Music and stars light up Swiss festivals

Leonard Cohen, a headline act at the 42nd Montreux Jazz Festival

Big names – established and new – are flocking to Switzerland this summer for the country's many famed music festivals.

This content was published on July 8, 2008 minutes

Organisers say that top acts, whether in pop, rock or classical, are essential for bringing in an audience and lending events that extra bit of glitter.

"I can't help pinching myself to make sure that I'm awake. Bringing together so much talent on our stages over 16 days is a recurring miracle," is founder Claude Nobs' verdict on this year's Montreux Jazz festival programme.

A big coup for the two-week festival, which started last Friday, is the appearance of Canadian poet-singer Leonard Cohen, who has not played on stage for around 15 years. Montreux is the only Swiss stop on his current world tour.

The 73-year-old Cohen, famed for his gravelly voice and thoughtful songs, is hoping with this long-awaited comeback to repeat his success of the 1970s.

Also taking place is a big 75th birthday gala event for the multitalented American performer Quincy Jones.

"Quincy Jones is the last survivor – a composer of jazz, pop, hip-hop and film music, everything he does is done with an incomparable genius," says Nobs.

The famous jazz festival, on the shores of lake Geneva, attracted 220,000 visitors last year, making it the country's largest. Further highlights this year include Katie Melua and Alicia Keys.

And more...

There is no shortage of stars at other festivals – more than 100 events are taking place this summer.

At the Live at Sunset festival in Zurich, which starts on July 9 and aims for a "huge club atmosphere", Seal and soul diva Diana Ross are topping the bill.

"We are a venue with 3,300 seats and we need the stars otherwise we cannot sell out this size of venue," Live at Sunset promoter Hans Walter Huggler told swissinfo.

Bands such as R.E.M are putting in several appearances at Swiss festivals, including at Paléo near Geneva, the country's most successful open air event. However Paléo is an exception in that all its tickets are sold just a few hours after they become available, irrespective of the names on stage.

And all eyes will be on Madonna on August 30, when the singer gives her first concert in Switzerland as part of her Sticky & Sweet tour.

However, the summer is not totally devoted to lovers of jazz, pop and rock. There is plenty for classical music fans as well.

Not forgetting classical...

The Lucerne festival, the second most popular event in Switzerland after Montreux, has a full summer programme, starting on August 13.

This year's theme will be dance and music. Joachim Schloemer, a German choregrapher, dancer and director, will present four productions, including Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio. Another star this year is Berlin Philharmonic oboist Albrecht Mayer.

"We have altogether 100 programmes this coming summer but it's very good to have a strong profile and artists like Joachim Schloemer and Albrecht Mayer have a strong focus with their oeuvre," Barbara Higgs, head of public relations at the festival, told swissinfo.

Top orchestras – the Cleveland, New York and Vienna Philharmonics, plus the festival's own under Claudio Abaddo – are also highlights.

At the alpine resort of Gstaad, whose festival begins late July, artistic director Christoph Müller says he tries to keep to the spirit of the music festival's founder - the late, great, Yehudi Menuhin - while leaving his own imprint.

But he always has to keep a wide musical scope to attract an audience.

And what better way than with the appearance of former Menuhin pupil Nigel Kennedy – a top violinist who is at home with Mozart, Beethoven or Vivaldi as he is with blues, heavy metal and jazz.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Swiss festivals:

July 4-19: Montreux Jazz Festival

July 9-20: Live at Sunset, Zurich

July 9-20: Moon and Stars, Locarno

July 18-26: Blue Balls Festival, Lucerne

July 22-27: Paléo Festival, Nyon

July 25-September 7: Menuhin Festival Gstaad

August 6-16: Locarno Film Festival

August 13-September 21: Lucerne Summer Music Festival

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