In a country dominated by German influence for decades, the leaders of the main festival American dedicated to young classical musicians seeking to make them discover the French composers, which is often poorly known.
They are more than 600 young musicians gathered in the ski resort’s posh Aspen, Colorado, to learn from recognized professionals but also to play at one of the 400 shows produced during the eight weeks of training, at the end of June to end of August.
And this year, the Aspen Music Festival and School have chosen Paris as the central theme of the season, to raise awareness among an audience that knows much more the City of Light for its monuments than for its composers.
“In how many cities can you find this wealth through as many times?”, queries Alan Fletcher, director of the festival.
“Even Vienna has an importance of the first two periods. But Paris in the world of music (classical) for centuries”, he adds.
“I don’t see any” decline, ” he said. “The decline exists, but in the way in which American musical life meets Paris.”
This acclaimed composer admits that some of the significant names in French, including Hector Berlioz and his Symphonie fantastique, which will be played in the festival’s closing ceremony on 19 August, enjoy an established reputation in the United States.
But if he was to ask of the young musicians present “what they know (Henri Dutilleux, they would say: “I have no idea who is this Mr..”
While for him, “Dutilleux is, without a doubt, one of the greatest composers of the Twentieth century and early Twenty-first century, and we need to discover this music for the people.”
The contemporary French composers Pierre Boulez and Olivier Messiaen have both worked in the United States, where they influenced some composers, but their scope remains limited, in a country where the reference remains the Austrian Gustav Mahler and his symphonies very structured.
“Mood, color, and texture.”
With the coming to power of the Nazis, then of the Second World War, many German musicians, to jews, too many, came to the United States in the years 30 and 40.
They then infused the world of classical music in the United States, as teachers, performers, but also composers for the cinema of Hollywood.
Without caricaturing their contribution, they were mostly in favor of a strict application of the rules of classical music. “They have adopted the sound symphony” (German, describes, and Asadour Santourian, vice-chairman of the festival, in charge of the choice of works performed.
“For the French, it is more a question of mood, color, and texture,” considers Mr. Fletcher. “I think quite plausible that the young American composers end up by saying: “the French approach we are more interested.”
To familiarize his people to sound the French, the organizers of the festival have chosen to emphasize the contribution of Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979), composer but above all a professor who has influenced generations of students, many of whom are American musicians.
Aaron Copland to Philip Glass, while passing by Quincy Jones, several of the American composers the most important of the Twentieth century have followed its course, drawn to diversity and opened up the field of possibilities.
“Nadia was much more interested in individuality, the voice of someone, rather than its propensity to mimic a school of music, explains Asadour Santourian.
The former artistic director of the Rotterdam philharmonic orchestra has also chosen Paris this year because the city remains, according to him, one of the only ones where it proceeds from “art for the love of art.”
“There are composers brilliant in London, of course,” he says, “but there, or in Berlin, we create music because someone is claiming something new, this is for someone.”
“In Paris, they simply create.”