Miah Persson, Zubin Mehta, Ivan Fischer, Philippe Jordan, Emmanuel Pahud, Sabine Meyer, Sol Gabetta, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Nikolaj Znaider, The King's Singers…
  • An «Artist in Residence» for three concerts: Jean-Yves Thibaudet
  • First-Rate Recitals in the gorgeous churches of the Gstaad Region: Kristian Bezuidenhout, Alina Ibragimova, Christian & Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt, Cuarteto Casals, Sebastian Knauer, Julian Prégardien…
  • Symphony Nights in the Festival-Tent Gstaad: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra
  • Gstaad Festival Orchestra- the Festival’s own orchestra, led by Kristjan Järvi. GFO not only performs at the Festival, but also tours through Europe after actively being part of the Conducting Academy. Furthermore…
  • Choir and Opera concerts: Mozart’s Great Mass with Regula Mühlemann as soloist, a concert version of Mozart’s «Don Giovanni » , conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, with Erwin Schrott, and other soloists
  • Unusual Encounters: violoncellist Sol Gabetta and jazz pianist Stefano Bollani, young pianist Kit Armstrong and Alfred Brendel as narrator, and sisters Khatia and Gvantsa Buniatishvili
  • A plunge into Early Music: Jordi Savall, Andrew Lawrence-King, Maurice Steger, the Ensemble La Chimera, countertenor Franco Fagioli, Arianna Savall & Petter Udland Johansen
  • Blaring Sounds: Canadian Brass Quintet, the trumpeter Gabor Boldoczki and Sergei Nakariakov in a selection of Baroque trumpet concerts…
  • A platform for young soloists: eight «Matinée des Jeunes Etoiles» on Saturday at Gstaad Chapel, the orchestra of the Menuhin School from London, the International Menuhin Music Academy Orchestra with Maxim Vengerov, the prize winners of the Kiefer Hablitzel Stiftung…
  • A display window for the best Swiss artists: French Hornist Olivier Darbellay, pianist Reto Reichenbach…
  • Unconventional musical moments: the Comedy duo Igudesman & Joo, a concert on Höhi Wispile, a barn concert in Saanenmöser
  • An all-incorporating Academy (Conducting, Piano, Strings, Vocal, Baroque, Play @ Amateur and Youth weeks) with its masterclasses and public closing concerts under the new label «L’Heure Bleue». 

More details on the programme can be found on the EFA website as well as on the festival website