James Joyce wrote about Dublin, David Hockney painted Los Angeles and Martin T:son Engstroem founded a classical music festival in Verbier. We met him to understand how the village’s magical, intimate atmosphere affects the musicians.
The key ingredients of the Verbier Festival’s DNA – an inspiring mountain location, great masters, and learning programmes for young musicians – are an integral part of the festival since its foundation 25 years ago. “Our vision right from the beginning was to establish a festival which combines important musicians with a very visible youth and learning element. We want to encourage encounters and sharing between established professionals and young, aspiring artists from around the world to bring out the best in each and every musician,” Engstroem explains.
Engstroem’s call was successful from the very beginning: Well-known artists flocked into Verbier to contribute their share to a unique, creative experience. Acclaimed soloists such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Isaac Stern, Gidon Kremer and Natalia Gutman already held recitals accompanied by the Verbier Festival Orchestra.
Verbier – an intimate and beautiful alpine destination
The Swiss mountain village with a mere 3,000 permanent residents is perched on a sunny plateau in the heart of the mountains. The village, composed of numerous slate-roofed chalets, has maintained its charm despite nearly a million annual overnight stays.
Located a three-hour drive from Geneva, Verbier attracts not only skiers, hikers and mountain bikers, but also artists from around the globe. “I found my first experience of the Verbier Festival to be absolutely outstanding. I truly enjoyed the extraordinary programme in the fabulous setting of Verbier. This is the place to be, especially for a young, aspiring musician!” writes Ana Perazić on the festival’s Facebook page.
The Verbier Festival’s intimate and magical setting in the Alps – in stark contrast to the buzzing major cities where classical music festivals are typically held – should not be underestimated. Its unique and quiet location surrounded by mountain peaks spurs both creativity and inspiration, while having a positive effect on concentration.
Improving creativity, concentration, and technical skills
The Verbier Festival’s comprehensive training opportunities benefit from this unique environment. Every summer, more than fifty young soloists, chamber ensembles and singers are invited to join the Verbier Festival Academy for three weeks. The masterclasses and coaching sessions in piano, violin, viola, cello, and chamber music take place at small, tranquil venues in the center of Verbier such as the Hameau or Chalet Orny, allowing for ideal concentration.
Learning from the masters – and establishing lasting friendships
Another opportunity offered is to apply to the Verbier Festival Orchestra, composed of 100 young musicians from all over the world. The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra targets 15 to 18-year-olds eager to take their first steps toward a musical career. More than 50 young talents make it into this orchestra every year.
Taking part in the Verbier Festival Academy or its various orchestras, however, results in much more than improved technical skill. It is a rare opportunity to learn first-hand from inspiring world-class artists and forge links with them. Being present in Verbier during the festival period provides a great networking opportunity as numerous agents, promoters, orchestra managers and recording executives attend concerts and masterclasses as well. “The three intense weeks the musicians spend together playing music not only offer opportunities to learn and be inspired – they also trigger life-long connections and friendships of great use in their future, professionally as well as privately,” Engstroem notes.
But the experience does not end when the festival is over. The artists invited to teach at the Verbier Festival Academy are also strongly encouraged to follow and contribute to the future development of their pupils.
Over the years, around 3,000 young musicians from 75 countries have benefited from the Verbier Festival’s training and development programmes, and then moved on. “Our learning programmes are popular as they offer a valuable experience. Some Verbier Festival Academy participants now hold positions with leading orchestras, while others are among their generations’ most sought-after soloists,” Engstroem notes. The internationally acclaimed Norwegian, Moldavian and French violinists – Vilde Frang, Alexandra Conunova and Renaud Capuçon – and the Austrian pianist Aaron Pilsan, to name just a few, are among the Verbier Academy’s alumni.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary
Julius Baer has proudly supported the Verbier Festival since 2010. The 2018 edition begins on 19 July and lasts until 5 August. As every year, the Bank’s commitment focuses on the Verbier Festival Academy. Supporting young musicians on their artistic path has been an integral part of the festival since day one - a philosophy strongly shared by Julius Baer.
This joint commitment to the future generation of artists resulted in various projects, which contributed to make the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra and the Verbier Festival Orchestra well-known names in the industry. Julius Baer congratulates all young artists for their outstanding achievements!
“Each of the 59 concerts have been carefully composed in order to create moments of unique music making,” Engstroem says. “I hope you will be able to join us in Verbier this summer and embark on a somewhat different musical experience.”
If you cannot make it, some of the Verbier Festival’s concerts will be streamed live on the web for a small fee at: www.medici.tv. For those who still cannot get enough of classical music: Julius Baer also supports the prestigious Dubai Opera and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg with its rich Blog & Streams section.