A conversation with Maestro Mario Hossen from Varna Summer International Music Festival

9 September 2022

A conversation with Maestro Mario Hossen, Artistic Director of Varna Summer International Music Festival, one of the earliest festivals in Europe.

 As in Varna Summer International Music Festival (IMF), so in any other international music festivals, the language of music and spirituality must carry the message of love and harmony between people.

Maestro Hossen, after two difficult years of pandemic restrictions for the artistic sector and for the whole society, how is the Varna Summer IMF preparing for its 2022 edition?

Artists are motivated by the challenges of our time. The need for culture and reasonable actions determines the profile of the society in which we live. The music festival community builds bridges between people. As representatives of different academies and traditions, we, the musicians recognise the audience as spiritual connoisseurs and adherents of the musical message, through the language of harmony and aesthetics, in a world of material values.
Festivals are a strong and powerful unifying factor and are a particularly important example in our “Time Apart” of people and societies that continue to learn from their historical mistakes.

Could you outline the creative concept of the 2022 festival edition?

Through the festival programme we search the unifying cultural elements. Bulgaria has always been a symbol of unity and ethnic tolerance. By the participation of artists from the United States, China, Israel, Turkey, Russia, Italy, Spain, Austria, Ukraine and 36 other nationalities, we set a positive example. The language of music and spirituality carry the message of love and harmony between people.

We keep the modular principle in the concept of the programme, and the choice of the participants is based on the traditional for the festival highly aesthetic music and performance standards. We combine the scientific discussions during the symposium with exciting concerts and look for new ways to win patrons and friends for the cause of Varna as a tourist cultural destination and for the cause of the long-standing Bulgarian festival, one of the first festivals in Europe.

What to expect for the opening of the festival?

The artistic director of the National Philharmonic of Ukraine, Maestro Mykola Diadiura, will conduct the Symphony Orchestra of Varna State Opera, with the special participation of musicians from the Kiev National Philharmonic. Among the soloists are the legendary Korean violinist Dong Suk Kang, the pianist Florian Krumpoek – one of the most respected interpreters of Beethoven, as well as the Bulgarian violoncellist and professor at the Vienna Private Music University Lilia Bayrova – Schulz. The programme includes Vladigerov – Vardar Rhapsody, Beethoven – Triple Concerto, Dvorak – Symphony “From the New World“. The orchestra will present a music piece by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov in solidarity with Ukraine.

Could you mark the key events in each of the modules of the festival this year? Who are the soloists and orchestras, whose visits music lovers should not miss?

There are many interesting accents to attract the attention of the audience. Traditionally, the concerts of the symposium are of great interest. Dedicated to French avant-garde music from the early 20th century, this year’s symposium programme includes concerts with the participation of internationally renowned performers, such as the soloists Gerard Causse (viola), Olivier Charlier (violin), concertmasters of Teatro alla Scala, Milano – Francesco Manara and Sandro Laffranchini, pianists Ivan Martin and Emanuela Piemonti, cellists Frédéric Audibert and Anton Niculescu, flutist Mario Carbotta, and many other famous musicians.

The Concert for Peace on June 29 at the Festival and Congress Centre will send a special message to the audience. A Festival Orchestra will be composed of concertmasters and leading musicians from more than 16 European orchestras, in collaboration with the Sofia Philharmonic, and two conductors – Jin Wang and Alexander Gordon. The concert will present a unique combination of leading musicians from Ukraine, Romania, Austria, Turkey, Macedonia, Spain, Finland, Moldova, France, Italy, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Israel, Great Britain, China, Germany and Bulgaria, attracted by the spirit of the festival and of the city of Varna and the magic of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Soloists are Shmuel Barzilai (Israel) – Chief Israeli Cantor Vienna, Jie Rong (China) – Buddhist Master from Ningbo, China, violoncellist Anton Niculescu. They will perform symphonic works and arrangements on Eastern Orthodox, Buddhist and Jewish themes by composers Rimsky-Korsakov, Paul Constantinescu, Jin Wang and Roxanna Panufnik. For the audience of the festival I will perform the popular Bulgarian play “Sevdana” by Georgi Zlatev-Cherkin. A special music piece will be created by the Ukrainian composer Alexander Rodin and be premiered in Varna in support of Ukraine.

