This spectacular concert opens the 2020 Verbier Festival, which will offer manifold tributes to Beethoven in his 250th birthday year.
Quatuor Ébène’s relationship with the Verbier Festival goes back to 2007, when its members attended the Academy. It is now established as one of the world’s leading string quartets.
In 2019 Alexandre Kantorow became the first French pianist to win the Gold Medal of the Tchaikovsky Competition. He also became only the fourth musician in the competition’s 60-year history to receive its Grand Prix. “He is the real deal,” says Gramophone magazine, “a fire-breathing virtuoso with a poetic charm and innate stylistic mastery.”
This year’s opera at the Verbier Festival is Don Giovanni, Mozart’s ever-thrilling dramma giocoso, in a semi-staging by David Sakvarelidze. The conductor is Gábor Takács-Nagy, Music Director of the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. In the role of the legendary Spanish seducer, the golden-voiced Swedish baritone Peter Mattei leads a cast of both established and rising stars.
A pianist whose reputation has achieved new heights in recent years, Sergei Babayan has become a favourite with Verbier audiences; this is one of three appearances he makes at the 2020 Festival. Born in Armenia and now an American citizen, he has been praised by Le Figaro for his “unequalled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity,” while Montreal’s Le Devoir has written that “Sergei Babayan is a genius. Period.” His ambitious and richly varied recital programme embraces works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Schubert and the contemporary Lithuanian pianist-composer Andrius Žlabys.
In 2019, pianist Yoav Levanon – then just 14 years old – made his first Mainstage appearance at the Verbier Festival, having attended its Academy in 2018. Broadcast globally on medici.tv, his recital gained the largest online audience of any of the 2019 Festival’s events.
A string trio formed of two violins and a viola is a rare presence on the concert platform, so this is a privileged opportunity to hear three major instrumentalists in gems by Dvořák and Prokofiev. Colleagues of long standing, Pamela Frank, Leonidas Kavakos and Antoine Tamestit bring their special rapport and insight to this intimate genre.
Two epoch-making masterpieces by Beethoven are preceded by Schoenberg’s rarely heard, but deeply moving cantata A Survivor from Warsaw. Composed in 1947 as a tribute to victims of the Holocaust, it is narrated by bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, returning to Verbier’s Salle des Combins. In Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the Verbier Festival Orchestra and its charismatic Music Director Valery Gergiev are joined by one of the work’s greatest current interpreters, Pinchas Zukerman.
This second concert in Quatuor Ébène’s six-concert cycle of the complete Beethoven quartets juxtaposes works from the composer’s early era with one of his transcendent late works.
“Finesse and fire from a starry musical duo … A recital that showcased the very best in collaborative music-making,” was how the Toronto Star described a 2019 recital by pianist Yuja Wang and cellist Gautier Capuçon – who first met at Verbier and make the Festival a regular fixture on their summer schedule. The Classical Review in Boston has observed that “Capuçon and Wang share a similar vigor and alert spontaneity that make it seem as if they are finishing each other’s phrases. The French cellist plays with a robust intensity that brings out drama from even the most delicate of works … Wang proved a subtle and thoughtful partner … It seemed that the two had been playing together for a lifetime.”
The performing partnership of Timothy Chooi and Martin James Bartlett stems from the 2018 Verbier Festival Academy. This is their debut as a duo and also the first Mainstage appearance at the Festival for both the Canadian-American violinist and the British pianist. The two musicians share an impressive record as competition prizewinners: notably, Chooi won Second Prize at the 2019 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium, having gained First Prize at the 2018 Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition in Germany, while in 2014 Bartlett was named BBC Young Musician of the Year and in 2018 took two prizes at the Bad Kissingen KlavierOlymp.
The closing work of this concert, Beethoven’s Symphony No 2, is preceded by three choral works by both Beethoven and Schubert that remain relatively rarely heard. Among them is Beethoven’s idiosyncratic and charming Choral Fantasy, which presages his 9th Symphony. Five soloists will add a further dimension to the familiar chemistry between the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra and its Music Director Gábor Takács-Nagy.
Radiant of voice, the charismatic mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená returns to the Verbier Festival after a two-year absence. She is joined in an alluring programme of Debussy, Chausson, Ravel and Stravinsky by four instrumentalists, including clarinettist Martin Fröst. A regular visitor to the Verbier Festival, Fröst has been praised by James R. Oestrich of the New York Times for “a virtuosity and a musicianship unsurpassed by any clarinetist — perhaps any instrumentalist — in my memory”.
