A pianist and actress, the Honored Artist of the Russian Federation, a Member of the Supervisory Board of the Russian Organization for Intellectual Property (VOIS) talked to the editor of the ‘Musical Life’ magazine about La Clé des Portes Festival, her work, shared her thoughts on the implementation of musical projects in Russia and much more.
LB: For me, the festival is, of course, an event; notes of joy and lightness should dominate in it. Arranging festivals has become a kind of mania for me – every time I find myself in some beautiful, interesting place, the first thing that comes to my mind is that something needs to be thought out. Although I am aware that there are magnificent large festivals with great opportunities, I am impressed by the chamber version. I love to dive into the details in music, and when preparing the festival, I want to create events with my own hands.
Ed: You said the word “mania”. Indeed, because you constantly come up with incredible projects…
LB: La Clé des Portes is not my first festival of course. I have really been “infected” with the festival bacillus since my youth, when I was surrounded by people who did this, had seen a lot and even participated. We cannot ignore the fact that I had the happiness and pleasure of communicating with Svyatoslav Theofilovich Richter just at the time when his Festival “December Evenings” flourished. Since I was close in my work to the Maestro, I saw the entire organizational “kitchen”. For Richter, “December Evenings” turned out to be such a favorite “toy”, which, on the one hand, he took very seriously, and on the other, with great ease, which I liked. And the impression was that it was an easy thing to hold a festival. One can also mention Richter’s carnivals: during the years of the USSR, when we knew nothing like that, his games in the apartment in Malaya Bronnaya Street, in costumes, with carefully thought-out performances and the menu, made a huge impression.
Then my father, Valentine Berlinsky, of course, instilled in me an interest in finding a repertoire, creating some unusual programs. He loved to compose original subscription cycles, and I saw how he thought over them, made lists of essays in his little notebooks.
Ed: You have chosen Talcy, a place in the French provinces. What is the mission of your festival?
LB: We take a risk, of course, deep down I hope that what we have created should be popular and liked one day, and the audience will come. True, we are away from the big roads, our neighbors are Chambord and Blois, much more famous château-s. By the way, we did concerts there as part of the festival, and then we refused. Because then the events turn out to be scattered, and the audience, when they come in, sometimes don’t even understand that this is the same festival. And we would like to position our project as Mecca, where people will specially come to us, not to do sightseeing, go to all concerts, experience various emotions together. It seems to me that gradually such a circle begins to take shape, and regular listeners appear.
That’s why, I try to engage the audience in action, communicate during the concert, so that people relax and feel comfortable. We all return to big cities, play academic concerts that are a different story. For me, the litmus test is the reaction of our guest artists. So far, there has not been a single musician who would not say that he is satisfied and wants to return. For example, our young viola player Lea Hennino is a great musician, and she has a great career. She arrived endlessly tired and saying that she could no longer go to summer festivals and play the same thing. And when we started rehearsing, and I explained that I wanted to improvise during the concert and a relaxed conduct on the stage, she blossomed and got excited, saying “I like it and it’s very nice”. Arthur’s and my goal is that not only the public like it, but the participants as well. In general, it seems to me that there are many very talented actors among musicians – sometimes they themselves do not suspect about it, and sometimes they are not given a chance to express themselves. At our festival, they have such a chance to express themselves, and I see how they feel at ease and start to sound completely different. We value the performance, in all its forms.
Ed: You often perform in Russia. Have you ever thought about organizing a festival in Russia?
LB: I would love to, of course. I even made some attempts to come up with some idea. But I do not live permanently in Russia. And in order to organize such things, you need to be in close contact with those people with whom we would be able to carry this out. Several years ago, I suggested the Tchaikovsky Museum in Klin to make such a “bridge”, we tried, but it did not work out. Fortunately, there are so many festivals and various cultural events in Russia, everything is developing so fast that sometimes I get the feeling that I’m a “foreigner” here, though a resident. It makes me very sad. There are some ideas, for example, related to Vologda. But human contact and trust are important, then everything will work out.
Ed: You have many assistants, you call them volunteers, we may call them “friends of the festival.” How did you find them?
LB: We didn’t do anything on purpose, but, having arrived once, we found understanding and support here. Pascal and Valerie Germont, residents of the town of Mer, deal with the organization matters, they know all the locals – those volunteers who work, busy people. This is the middle class – pharmacists, notaries, insurers, bakers, florists … They are happy to put on aprons and feed the musicians, drive them to this or that place. We have established a very strong connection with them: they want to be with us, to organize a festival together. It happens that towards the end, when everyone is incredibly tired of the hassle, tense situations arise, and we say to ourselves: “That’s it, we don’t know whether we can continue it.” But a month passes, the second, third or fourth breath comes, they write to us, and ask where the program is and so on. Sincere enthusiasm.
Ed: What is ahead?
LB: Arthur Ansel and I… are starting a new festival dedicated to the piano duo, two grand pianos. It will begin in 2020, will be held near Paris in the town of Rungis. We settled there a couple of years ago, and it turned out that the mayor of the town loves classical music. We became friends and proposed such an idea.
The project is much larger and more original – I personally don’t know any analogues to it. The repertoire is huge – you can’t even imagine how many compositions there are for two pianos and an orchestra. More than four hundred! It will be called “Piano Piano”. This fall we will make a concert presentation – such a pilot launch of the festival. Everything will be more serious, classic and, I hope, with more resources. We invite famous musicians, the first from Russia will be Lucas Geniusas and his wife Anna Genushene. And a year later a two grand piano competition will be added here – we were supported by both Marta Argerich and the Labek sisters. All the more I love our festival La Clé des Portes – because it is chamber, small, with a unique atmosphere.