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Gustavo Dudamel electrifies the Rencontres Musicales d'Évian festival

Gustavo Dudamel electrifies the Rencontres Musicales d'Évian festival
By Katharina Rabillon

A unique concert hall, La Grange au Lac, was once again the magical setting for the French music festival “Rencontres Musicales d'Évian”.

The inspirational conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the festival's specially-created orchestra, Sinfonia Grange au Lac, gave a passionate performance of Brahms' 4th symphony at the festival's grand finale.

Purity and beauty of nature

Gustavo says that the special stage setting recreates the purity and beauty of nature:

“We are in the middle of a forest with a beautiful lake in front of it. It allows you to connect with that side of music that is connected to nature. All of the composers whose music we play were inspired by settings like that.”

Philippe Bernhard, Artistic Director of the festival, says that it is summed up in its title: recontres, or meetings: “This concert hall is unique; it was made entirely of wood and has a forest of silver birches on stage."

A tribute to a legendary cellist

La Grange au Lac was built by the visionary architect Patrick Bouchain for the legendary late Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who curated the festival for years.

Patrick says that Msistlav considered the venue his home, “he always used to say, “my dacha”. Part of the magic is that you are surprised when you open the door and find yourself standing inside. It's a little bit like being in a circus. Another part of the magic is the ceiling in the shape of an ear of corn.”

“I decided to surprise Rostropovich and to create scenery with the tree that represents Russia, the birch. And when you enter the building it has the scent of the forest and that immediately makes you at one with the forest.”

Celebrating Brahms

Johannes Brahms, the iconic composer of the Romantic period, is the focus of this year's programme.

Gustavo says Brahms is the god of this music tradition, “playing his 4th symphony is like entering a cathedral.”

Sinfonia Grange au Lac

The unique orchestra created for the festival has been named after the venue as Sinfonia Grange au Lac and it brings together exceptional musicians.

Philippe says it is very special, “it is composed of musicians who come from different ensembles and different countries and who get together here. Once they are with Gustavo Dudamel, they click immediately. Gustavo loves the fact that the orchestra feels like family and that at the same time it's fresh. These are musicians who are incredibly open and receptive. It think it makes for a very worthwhile exchange and exprience. When they get together, you don't feel the personalities of the different orchestras they have come from. You see the new personality of this orchestra - and of friendships which have been created.”

The next edition of Rencontres Musicales d'Évian takes place from July 4-11th 2020.