Performing together for the first time are the Canadian violinist James Ehnes – described by The Telegraph as “an artist of the first order … a thinker of the violin as well as a supreme virtuoso of the instrument” – and the French pianist Lucas Debargue; he rose to the prominence at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, winning Fourth Prize and the Moscow Music Critics’ Prize for his “incredible gift, artistic vision, and creative freedom”. Ehnes makes two appearances at the 2020 Verbier Festival, while Debargue makes four.
“Fujita is a musician of tremendous versatility and taste,” The Times has written, “with a poetic sense of pulse and eloquent, insightful, fearless articulation.” Playing a beautifully balanced programme of Mozart, Chopin and Schumann, Mao Fujita makes his Mainstage debut at the Verbier Festival, having attended the Academy in 2018. In 2017, while still a student at the Tokyo College of Music, he won the 27th Clara Haskil Piano Competition, held in Vevey, going on to consolidate this achievement with second prize at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow in June 2019.
Beethoven is the prime focus of all three concerts conducted at the 2020 Festival by Valery Gergiev, Music Director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra. Here the two works are the heart-easing Symphony No 6, the ‘Pastoral’ and the brooding Piano Concerto No 3, composed — like the dramatic Symphony No 5 and ‘Pathétique’ Sonata – in the key of C minor.
Four outstanding instrumentalists who first met in Verbier collaborate in different configurations in three Romantic chamber works. This concert represents the third joint appearance by Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuçon at the 2020 Festival, while Martin Fröst, who makes the most eloquent case for the clarinet as a solo instrument, has established himself as a favourite with Verbier audiences, The Swedish violinist Daniel Lozakovich, still in his teens, has been praised by the Boston Globe for possessing “poise, tonal purity, and technique to spare,” while Le Figaro has spoken of “Perfect mastery. An exceptional talent.”
“A thoughtful, intelligent artist, as supple in his phrasing as he is generous in his use of colour,” was how Gramophone magazine described Montenegran guitarist Miloš Karadaglić when he first came to international attention. Returning to the Verbier Festival, where he last appeared in 2016, he brings a programme that ranges from JS Bach to contemporary French composer Mathias Duplessy by way of Granados, Albéniz, Villa-Lobos and The Beatles.
The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra gives the first of its three concerts at the 2020 Festival. The conductor is John Axelrod, former Music Director of the Lucerne Symphony and current Artistic and Musical Director of the Royal Symphony Orchestra of Seville. This is his debut at the Verbier Festival and he brings considerable experience of working with youth orchestras.
The Verbier Festival has developed close links with András Schiff and he appears as both conductor and soloist in this programme of works from the very end of Mozart’s short life. The composer’s final piano concerto, a work full of subtly shifting emotions, opens the concert. It was first performed in 1791, the year that Mozart died, leaving his Requiem incomplete. Almost as famous for its mysterious genesis as for its grave beauty and expressive power, this monumental work is complemented here by the sublime motet ‘Ave verum corpus’.
This third concert in Quatuor Ébène’s six-concert cycle of the complete Beethoven quartets juxtaposes works from the composer’s early era with one of his transcendent late works.
The exhilarating ‘mix and match’ spirit of the Verbier Festival’s ‘Rencontres Inédites’ is typified in this programme, which brings together five musicians with credentials as soloists and chamber players. The repertoire is firmly centred on Austro-German Romanticism with Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (Fröst, Hagen, Debargue), Schubert’s String Trio D 581 (Ehnes, Hagen, Helmerson), and Brahms’ Trio for clarinet, cello and piano (Fröst, Helmerson, Debargue).
Before winning the Vendôme Prize at the 2019 Verbier Festival, pianist Daumants Liepiņš had already been named Young Artist of the Year in the Latvian National Grand Music Awards and distinguished himself as a laureate in several major international competitions. This recital, his first at the Festival, is part of the Vendôme Prize, as is a recording on the Steinway label. His elegantly conceived programme of two sonatas and a sonatina presents a chronological sequence of composers: Schumann, Ravel and Barber.
Following their fruitful collaboration at the Verbier Festival in 2019, Leonidas Kavakos and Evgeny Kissin – known to the world as high-voltage soloists rather than chamber players – join forces once again to open this ‘Rencontres inédites’ concert with sonatas by Mozart and Brahms. After the interval, the violinist is Pinchas Zukerman and the pianist is Sergei Babayan, sharing the stage with viola player Ori Kam (a member of the Jerusalem Quartet) and Canadian cellist Amanda Forsyth. They will perform another work by Brahms, the Piano Quartet No 1, which was premiered in 1861 with Clara Schumann among the players.
