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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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.
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".
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