The artists and programmes have been confirmed for the first ever Riga Jurmala Music Festival. The new-concept festival takes place in the historic cities of Riga and Jurmala and presents four powerful weekends – July 19-21, August 16-18, August 23-25 and August 30-September 1. Each weekend is anchored by a leading international orchestra and conductor, with a range of symphonic concerts and recitals, featuring a dazzling array of the foremost stars of classical music, both instrumental and vocal. The Festival is destined to contribute to the rich panorama of cultural offerings in Latvia and provides a major platform for young talent from the Baltic region and beyond, all taking place in a celebratory atmosphere of artistic exchange.
Weekend 1 RIGA, Friday 19-Sunday 21 July
The first weekend is set entirely in Riga, Latvia’s historic and architecturally rich capital, the birthplace of Mariss Jansons. He conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, of which he has been Chief Conductor since 2003, in the weekend’s opening gala and closing concert. They both take place in the Latvian National Opera, a splendid gilded theatre dating from the 1860s. On the Friday, between Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 and Strauss’ suite from Der Rosenkavalier, the soloist in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 is Julian Rachlin. Rachlin was born in neighbouring Lithuania, but moved at a young age to Austria, training at the conservatory in Vienna, where Rudolf Buchbinder makes his home. The Austrian pianist is Jansons’ soloist in the Sunday concert, interpreting Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, which is complemented by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. On Saturday evening, Buchbinder pairs up with Rachlin for a recital of sonatas by Schubert, Beethoven and Brahms – also at the Latvian National Opera. Completing the weekend are two afternoon recitals by rising young pianists at the Great Guild Hall, a splendid Gothic-style building with roots in the 14th century. Russian-Lithuanian pianist Lukas Geniušas plays Chopin, Prokofiev and Desyatnikov on Saturday afternoon and, on Sunday afternoon, the recitalist is British pianist Martin James Bartlett. He presents a wide-ranging programme of works by Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Schumann, Granados and Scriabin.
The subsequent three weekends are based in Jurmala, Latvia’s flagship seaside resort. Just half an hour from Riga, it is famed for its expansive white-sand beaches and elegant wooden villas. It is also home to the Dzintari Concert Hall. Recently the object of a stylish, multi-million-euro renovation, it offers both an intimate timber-built venue, dating from 1936 and accommodating 500 people, and a 2,000-seat space which opened in the early 1960s and celebrates the summer by being open-sided.
Weekend 2 JURMALA, Friday 16-Sunday 18 August
The Russian National Orchestra, led by Russian conductor, pianist and composer Mikhail Pletnev, makes a fitting climax in the second weekend with Pletnev’s own arrangements of suites from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, with another native of Riga, cellist Mischa Maisky, joining as the soloist in Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1. A rich programme of recitals leads up to that point: Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich are on the Friday-evening programme with Mischa Maisky and his daughter, pianist Lily Maisky. Saturday evening brings arias and songs by Mozart, Massenet, Verdi and Puccini from Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja and American pianist Vincenzo Scalera, while Montenegrin guitarist MILOŠ is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, playing repertoire that includes works by Bach and various Latin composers.
Weekend 3 JURMALA, Friday 23-Sunday 25 August
On both Saturday and Sunday evenings of this weekend, Zubin Mehta, a native of India, conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he has been Music Director for more than 50 years. Joining them in the first concert is American pianist Murray Perahia, soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, which is followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. On Sunday, Chinese pianist Yuja Wang performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in a programme that concludes with Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, marking the 150th anniversary of the composer’s death. The weekend opens with a recital of Chopin, Schumann, Ravel and Rachmaninoff by young Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki. Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin appears on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons: in a solo recital comprising works of Mendelssohn, Grieg and Gershwin, and in a joint recital with Moldovan violinist Alexandra Conunovaperforming sonatas by Poulenc and Strauss. German baritone Benjamin Appl, in collaboration with British pianist Simon Lepper, brings his celebrated Heimat recital programme to the Festival, which he has performed worldwide and recorded for Sony Classical.