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Mountain high music festivals

Lou Reed performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 13

(Keystone)

This summer, Switzerland is holding a vast repertoire of music festivals, celebrating styles as diverse as R&B, chamber music and African rhythms. Dale Bechtel samples a selection of the sounds you can hear in Switzerland's most stunning settings.

Music lovers are in for a real treat this summer as towns across Switzerland prepare for their annual festivals. The most famous is the Montreux Jazz festival, which kicks off on July 7 with its usual eclectic all-star line-up.

Set on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux will be welcoming the likes of B.B. King, Al Jarreau, and Lou Reed. The top names will dominate the main indoor stages. But those who prefer their music slightly chilled by a fresh lake breeze, or set against a backdrop of majestic peaks, should check out Montreux's "Festival Off" open air programme, which brings together jazz ensembles from across the globe.

For more exotic jazz, fans should head to the "Lugano Estival Jazz", in the southern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. From July 7, artists like Wynton Marsalis, the Senegalese artist, Cheikh Lô and Cuban pianist, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, will be performing in the beautiful main square, or piazza, of Lugano. There will also be concerts in the nearby town of Mendrisio and the village of Tesserete. All performances are free.

If classical music strikes a more soothing chord in your soul, the mountain resorts of Gstaad and Verbier are the places to be.

The Menuhin Festival in Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland runs from July 21 till September 2. This year, Moscow's Tschaikovsky Symphony Orchestra will kick off the festival with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concert Number two and Tschaikovsky's Symphony Number six.

Visitors will also be able to take advantage of the many performances held at churches dotted throughout the picturesque countryside.

At 1,400 metres above sea level, the Verbier Festival and Academy promises to be another highlight for classical music lovers. Over 40 performances including concerts, chamber music, recitals, theatre, dance workshops and open-air events are scheduled daily from July 21 till August 6.

There will also be outdoor jazz, classical and folk concerts every day. These give up-and-coming artists a unique chance to perform before both master musicians and the public.

One workshop focuses on the staging of the fourth act of Puccini's "La Bohème". It's aimed at professional singers familiar with one of the roles of the opera, but they must have performed at least one leading role at a major opera house.

In August, folk and pop are the focus of different festivals elsewhere in the mountains of canton Valais. Instead of echoing the applause of ski fans, the resort of Veysonnaz will shake to the tunes of Sharon Grimes, Capercaillie and Sharon Shannon at the "Irish Festival" on August 11 and 12.

In the valley below, the sound of rock legend Joe Cocker and relative newcomers like Chumbawamba and Fools' Garden will reverberate through the sleepy town of Gampel, when they strut their stuff from August 18 to 20.

by Dale Bechtel


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