Music lovers will be tempted by the performances of Michel Deneuve and his Cristal, the Debussy and Szymanowski Quartets and the Paganini Ensemble Vienna with the premiere performance of Paganini’s works for Bulgaria.

Among the highlights will be the visit of the Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra with soloist Alexander Markov (USA), the BNR Symphony Orchestra with conductor Mark Kadin and soloist Alexander Ghindin (Russia), the legendary renaissance Spanish vocal ensemble La Grande Chapelle, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra with conductor Aapo Hakkinen and the soloist violinist Reka Szilvay and Wiener Akademie with Martin Haselböck. By tradition the programme continues with educational concerts for children and with the International Summer Academy of Varna Summer International Music Festival.

Traditionally Varna Summer IMF produces works by contemporary Bulgarian composers and provides stage for rarely presented in our country works by foreign authors – we have witnessed impressive premieres. What can we expect this year?

At the International Symposium young Bulgarian musicians, pianist Angela Todorova and violinists Victoria Marinova and Teresa Pletkute, will perform music of the great Bulgarian composers Pancho Vladigerov, Lyubomir Pipkov and Marin Goleminov. We believe that the audience will also highly appreciate the premiere performances of works by contemporary Bulgarian authors: Stefan Dragostinov, Georgi Arnaudov, Milko Kolarov and Dimitar Bodurov. We will also enjoy the performance of representatives of the Varna Music School – Yana Burova, Eugenia Radoslavova, Graziela Fierro, Galin Ganchev.

European artists from Hungary, Spain and Ukraine will meet on the festival stage to perform chamber works by the great Bulgarian classical composer Pancho Vladigerov.

One of the main missions with a special place in the festival programme is the involvement of young audiences. What new ideas do you have in this direction?

Young people are our absolute priority. We will develop the module with concerts on alternative stages and concerts in urban environment, as well as on stages in the resort of “St. St. Constantine and Helena”. We will continue to present Bulgarian and international young instrumentalists. The accent in this direction will be the attractive crossover concert-performance “Flying Bach” by the winner of prestigious international awards, pianist and producer Christoph Hagel. The audience will enjoy an outstanding performance with Bach’s music and participation of current German world breakdance champions. The play is a joint project with the Varna Summer Theatre Festival.

The first Bulgarian festival in Europe is expanding it community of friends and supporters. Prince Viktor Isenburg was the first patron, who accepted the cause of Varna Summer festival. He highly appreciated the Baroque module of the previous festival edition. How are the relations with his foundation developing? Are we expecting new high guests this summer?

By including Prince Isenburg in the team of Varna Summer IMF, the city of Varna won a great friend, and the festival – a patron and a cultural ambassador. Among the official guests of the festival this year we expect aristocrats, diplomats, managers, producers, representatives of cultural tourism and businessmen with interests in Varna and the region from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

96 years ago, the founders of the “Varna Summer” label began their work in relation with the development strategy for Varna to become a renowned resort city. What intersections between tourism and art is the festival developing now?

We are currently developing a complex and multi-layered strategy for the development of cultural tourism in the city of Varna. We work in partnership with leading operators in the field of cultural management from Germany in order to prepare a proper celebration for the great 100th anniversary of Varna Summer International Music Festival – the first festival in Bulgaria.

Could you gather in one sentence your invitation to the people of Varna and the guests of the city – why should they visit the concerts and performances in the 2022 programme of Varna Summer IMF?

The festival audience will enjoy various concerts and events at high European and world level. Both in 2022 and in preparation for 2026, Varna will host soloists, singers and conductors who are iconic figures and part of the programmes of the world’s largest music centres, such as Milan, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, New York, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Madrid and Warsaw. Do not miss the incredible opportunity to become part of these events, to experience the pleasure of the great European music!

An interview led by Nina Lokmadzhieva