Gstaad is one step ahead of the lucerne festival?

Master violinist Renaud Capucon brings new sparkle to the Gstaad "Sommets Musicaux" – and plays two violin concertos by a black man.

Renaud Capucon sometimes gives impetus to the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in unconventional ways

Renaud Capucon sometimes gives impetus to the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in unconventional ways.

Only ten years ago, the short concerts at the "Sommets Musicaux" in Gstaad were mocked as being only a prelude to the dinner afterwards. Today, after 80 minutes of concert, one can move on to the party without dramaturgical concerns. After the Covid years, short programs played without breaks are normal, only the hard-boiled generation of over 65 mourns the concerts lasting over 120 minutes.

On Friday, at the opening night of the Sommets Musicaux, even the 80 minutes drag on for some guests, as Renaud Capucon plays two violin concertos by Joseph Bologne aka Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): no one has performed this music in the last 150 years, but it is currently in fashion. Whether it is due to the fact that this Chevalier was a black man and the son of a slave girl?

Renaud Capucon is already recording for Warner with his Lausanne orchestra.

The fact that it will be played at the Lucerne Festival this summer by Anne-Sophie Mutter at the opening concert is indicative of this, since the festival theme is "Diversity". Gstaad shows that it can also be played without this focus. However, you need a master violinist like Capucon and a sounding room like the church of Saanen for these garlands of sound to blossom.

The Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, plagued by quarantine absences, played through the two violin concertos with commitment, then also made it through the 4th symphony with partly unconventional impulses from chief conductor Capucon. Symphony by Mendelssohn.

The Sommets Musicaux are very present in Saanenland

Although not noticed at all east of Bern, unlike the summer Menuhin Festival, it is amazing how present the Sommets Musicaux are these days in Saanenland: Flags in the streets, programs even in the cheese dairy – and those who stay at the "Bernerhof" can already hear the festival on Sunday morning at 8 a.m.30 o’clock sonata sounds, because the young musicians not only live here, but also practice here.

However, the concerts are not sold out. And admittedly: Who sits at noon on top of the Eggli in ski pants on the terrace, which is fully booked at 12 o’clock, will hardly believe that in the evening you sit in fine fabric and wafted by Chanel fragrance close together in the church Saanen, as soon as sipping champagne in the Salle Baccarat at the Palace. Anyone can buy the dinners in addition to the concert ticket. Admittedly a bit too many cliches, but that’s just the way it is in Gstaad.

But watch out: A piano recital in the magical Rougemont church with the fabulous Stephen Hough or master flutist Emanuel Pahud costs just 30 or 50 francs. And the stars in the church Saanen – Juan Diego Florez, Maria Joao Pires or Gidon Kremer – can be heard for 30 to 150 francs. Festival director Capucon also wants that not only the old-established visitors, type "chalet owner", come to his concerts, and invites on Sunday morning to a free concert in Rougemont.

Renaud Capucon conducting the Orchestre de chambre de Lausanne in the atmospheric church of Saanen

Renaud Capucon conducting the Orchestre de chambre de Lausanne in the atmospheric church of Saanen.

In any case, some of the things that are performed elsewhere with exclamation marks are done casually on the side: in eight chapel concerts with young musicians, a work for violin and piano by Wolfgang Rihm, composed for the festival, will be heard eight times – yes, the composer who will perform at the opening concert of the Lucerne Festival on 12 August. August is also a world premiere to hear. Whoever plays it best in Gstaad will have the chance to win two prizes at once, receive money or the opportunity to record a recording with orchestra at Claves.

These are ideas that still go back to the late festival director Thierry Scherz. Capucon builds on his festival, manages with ease thanks to his star status to bring a handful of world famous artists to Gstaad. And so champagne, charm and Chanel fragrance mix perfectly with the dramatization.

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