How does one take on the role of Artistic Director?
It was something the four of us had wanted to do for a number of years and it slotted in naturally into our life as a quartet, following a first experience at Saint-Paul-de-Vence's chamber music festival. We wanted to express ourselves differently, to turn to new audiences and bring about unique artistic encounters that showcase young talents as they embark on an exceptional career, or artists not so well known in France, even though they already perform at leading venues around the world. We created a festival that is a reflection of ourselves, the first of its kind in Evian, at the heart of Europe, and that offers an international vision in a unique setting.
What is it like to perform at the Grange au Lac?
It begins with a visual shock. Not something to be taken lightly. You can be awe-struck by performing in a 1,200 seater auditorium, but you are not often swept up by the sheer beauty of a venue. At the Grange au Lac, everyone stops in their tracks, mesmerized. The comfort is rustic but intensely humane, and that is what makes the Grange so appealing. This is a place where you can't fool anyone, a hall that is alive, that becomes polished, that improves with age, like our Italian instruments.
In 2016, you have chosen to focus on French music...
There will not be only French music, but the theme echoes Evian's golden age at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. We wanted to combine two approaches, one artistic, the other cultural. Artistic because the colours, subtlety and demanding nature of these scores make it an exciting project to work on. Cultural because some pages of this repertoire are little known by the public... In addition to the headline performances of Le Boeuf sur le Toit by Milhaud and the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, we will take audiences on a journey from Debussy and Ravel to the depths of the Quartet for the end of time by Messiaen, and pay tribute to two of the greatest composers of recent decades, Boulez and Dutilleux.
Which will be the key encounters of the 2016 edition?
The festival opens with one of the greatest French violinists, Augustin Dumay, with a multi-faceted concert ranging from the duet through to the quintet. We also wanted to bring together chamber musicians from the leading quartets of the past for a unique concert. We call them the Evian Quartet. We have furthered our commitment to make each concert an encounter between musicians, generations and even art forms, by commissioning a ballet from choreographer Saburo Teshigawara to the Creation of the World by Darius Milhaud. Following its success at last year's festival, the Malher Chamber Orchestra will be in the house for two concerts. With Sabine Meyer, we have put together a project based on Schubert's octet; we have asked pianist Beatrice Rana, who made an impact at the 2014 festival and with whom we have toured several times, to return this year. But the encounters will also take place in the heart of Evian town with the fringe festival, at the closing concert open to all, outdoors, in the street, with the public, during rehearsals, and at all times during the festival.