A Musical Journey Continues
By Jesús Aguado
Thirty-eight years ago, classical music was looking for a place to stay, and it encountered San Miguel, not just to have a romance, but to have perfect love. That is how the International Chamber Music Festival started. This year the Festival brings soloists, tenors, sopranos, pianists, quartets, and ensembles from Russia, China, the United States, and Mexico. The Festival has evolved, now also featuring lectures to take audiences for a stroll through music from sol to do in fourth.
For many reasons the Festival has grown, and each year it arrives more mature, broader, and more vibrant. This year, the concerts started on Wednesday, July 27, and will continue until Saturday, August 27.
What makes it different?
First of all it’s different because the Festival title does not include the word “chamber” anymore. It now uses the name Festival de Música de San Miguel de Allende. “When we use the word “chamber,” that put us in a corner,” said the artistic director Dirk Bakker. “The classic music lovers think that there will be a certain repertoire. We wanted the festival to be broader with all kinds of music that fits into our mission. We bring international music, and it is not just chamber music. We bring performers from soloists to big ensembles.”
The Festival is also different because the current president of the board of directors, Helenmarie Corcoran, is working with the local and state authorities to attract more audiences for the festival from across the country in addition to locals and those who already visit the city. Also, this year the organization is working with Belcanto, which will offer a free concert with seven tenors.
The Festival is open to all audiences. Nationality is not an issue. Actually, according to Bakker, the Music Festival is now featuring not just the classic repertoires, but also Mexican musicians performing the music of Mexican composers from the 19th century (Cenobio Paniagua, Sabas Contla, and Miguel Planas). The Music Festival performers take the audiences throughout a journey exploring the classic period of music to today, passing though the medieval.
Now throughout the entire year, on the second Saturday of the month, a free event entitled Music Under the Trees is offered in the garden of Bellas Artes Cultural Center. According to president Corcoran, people of all ages and entire families of all nationalities can come to the garden to enjoy the music and appreciate the quality of music that the festival offers annually.
At Bellas Artes, on Saturday, August 13, at 1pm, seven tenors from Belcanto will perform free of charge. The same day from 5–6pm, a string quartet from the Celaya Conservatory of Music will perform in the Jardín Principal. On Saturday, August 27—the day that the festival closes—a final free concert will take place at 5pm on the rooftop of Casa R, on the corner of Hidalgo and Mesones.
The organization is committed to musical education, and an invitation is extended annually to music conservatories from Mexico City, Celaya, Guanajuato, Querétaro, and other cities to allow their students to attend the festival. When the students are in San Miguel, they receive professional training and advice from the performers. The students play for them and receive suggestions for improving their techniques. In the end, the students are invited as special guests to attend the concerts. This year, more than 150 students will attend.
Hermitage Piano Trio and Friends
Last year the Hermitage Trio performed during the festival, and it was one of the favorites. The Washington Post defined the Trio as “three of Russia’s most spectacular young soloists who turned in a performance of such power and sweeping passion that it left you nearly out of breath.” Musically, the trio was educated in Russia, but they moved to the United States and immediately became one of the premier trios in that country.
The trio will play also as a quintet with a viola and a violin, a unique combination, according to Bakker. This quintet has never performed, and the violinists will arrive in San Miguel on Monday to rehearse extensively before the concerts on Friday, August 12, and Saturday, August 13, at 7pm in the Ángela Peralta Theater.
This will be a solo piano recital that will cover the musical spectrum from medieval music to our current age. Jeremy Denk, from New York, has performed across the world. He is not just a prodigious pianist but also a thinker and a writer for the New Yorker. Bakker commented that he has written several books with the theme of music as a base.
“He does not just play like the great maestros, but when he plays he talks about what he is performing. This spectacle has been filmed while he was playing Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, an immensely complicated piece, and he is even able to verbalize and play at the same time. He uses his verbal skill as well as he plays the piano.” During his concert, Denk charts the history of western music from the medieval and renaissance worlds of Machaut, Couperin, and Frescobaldi to Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms to the modernists, such as Stravinsky, Cage, Ligeti, Adams, and back to Machaut.
His first concert will be held on Friday, August 19, at 7pm at the Teatro Ángela Peralta. The next day, at the same hour and in the same place, he will be joined by Stefan Jackiw and his violin to perform four sonatas for violin.
The Shanghai Quartet
The last time this quartet played here during the festival was in the mid ’90s. “The Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. Melding the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, the quartet is equally at home performing traditional Chinese folk music, masterpieces of western music, and edgy contemporary works.” The Shanghai Quartet will have its presentation on Friday, August 26, and Saturday, August 27, at 7pm at the Teatro Ángela Peralta, to close the festival.
Lovers of music and the city
New president of the board, Helenmarie Corcoran, visited San Miguel in February 2014 to attend the San Miguel Writers Conference. She found out that the festival was held here and attended a concert. After a few months she returned to the city and stayed. Now she has become part of the festival.
On the other hand, Dirk Bakker was living in Yucatán 10 years ago. A friend talked to him about the Music Festival, and he had to experience it to believe it. After a couple of months, he moved to San Miguel and purchased a house. He, too, is part of the festival.
The general seating price is 100 pesos, and the tickets go to 600 pesos. The tickets are for sale at the Tourist Office on Plaza Principal 4, at the box office, and on Eticket. For more information, visit www.festivalsanmiguel.com/