A mix of musical styles, several big names and a new alphorn concerto all feature in this year’s line-up at the Menuhin Festival Gstaad.
Organisers say this summer’s programme stays true to the spirit of the festival’s founder, the late violinist, Yehudi Menuhin.
“We try to present concerts in the spirit of Lord Menuhin by bringing together different styles and cultures in music,” said Christoph Müller, the festival’s artistic director.
The line-up therefore includes jazz, operetta, folk and contemporary music as well as a large dash of classical and chamber music.
And as has always been the case since the festival was started in 1956 – making it one of Switzerland’s oldest classical music events – several famous names will be present.
“For me the most important highlight will be the first concert of the London Symphony Orchestra,” Müller told swissinfo, adding that this would be the start of a three-year collaboration.
“Besides this concert, pianist Alfred Brendel is coming to Gstaad for four concerts as well,” he said.
Also featured is an entirely new concerto for the alphorn, which is part of the contemporary music series, “Today’s Music”.
Müller says this series is a nod towards Menuhin, who was himself keen to promote new talent.
“This year we gave a commission to a [Swiss] composer, Daniel Schnyder, who has composed an alphorn concerto for alphorn and symphony orchestra,” said Müller.
“This concerto will be presented in an evening called ‘The Sound of the Alps’, together with the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss.”
The concert also fits neatly into this year’s theme, “Origin as Source of Inspiration”, which examines how a composer’s place of birth can influence his or her work.
It also looks at how folk music and feelings such as melancholy and homesickness have been a source of inspiration for many pieces of music over the years.
Evidence of this theme can be seen in the festival’s programme, which features tango and Gypsy music, plus classical pieces inspired by folk music such as the Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms.
The Alps were also a source of inspiration for Menuhin, who decided to create an alpine classical music festival in the village and its environs after settling in Gstaad.
“I feel at home in Gstaad,” Menuhin is quoted as saying. “I have [therefore] created a little music festival in the wonderful, small church at Saanen.”
After starting off as two concerts in the nearby village of Saanen, the event quickly grew and now features 31 concerts over seven weeks in several locations, including a giant marquee.
Visitors flock there each summer – this year 17,000 are expected – to experience the festival’s unique blend of alpine scenery and top-flight music. The event is due to run until the beginning of September.
Although the festival has been under the artistic direction of 34-year-old Müller for the past two years, the Menuhin connection is maintained through the violinist’s son, Jeremy, who sits on the board of the festival.
A pianist himself, Menuhin junior will also be giving a concert.
swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson
The festival runs from July 16-September 4.
Alfred Brendel will be giving four concerts; the London Symphony Orchestra will also be playing. A new alphorn concert will also be premiered.
Other highlights include Zubin Mehta and the Bavarian State Orchestra and Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his ensemble.