I am conscious of being so lucky. Last week, I was playing with my string quartet (which still doesn’t have a name, even after a year spent playing together) starring the all equally wonderful Friederike Starkloff, Guro Kleven Hagen and Anne Yumino Weber for the Valdres Festival in Norway. The summer festivals are among the nicest moments of the year : they provoke quite incredible musical experiences, when it is about playing with people we never met before, as much as when it is about playing with our usual partners ; great human experiences, including meeting musicians from different horizons and sharing with them one concert, one week or one month. Among them, I would certainly name the fantastic YellowBarn Festival taking place in Vermont, USA, which I participated last year, and was long of five incredible weeks. Intense work, beautiful human beings, smiling but musically deep atmosphere… What more could we ask for ?
Well, my greatest experiences in summer festivals always happened to be in wild places, lost in the middle of the mountains or the forest.Exactly like Vermont is, actually.
But the Valdres Festival I come back from goes even further than that. Let’s start with a picture.
This is the church where we played the Hindemith clarinet quintet (one of the many great but unknown pieces on earth) and where I gave a performance of the Zimmermann sonata. This place was an hour drive from our hotel, and there was not even a village around the church. I was at first excited about playing there, but wondering if there would be people listening, because although the church was tiny, I could not count enough houses around to fill it with people !
Naturally, if was more than full. People living there, from the whole countryside around, they took their car to come to listen to music. The program was not attractive for who doesn’t know a lot about music : the concert started with Bach’s solo violin partita in E, but after that was a festival of less famous composers who intendants and festival programmers are usually afraid to put in the menu. And we were also not renowned enough at all to attract people on our names. I also don’t think it only is because of advertisement. The thing is that usually, people come to music where it is. During the year time, orchestras are home, or touring in big cities, and chamber music ensembles as well. The public is probably there more a connoisseur, but something much more special happens on stage when we bring the music to people. We just give it, to share it with the ones who don’t have access to it the rest of the year, and they listen, and we create a magical moment together. This public actually enjoys concerts even more than the one we are used to. We are afraid of playing “new” repertoire, or pieces “hard to listen” to them. But the 40 or 50 people there were more intensely with me when I played the Zimmermann solo sonata than any of the one for who I played in Paris. This is such a hard piece : residual and mostly not understandable melody, absence of harmony, of key… This work if made of angel’s whispers and sobs, nothing else. Even specialists have hard time understanding it. But that day, people there loved the piece. They told me it was extremely exciting. This is something I still cannot believe.
Those people were open-minded, but I believe everyone is when we bring music the right way. Or just, when instead of making people come to music, we simply bring it to them.
I also have to say that playing this very special piece in such a gorgeous place participates making it special. It is certainly not given to every village to have such a wonderful landscape, but the music is always the same wonderful.