Pietrasanta in Concerto
Interview with the artistic director Michael Guttman
“A music festival that explores the most intimate side of symphonic music and the most symphonic side of chamber music”. These are the words that the great Belgian violinist and conductor Michael Guttman uses to describe Pietrasanta in Concerto, of which he is the founder and artistic director.
This music festival, now in its 9th year, will be held from July 24 to August 2, 2015, with the support of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, the festival’s prestigious partner from the very beginning.
Held in Pietrasanta’s most beautiful locations- such as the Cloister of Sant’Agostino, the festival’s symbol and a venue with excellent acoustics, the Piazza Duomo and the Rocca di Sala Gardens, the festival gathers the greatest names of classical music, including Martha Argerich, Salvatore Accardo, Nigel Kennedy, Boris Berezovsky, Mario Brunello, Vadim Repin, Yuri Bashmet and Natalia Gutman, who have contributed to Pietrasanta in Concerto’s reputation as a gem of a festival and one of Italy’s most prestigious concert music events.
The opening concert, on July 24, is the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Ravel, performed by the Basel Chamber Orchestra and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, conducted by Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli Jr.
Maestro Guttman, what is the distinguishing feature of Pietrasanta in Concerto?
That of being a gathering of friends, based on a personal and emotional relationship with the artists I have invited, with whom I have performed and whom I have had the chance to conduct. Ties of true friendship and affection knit us together.
In short, the rewarding fruit of an artistic life lived to the fullest?
Yes, and thanks to which I have had the pleasure of meeting artists from all over the world. With each one, I feel a human and artistic affinity, which the audience is able to perceive during the concerts.
Who are the stars of this year’s festival?
We are proud to welcome for the first time a French duo who has made the history of piano for four hands, Katia and Marielle Labèque, and to welcome back some dear friends, Maestro Salvatore Accardo, the great Yuri Bashmet and the audience’s favourite, Boris Berezovsky. The Debussy Quartet will perform (by heart!) two quartets by Shostakovich, a truly unique event. And, once again, four chamber orchestras will be performing on our stage: the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Chamber Orchestra, the Fiorentina Chamber Orchestra, the Moscow Soloists and the Basel Chamber Orchestra.
Another major aspect of the festival is that of pairing famous names with young and up-and-coming musicians.
I have always taken it as a mission to present at the Festival the young musicians I have met and whose virtuoso and expressive skills have struck me as extraordinary. Lorenzo Gatto and Leonard Schreiber, 26 and 28 years old respectively, the former Italian, the latter a London-based Belgian, whom we are welcoming this year, are undoubtedly the next generation of virtuosi.
An aspect which has been enthusiastically supported by the Festival’s sponsor as well?
An extraordinary partner, who has given me complete freedom from the outset, by supporting exactly this aspect of the festival, as proved by the Musica Viva award given to two pianists, Vanessa Benelli Mosell and Sophie Pacini, who are now well-known to the international audience.
The Edmond de Rothschild Group is related to a family that has always been closely associated with great names of classical music, hasn’t it?
Yes, indeed. That is one of the reasons why we couldn’t have asked for a better partner or one more consistent with the Festival’s theme. Suffice it to say that the music teacher of Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s daughters in London was Mendelssohn Bartholdy! Chopin himself taught music to Charlotte de Rothschild in Paris, and James de Rothschild was one of Rossini’s and Berlioz’s greatest patrons.
Some of the great musicians taking part in the festival keep coming back every year. What attracts them?
Pietrasanta’s charm, with its magnificent piazza, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, and the Duomo, with the mountains rising in the background. There is the seaside nearby, there is art - world-famous art galleries and workshops -, and the great exhibition held every year in the summertime. And then the famous marble quarries, which have housed some of our concerts in the past.
To sum up, this centuries-old and fascinating town, which is an avid supporter of the arts and artists, has also opened up to the highest form of music, thanks to this festival and to a musician’s love of it.