By Colette Davidson
If you love classical music and plan to be in Paris until the end of June, head over to the Saint-Denis Festival just outside the city limits. Created in 1970, the festival is a showcase for composers and soloists from around the world, with Saint-Denis’s impressive Basilica Cathedral and Legion of Honor playing host to the events. This year’s edition runs from May 27th to June 27th and features works from Vivaldi, Mozart, Brahms and Tchaikovski.
The festival is more than just a place of music, however – it is also a celebration of the town’s architectural heritage and performances have been designed to best showcase the sites hosting them. The stained glass of the gothic Basilica lights up as Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony crescendos to full volume, and fills with the energy of Rossini’s Small Solemn Mass. Brahms’s haunting Symphony No. 4 could be no better performed than within the walls of a grand basilica like the one at Saint Denis.
The festival begins with a special look at the life and works of Jewish philosopher Simone Weil, with a musical and literary voyage in four parts called “La Passion de Simone.” Then Ibrahim Maalouf lends his trumpet talents to Hildegard von Bingen’s hymns, under the direction of Sofi Jeannin. Sixteen more concerts round out the festival.
Among this year’s prestigious guests are young talents like soprano Julie Fuchs, who recently won France’s Victoires de la Musique Classique award for 2014. Singing alongside the Ensemble Le Balcon, Fuchs will perform pieces from Debussy, Mozart, Strauss and Gerschwin. Twenty year-old cellist Edgar Moreau will join violinist Renaud Capuçon and alto Gérard Caussé in pieces by Schubert and Mozart.
Another artist to watch is South Korean conductor Myung-Whun Chung, who will lead the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra in works by Brahms and Mendelssohn. Accompanying him will be German virtuoso violinist Julia Fischer. To wrap up the festival at the end of June, Italian conductor Daniele Gatti will direct Radio France’s National Orchestra and Choir in a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elias, op. 70.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, then check out the festival website at http://www.festival-saint-denis.com/ and click on the “EN” in the top right corner to access the website in English. From there, you’ll be able to get information on how to order tickets, plus a full festival calendar.