Launched in 2002 under the patronage of charismatic Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich, the Project which bears the same name has helped uncover young musical talent from all over the world.
It runs throughout the month of June in the southern Swiss town of Lugano.
This year’s edition has been celebrating the music of Swiss composer Ernest Bloch, who died half a century ago.
His “Schelomo” – a deeply emotional Hebrew rhapsody for cello and orchestra – ranks among the most distinguished musical achievements of the early 20th century. It is being interpreted by Israeli cellist Mischa Maisky and his faithful 18th century instrument.
“We have been together – in love – for more than 35 years by now,” says Maisky about his cello. “And it’s very mysterious really because there is definitively a very important, very intense, a very intimate connection between any musician and his instrument. But I’m very privileged to play this beautiful Italian cello made in Venezia by Domenico Montagnana around 1720.”
“I never play music which I cannot feel in love with at the moment that I play,” he adds. “I believe… music, you cannot fake it, if you want to reach people’s heart, which is my goal, through music, it has to come from your heart, it cannot come from yours hands, from your instrument, from your mind only, it’s a combination of everything but it has to come from your heart.”
This year’s Project has also been paying homage to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy on the bicentenary of his birth.
Russian conductor Alexander Vedernikov explains the importance of the festival for young soloists:
“This is a kind of place for starting some careers because some young talented people are starting their careers here and this is a very good place to be noticed.”
Mendelssohn’s musical precocity has often been compared to Mozart’s.
Korean and Swiss pianists Dong Hyek Lim and Francesco Piemontesi gave a rendition of his concert in E minor at this year’s event.
“It’s one of Mendelssohn’s first concerts,” says Piemontesi. “He wrote it when he was very young but his style was already easily recogniseable, his taste for beautiful melodies a bit like Schubert’s Lieder, very difficult to play on the piano. For example, Chopin’s pieces seem more difficult (than Mendelssohn’s) but they are written specifically for the piano, whereas Mendelssohn’s pieces are more complex so it requires more work.”
Martha Argerich herself appeared at this year’s festival, playing “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.
“Manuel de Falla died in Argentina in the town of Alta Gracia, in the province of Cordoba, where he spent his final years. Because of course he had problems with franquism and all that, so he left for Argentina and headed for the city where Che Guevara was born.”
“I don’t know if I did it right, because Falla is very austere – that Spanish austerity – but I tried,” she says. “However, it’s clear that the orchestration is very French. You clearly sense Ravel’s influence, don’t you? But there’s more to it, and it’s very interesting. I really enjoyed this evening.”
The Martha Argerich Project runs from June 8th to June 29th.