History

THE FESTIVAL TURNS 40

The Evian Musical Encounters were revived three years ago with the Modigliani Quartet as its artistic directors. Since that time, the festival has forged its artistic signature based on chamber music and encounters. "Chamber music in all its various forms" was the idea put forward by the Modigliani Quartet. On stage, the greatest musicians come together and offer the public unprecedented encounters, together exploring all types of formation, from the recital through to the chamber orchestra.

Each concert, each one unique in its own way, stages an artistic encounter; encounters that continue among the different audiences and between the audience and performers, thanks to events that take place throughout the day.

At all times, the festival finds its identity through the simple yet exciting prospect of musical and human encounters. On the initiative of Antoine Riboud, CEO of BSN (to become the Danone Groupe) at that time, the conductor Serge Zehnacker created a music festival in Evian in 1976. 

Danone is the town's main employer and the creation of the festival was one of the first examples of Antoine Riboud's dual economic and social project. He succeeded in making the event a benchmark on the international classical music scene: over the years, Evian became the meeting place for the leading formations and greatest musicians.

The first editions of the festival took place under the domed Casino Theatre, located in the heart of Evian, facing Lake Geneva. A concession of the Water Company since 1892, the theatre was at that time one of the most lively entertainment venues in town. Still today it remains an address for the performing arts during the season and is a key festival venue where daytime concerts take place. These concerts showcase both recently-discovered young talents as they embark on their career as well experienced performers who enjoy the short programmes and closeness of smaller venues.

 Around a decade after its creation, Antoine Riboud appointed the famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich as director of the festival. The two men became good friends and together they forged the festival's reputation: in May, all Paris was impatient to admire the greatest performers. Rostropovich himself performed and directed, already establishing "musical encounters" by offering the festival, known up until then as "Young Musicians without Borders" its permanent name. At the start of the 1990s, Antoine Riboud decided to leave the Casino: he wanted to offer Slava the datcha he dreamed of...

The architect Patrick Bouchain and acoustician Yaying Xu were given the challenge of building a 1,200 seater auditorium with flawless acoustics. Patrick Bouchain designed a concert hall made entirely of wood, with just a huge aluminium shell with alucobond petals on the ceiling to provide perfect acoustics. The hall sounds like the inside of a cello and at the back of the stage, birch trees are a reminder of the cellist's homeland.

The Grange au Lac is an exceptional venue, that marries the finesse of Murano glass chandeliers with the frugality of wooden seating and its untreated finish. It does not look like much from the outside. Spectators arrive on foot or via the funicular railway and spot this huge barn built from red cedar and Jura pine among the larch trees.

One could almost stumble across it by chance in the woods.

In 2000, Mstislav Rostropovich ended his chairmanship of the festival. The Evian Musical Encounters came to an end and made way, for a little while, to the Musical Interludes. The Evian Musical Encounters were revived in 2014 with the Modigliani Quartet as its artistic directors, who, echoing the presence of the String Quartet Competition in Evian for a number of decades, pay a renewed tribute to the most prominent formation in chamber music.

The Modigliani Quartet asserts its signature: by refocusing the festival on chamber music, it promotes the spirit of creating encounters between experienced soloists and young talents. Through its artistic line, the Quartet blends the festival's prestigious heritage with the limitless boldness of youth, and discovers an enthralling continuation to a career that commenced thirteen years ago. 

This year,  French music, ranging from Saint-Saëns through to Boulez, has been chosen as the common theme. A theme that underlines the dual approach that forms the basis of chamber music: an artistic approach made possible by the colours, subtlety and demanding nature of the score: and a cultural approach - the showcasing our of immense heritage, from the inescapable  Carnival of the Animals through to the rare quintet by César Franck.