“A musician completely absorbed in his craft,” is how the Washington Post described Stephen Kovacevich in 2018, adding that “Kovacevich’s interpretations are like no one else’s and always emanate directly from the heart.” It will be six years since the American-born pianist last appeared at the Verbier Festival and he returns with a programme of early and late Brahms and Schubert’s epically scaled final sonata. Gramophone has written of Kovacevich that “few pianists have penetrated more deeply to the dark, restlessly beating heart beneath Schubert’s outwardly genial surface.”
“This latest Chopin Competition winner can stand proud next to the likes of such illustrious past winners as Pollini, Argerich and Zimerman,” wrote Pianist magazine after Seong-Jin Cho triumphed in Warsaw in 2015. Now in his mid-20s, he is giving recitals in the world’s most prestigious venues and performing with major orchestras and conductors. Following his first visit to the Verbier Festival in 2018, he returns with a recital that combines works of the Romantic period – Liszt, Franck and Brahms – with Berg’s op.1 Sonata, composed in the early years of the 20th century and poetically presaging atonality.
“Clearly destined for great things,” were the words of London’s Evening Standard on Martin James Bartlett. International Piano went further, saying: “Here is a pianist of present glory rather than future potential.” Since his 2014 victory in BBC TV’s Young Musician of the Year he has been building a substantial reputation, and in 2019 released his debut album on Warner Classics, Love and Death. An alumnus of the 2018 Verbier Academy, he now gives his first solo recital at the Festival, following his collaboration with Timothy Chooi on 20th July.
Scenes from Acts 1 and 3 of Die Walküre, the music drama that forms the beating heart of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, are conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.
The programme of this concert, the fourth of six in Quatuor Ébène’s cycle of the complete Beethoven quartets, brings an early quartet and two landmarks of the composer’s middle period – the second of the three quartets commissioned by Count Andreas Razumovsky, Russia’s ambassador to Vienna, and the so-called ‘Quartetto Serioso’, an intensely concentrated work.
Lucas Debargue, who first came to international attention at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition, is now making his third visit to Verbier. In the first of his four Festival appearances in Summer 2020, he devotes the opening half of his programme to Scarlatti. Reviewing his Sony album of the composer’s sonatas, released in 2019, Gramophone wrote: “To Debargue’s great credit, each of these 52 sonatas emerges with a uniquely distinctive character … Debargue’s speed and bravura are delivered with extraordinary clarity and lightness of touch. The most intricate figurations … speak with stylish eloquence … He sounds both completely on top of his game and staking out new interpretative territory with confident mastery.
Over recent years, Dima Slobodeniouk – Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia and Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in his adoptive country of Finland – has developed a close relationship with the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra. Moldovan-born Alexandra Conunova, an alumna of the Festival Academy and now a regular guest on the Mainstage, is soloist in the first of two musical epics – Sibelius’s poetic and gripping violin concerto. It is followed by the work that epitomises Beethoven for the world, his endlessly compelling Symphony No 5.
Discover the best of the new generation of singers in this afternoon recital of art song and Lied.
Making the last of his three appearances at this year’s Verbier Festival, and heralding regular appearances over the coming years, Antonio Pappano conducts the Festival Chamber Orchestra in Bartók, Schumann and one of Mozart’s most sombrely dramatic piano concertos, No 24 in C minor. This performance marks the first collaboration between Pappano and soloist Mikhail Pletnev.
At the 2019 Verbier Festival András Schiff devoted an entire recital to Bach. His 2020 recital comprises three of Schubert’s piano sonatas. When Schiff played a similar programme at Carnegie Hall in 2017, the New York Times wrote: “It seemed … that Mr. Schiff had almost come to inhabit Schubert the way he long ago inhabited Bach. He played with a proprietary, improvisatory air, as though he were making up the music on the spot … He subtly altered the many repeated phrases, in timing, touch or mood … it seemed, the music was in constant variation, alive with new meanings.”
Lahav Shani has frequently conducted concertos with Pinchas Zukerman as soloist, but this is the first time that the two Tel Aviv-born artists have collaborated in chamber music with Shani as pianist. They are joined by the Canadian cellist Amanda Forsyth in this all-Beethoven programme, which is rounded off by the grandly conceived ‘Archduke’ Trio. First performed in 1814, it was dedicated by Beethoven to his patron (and composition student) Archduke Rudolf of Austria.
Beethoven’s songs remain relatively little-known, so baritone Stephan Genz, a regular presence in Verbier, and pianist Kit Armstrong could well be taking the audience on a voyage of discovery.
“Denis Matsuev’s name has inspired awe and amazement in musical circles,” wrote Gramophone magazine, “for here is a virtuoso in the grandest of grand Russian traditions … He literally possesses the sort of technique which begins where others end.”
