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Les Alpes
13 July – 1 September 2018

Over the years the Menuhin Festival has been conceived and programmed under the motto of a number of diverse themes such as humor, the individual elements, musician families and pomp. The most obvious theme, however, has yet to be employed. One that has been lying at the footsteps of the festival since its beginning: the Alps! The Alps in music over the centuries, as well as the influence of the Alps on music, particularly on classical music.
 
The Alps have been a source of fascination and inspiration for centuries. The massive mountains and immense valleys of the Alps create feelings of respect and awe in light of the forces of nature that they represent and our own sense of fragility and finitude. In an age of acceleration, digitalization and worldwide connectivity, globalization and rapid change, the steadfast character and immense power of the Alps offer a comfort for many that is “solid as a rock”. The untouched valleys of the Alps, the sparsely populated mountain villages and the wide expanses of nature out of the range of signal reception offer a welcome contrast to the dense populations and concentrated urban environment of our modern society. Yes, the Alps have become more accessible due to mountain railways and attract increasing numbers of guests every year, but for most (those who are not mountain climbers), they are still invincible, unassailable. In the seclusion of the Alps one can let time come to a stop and find an inner calm and balance in the magic of the surroundings, a feeling that so many yearn for in our stress-plagued society.
 
Whether summer storms, thunder and lightning, a sudden shower, a cool breeze, a sunrise or a sunset, streams, creaks and waterfalls, the many sides of nature are experienced with greater intensity the Alps. The forces of nature can even suddenly become threatening. Life in the Alps is very much determined by the rhythms and the extremes of the four seasons, sometimes down to the hour or minutes of a day, whereas life in urban areas is much less governed by the forces and patterns of nature. The desire to fully and intensely experience the various sides of nature is the reason for many to visit and spend time in the Alps.
 
How did people in the 19th century, in the age of Romanticism, regard the fascinating forces of nature in the Alps, the sense of powerlessness in view of the massive mountains and immense valleys? The interest was great and tourism was growing quickly at this time, leading many, including many musicians, to travel. Mendelssohn, for example, once wrote a letter from Boltigen to his parents on 7 August 1831 saying “The thunder and lightning outside is frightening, and it is raining with such force; one can really learn to respect the weather only in the mountains.”

Various programmatic cycles in this year’s festival are devoted to this idea of the Alps in classical music. The opening cycle, “Seasons Recomposed”, offers three concerts with music depicting or dealing with nature, masterpieces by Vivaldi and Haydn as well as new works and arrangements. For the first time in the long (62 years!) history of the festival the complete works that Brahms composed while staying in Thun will be performed. Other compositions with clear thematic connections that will be performed include Strauss’ Alpensinfonie, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred (Lord Byron’s drama set in the Alps), Brahms’ First Symphony, an Italian opera gala with references to the Alps, Mozart’s Posthorn Serenade, Leopold Mozart’s Alphorn Symphony and Mendelssohn’s two Swiss Symphonies.
 
The 2018 edition of the festival will also feature the continuation of a long-term project: the duo of Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Sol Gabetta will appear together at the festival for the second time and will perform the premiere of two works by two leading contemporary composers that were commissioned by the festival: duos by Peter Eötvös and Rodion Shchedrin. It is an honor and a pleasure to contribute to the expansion of the repertoire of duos for violin and cello with these two significant commissions.
 
The Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy is much more than merely concerts: it is possible to see and hear very talented young musicians, many certain to be future stars, in the concerts offered by the Five Academies at the Festival. Amateur musicians can perform together under professional guidance at the Play@Orchestra programme. Children, youngsters and families can take advantage of the Discovery events. The Gstaad Festival Orchestra can be heard as a guest ensemble at concerts outside of the Gstaad Festival. And throughout the year one can hear and learn about the festival on our streaming channel, www.gstaaddigitalfestival.ch. But above all, you can listen to and experience eminent, world-class artists in over 60 outstanding concerts in the most beautiful of surroundings, the Alps.
 
We are pleased to welcome you to the 62nd Gstaad Menuhin Festival!
 
Sincerely,
 
Christoph Müller, Intendant & CEO