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Les Heures Musicales du Haut-Anjou : Music and Places

By Patricia Boccadoro


THORIGNE D'ANJOU, FRANCE - 29 August 2000 - With over three hundred festivals of music, jazz, cinema and dance on offer in France over the summer months, the choice of where to go is often determined for many people by pure geographical factors, by being in a certain place at a certain time. Given the beauty and variety of scenery around, it's rare to be disappointed..

This August, far from the glamour of Menton on the Riviera, the prestige of Evian on its glorious lake-side setting, and the kaleidescope of stars at La Roque d'Antheron, where a grand finale featured ten Steinways played by twenty pianists, I found myself in the sleepy little village of Thorigné d' Anjou.

The Haut-Anjou , or La Mayenne, is an unspoiled region , roughly situated below Brittany, and to the West of the Dordogne. It's a peaceful, old-fashioned corner of France where secluded lanes meander alongside slow streams and forgotten water-mills, past river-side chateaux and luxuriant vineyards. Cattle graze on the low-lying hills behind the pretty village of Segré, set amongst gentle meadows, while the whole area quietly boasts more than two hundred fortified castles, medieval mansions, and Norman and Renaissance churches.

"The original idea of a festival here sprung from the fact that we live in a lovely but little known part of France", Michel Poisson, the artistic director told me in his home, a beautifully converted water-mill hidden amongst trees, overhanging the Mayenne.

"Contrary to most festivals where concerts are held in towns, "Les Heures Musicales du Haut-Anjou" presents programmes in places of historical importance and beauty which are scattered throughout the region. There are countless beautiful churches and farms and chateaux where people live, which we try to link through music", he continued .

Poisson, a retired financial expert who has been mayor of Thorigné for eighteen years, explained how he worked with the mayors of the fourteen other local communes, all music lovers like himself, associating places with music, whether in a courtyard of a castle or a village square.

Before each concert, the public is offered a guided tour, so the understanding of a particular environment increases their enjoyment of the music.

There were scarcely more than two hundred places in the eleventh century church of Thorigné d'Anjou, an intimate setting for a concert including works by Schubert, Brahms, Prokofiev and Ravel interpreted by two young Russian musicians, violinist Denis Goldfeld and his brother, Vadim who accompanied him on the piano.

The musicians, born in Cheliabinsk in 1974 and 1978 respectively, and taught by their parents before entering the music school of Lubeck in Germany formed their partnership five years ago. Vadim Goldfeld, an accomplished pianist in his own right accompanied his brother with verve and sensitivity, and the two Russians came into their own with a brilliant interpretation of Prokofiev's Five Melodies for violin and piano, followed by Ravel's Sonate en sol majeur.

The music of Ravel was also featured in René Duchable's programme a few days later, this time at the impressive fortified manor house of Plessis- Bourré. Le Château du Plessis Bourré is a fortified manor house dating back to 1468, still surrounded by its original moat . Once across the forty-four metre long double drawbridge, a spacious courtyard surrounded by gracious arcades leads to a delightful mansion whose owner opens up his home each year for the festival.

"As far as is possible, we like to offer our hospitality to visiting musicians", Michel Poisson told me, and our artists stay in our homes whenever possible. It's a personal touch which is a great pleasure for us, but also seems to give another quality to the concerts, whether jazz, classical; or contemporary.

"Unfortunately", he added, "I can't programme as much modern music as I'd like to for fear of losing my audience, very varied, but with relatively conservative tastes. Apart from the landed gentry, many music lovers with holiday homes in the area come especially at festival time, without counting some twenty-five percent of foreign tourists who happen to be passing by and look in the local paper for an evening out . I have to have something for everyone".




Denis and Vadim Goldfeld will be appearing in "Les Midis Musicaux" at the Châtelet Theatre in Paris on 12 March 2001 at 12hr.45 .
Telephone: (33) 01 40 28 28 40

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