Supreme soloists who enjoy a deep rapport as a chamber duo, Martha Argerich – returning to Verbier after six years – and Mischa Maisky, a familiar face at the Festival, unite for a programme of Brahms, Schumann and Shostakovich.
Le ténor franco-suisse Benjamin Making a much-anticipated debut at the Verbier Festival is French-Swiss tenor Benjamin Bernheim. Now a regular presence at the world’s leading opera houses, he has been described by Opera magazine as “the romantic French tenor we have all been waiting for”.
Violinist Kristóf Baráti and pianist Sergei Babayan appear regularly at the Verbier Festival – each of them plays in three concerts in the 2020 edition – but this is the first time that they have given a recital as a duo.
Three major pianists and two Romantic piano concertos from the core of this concert.
Between two concerts at the Salle des Combins where he takes his more familiar role of conductor, Antonio Pappano takes a seat at the piano for a programme of Brahms.
In the penultimate concert of Quatuor Ébène’s six-concert cycle of the complete Beethoven quartets, the first of the three ‘Razumovsky’ quartets – in which the composer brought a new, ‘symphonic’ sense of scale to the genre – is followed by two extraordinary works from his late period, the sprawling six-movement quartet op 130 (No 13) and the refractory, densely wrought ‘Grosse Fuge’.
Miklós Perényi and András Schiff, both alumni of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, constitute a long-established musical partnership.
The six-movement Divertimento K 563, composed in 1788, is Mozart’s only completed work for the combination of violin, viola and cello.
Named “Africa’s premier diva” by Time magazine, and the winner of three Grammy Awards, Benin-born Angélique Kidjo returns to the Verbier Festival after a 2012 concert that soon brought the audience to its feet.
Sonya Yoncheva, now established as a prima donna of the world’s leading opera houses, makes her first visit to the Verbier Festival, giving a recital with pianist Malcolm Martineau.
Appearing together as a trio for the first time are: violinist Roberto González-Monjas, who has frequently played as concertmaster of the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra; cellist Clemens Hagen, celebrated both as a member of the Hagen Quartet and as a soloist, and pianist Kit Armstrong, who – as his Festival recital on 31st July will demonstrate – is a musician of unusual range.
“His grasp of these vast edifices is remarkable,” wrote Gramophone magazine, awarding Nelson Freire its Recording of the Year 2007 for his interpretations of Brahms’ two piano concertos. “Not just in their colossal technical demands, but in their moments of poetry where Brahms the chamber musician steps to the fore.
This is the second of two all-Beethoven recitals – embracing the five cello sonatas and other works for cello and piano – by the long-established duo of Miklós Perényi and András Schiff, both alumni of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest.
Pianist and composer Kit Armstrong, now in his late twenties, gave his first Verbier recital when he was just eight years old. The New York Times has described him as a “brilliant pianist” who combines “musical maturity and youthful daring in his exceptional playing”.
An afternoon of Shjakespeare songs and readings, performed by Academy singers and British actor, author and music historian, Sir Simon Russell Beale, described by The Independant as "the greatest stage actor of his generation".
Celebrating the rich traditions of Georgia in a thrilling fusion of classical, modern and folk dance, the Georgian National Ballet makes its first visit to the Verbier Festival.
Maybe only in the Verbier Festival’s ‘Rencontres Inédites’ series would you expect to find such a line-up of instrumentalists.
Soloists of the Academy’s Soloist & Chamber Music Programme come together to perform this first of two piano quartet recitals.
The ensembles of the Academy’s Chamber Music Programme perform their final concert after three weeks of intense study.
Two of Brahms’ best-loved orchestral works, both completed in the 1870s, form the programme for a concert conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, who made his first appearance at the Verbier Festival in 2018. Soloist in the violin concerto is Swedish-born Daniel Lozakovich.
In this sixth and final concert of Quatuor Ébène’s Beethoven cycle, one of the composer’s earliest quartets, No 2 – written between 1798 and 1800 – shares the first half with No 16, dating from 1826, the penultimate year of his life.
Soloists of the Academy’s Soloist & Chamber Music Programme come together to perform this second of two piano quartet recitals.
The quintessential operatic evocation of young people’s lives and dreams, Puccini’s La bohème is here performed by the young singers of the Verbier Festival’s Atelier Lyrique, the young instrumentalists of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, and a young conductor, Stanislav Kochanovsky.
“Many people wonder why Mahler wrote such tragic music when he was at the height of his powers,” Christoph Eschenbach has said, contemplating Mahler’s Symphony No 6. “We can never understand the soul and thought processes of such a genius, but I believe this music demonstrates how full of force and energy he was. For him, this was the right time to write this music. Furthermore, he had reasons to sense a not-so-happy future ahead.