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Journée Européenne de la Musique Ancienne Under the patronage of UNESCO

REMA - Réseau Européen de Musique Ancienne

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Bach Chamber Music Festival Lettonie

The International Bach Chamber Music Festival is focussed on the intimate, the soulful, the personal. It manifests the producers’ desire to reveal Bach from the "quiet side" and show that the relatively few sounds in a chamber music score can say just as much in the way of fundamental ideas, thoughts and content as Bach’s major vocal and symphonic compositions.

The concept of the Festival strives to embrace a wealth of aesthetic, cultural and historical values. For one thing, audiences at the festival hear seldom performed interpretations of Bach’s chamber music, including the compositions that were produced by the great artist’s sons and contemporaries, as well as the music inspired by Bach’s personality. The festival is also a cradle for new music - each year there are new works commissioned especially for the festival.

It is also true that the responsibility of interpreting music at the festival always rests with global authorities in the performance of authentic music. In the festival’s first year, it featured the Baroque violinist Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch of Finland and the viola da gamba master Anatoly Grindenko of Russia. In the second year the audience heard the distinguished organist and harpsichordist Jon Laukvik of Germany. One year later it was the turn of countertenor and Hilliard Ensemble participant David James of Britain, flutist Stephen Preston of Britain and oboist Tilmann Zahn of Germany. In the fourth year, there were the Baroque violinist Anne Katharina Schreiber of Germany, the flutist Charles Zebley of France, the Rīga-born cellist Iwan Monighetti, who lives in Switzerland, the pianist Thierry Mechler of France, the chamber orchestra Hermitage and oboist Alexei Utkin from Moscow, and the vocal trio Vox Silentii from Finland. Latvia’s own best interpreters of the ancient music also participate each year.

The concerts are always held in the venues which are entirely appropriate for them - historical buildings of Old Rīga. The Reutern’s House dates back to the 17th century, when two of the city’s more distinguished residents were merchants Danerstein and Reutern. Johan von Reutern (1635-1698) was enormously wealthy, and his home had to reflect this fact so as to attract the attentions of Rigensians. The building was completed in (what a coincidence !) 1685, the year of Bach’s birth. It had the highest ceilings in Rīga, the biggest windows and the most beautiful facade. People compared its grandeur to that of St Peter’s Church, which is nearby. The Reutern’s House was the most beautiful house in Rīga, and today it is appreciated as an outstanding example of Baroque architecture. Since restoration in 1985, the building has popularly been known as the Journalists’ House. It has several exhibition halls, and excellent acoustics for music performances.

Festival concerts are also performed in the Hall of Columns of the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation - a hall which is blessed with outstanding acoustics. The museum was established by the Rīga local government in 1773 on the basis of a private collection that had been donated to the city by a doctor called Himsel. He had collected items related to the natural sciences, history and arts. This is one of the largest and oldest museums in the Baltic States, and its collection holds more than 500,000 objects, many of them quite invaluable in cultural, historical and artistic terms. The Anglican Church, built in the 1850s for the needs of the English merchants, today holds services and concerts. The Vox Silentii trio from Finland dazzled the audience at the church during the fourth International Bach Chamber Music Festival. Latvian compositions got their world premiere there.

The fourth place where concerts are performed is very special indeed. The House of the Blackheads was the most important public building in Rīga in the 14th century, and it was, and is once again, located on one side of the City Hall Square. The building was put up by the city, and it was initially leased by the members of the Great Guild, as well as by a brotherhood of bachelor tradesmen who were known as the "blackheads". In 1713 they purchased the building. The "blackheads" were a typical organisation for the cities of the great European Hanseatic league - young and unmarried tradesmen and ship captains who chose St Mauritius, a black African, as their patron saint. The brotherhood survived as a guild of German tradesmen all the way up until 1939. The luxurious house was rebuilt several times, until World War II proved fateful to it. The building was destroyed, and the burnt-out shell was blown up by the Soviet authorities in 1948.

After the restoration of Latvia’s independence, the House of the Blackheads was rebuilt, and since 2000 it has been a pearl of Old Rīga. The concert hall has outstanding acoustics, and the concerts of the International Bach Chamber Music Festival attract huge crowds. The festival also finds a home at the Ave Sol concert hall, located in an ancient Russian orthodox church building. The sixth concert locale is the Latvian Academy of Music. Students who are learning to play organ and harpsichord these participate in the concerts, and that is another aspect of the festival - it encourages the the young people to perform the works of Bach and his contemporaries at very distinguished concerts thus giving fresh interpretations of well known Baroque music.

The ancient music of the Western Europe was never performed extensively under the censorship of the Soviet Union, and once Latvia regained its independence, the people could freely, study and play the music of the past. The Ancient Music Festival was born in the 1990s, and the International Bach Chamber Music Festival joins it in the effort to preserve the professional level of ancient music performance. Students from the Academy and professional musicians each year have a chance to improve their skills with internationally recognised Baroque music authorities. In the course of the four years, master classes have been delivered by the aforementioned Kaakinen-Pilch, Schreiber, Preston, Zebley, Zahn, Utkin, Laukvik, James and Mechler, as well as by the flutist Neeme Punder of Estonia and the Vox Silentii trio from Finland.

The International Bach Chamber Music Festival has gained an important place in the cultural calendar in Latvia. Its outstanding artistic level and the overall concept of the festival have won recognition in the business and finance circles in Germany. Permanent co-operation partners include Latvijas Gāze, Fundation of Culture Capital, Municipal of Riga, Representation of European Commission in Latvia e.c.

The festival is member of European Early Music Network REMA since 2006.

On 21 March 2011 Ms Aina Kalnciema in her capacity of the President of Bach Music Foundation and the Director of Bach Chamber Music Festival received the Annual Award of Riga City Council "the White Sparrow" for her significant contribution to the international cultural exchange through collaboration with outstanding and renowned artists worldwide.

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Mne Kalnciema Aina
35-32 Hipokrata
LV1079 Riga

E-mail : akalnciema@hotmail.com
Site Internet : http://www.music.lv/bachfestival

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Ce projet a été financé avec le soutien de la Commission européenne. Cette communication n’engage que son auteur et la Commission n’est pas responsable de l’usage qui pourrait être fait des informations qui y sont contenues.
Le REMA est soutenu par le Ministère de la culture et de la communication.