Happy 25th birthday, Verbier Festival!

July 25th, 2018 will certainly go down as one of the most exciting days in medici.tv history! In addition to live streaming an intimate recital and the star-studded 25th Anniversary Gala concert, we also had the opportunity to share dozens of interviews, some of our favorite Verbier Festival memories, and a glimpse of the bustling backstage experience. Our mission is to give you the best seat in the house for every performance we stream live and being able to bring you backstage with the artists all day long took the medici.tv experience to a brand-new level!

Studio 25, the set for our special 25th Anniversary coverage

As host Christian Thompson said numerous times over the course of the ten-hour broadcast, one of the running themes of this 25th Anniversary season has been the one-of-a-kind experiences that happen at “only at Verbier,” from the exceptional performances on the stage to the memorable encounters all around it. Wednesday’s celebration was replete with such moments.

Valery Gergiev, Daniil Trifonov, and Denis Matsuev after performing Mozart’s Concerto for three piano’s at the 2015 Verbier Festival

One of the unique pleasures of the Verbier Festival is having world-class soloists and chamber musicians come together in new ensembles bridging generational lines, international borders, and musical genres. In a decade of live webcasts at the festival, we’ve been able to capture countless unforgettable performances like three generations of Russian pianists—Valery Gergiev, Denis Matsuev, and Daniil Trifonov—performing Mozart’s triple piano concerto in 2015 or Martha Argerich and Renaud Capuçon performing a Bartók sonata in 2007. 

The 25th Anniversary gala concert leaned into this idea with each piece on the program pulling together established names and rising stars from across the international classical music scene. The following excerpt alone should give you an idea, with young cellist Andrei Ioniță playing next to the legendary Mischa Maisky, and a violin section featuring stars like Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin alongside seventeen-year-old Daniel Lozakovich.

▶️ Click here to watch the full gala concert!

A magical place, both on and off the stage

As many of the artists described, what makes the Verbier Festival particularly special is the sense of community that has developed over the years as musicians have returned to the festival summer after summer. As violinist and broadcast co-host Dmitry Sitkovetsky put it, “it’s a rare chance to see yourself in the mirror” and to take a moment to reflect on how you’ve evolved as an artist and a person, and how your colleagues have evolved as artists and as people.

The original Verbier Festival auditorium, a tent looking out over the mountains.

This sense of community also extends from the stage into the audience. Violinist Maxim Vengerov, one of the original guard of the Verbier Festival, recalled an early memory of a concert that took place in a tent as the seemingly-annual storm raged outside (…the temperamental Verbier weather was, of course, another running theme of the day!). When the musicians realized that the audience couldn’t hear a thing because of the rain pounding onto the tent, they invited everyone to join them up on the stage—”a celebration of music and of spirit,” as he put it.

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At medici.tv we’ve always tried our best to capture this spirit and to help you get to know these world-class musicians as people, not just as performers. Each year, we host a light-hearted interview series focusing on the important issues—things like their dream superpowers, whether they prefer cats or dogs, or their favorite curse words. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite answers over the years…

Click here to see our post on the 2017 “1 Minute With…” interview series! We’ll start sharing the 2018 round of interviews early next week.

As you can certainly tell from these interviews, the Verbier Festival is a rare opportunity for some of classical music’s greatest performers to let their hair down a little bit. In a 1995 documentary, festival founder and director Martin Engstroem explained his vision:

“I would like to offer a platform for the artists to do programs here which they wouldn’t do elsewhere. I always ask them, ‘Is there something different you want to do?’… I think in big festivals, more famous festivals, it is more difficult for artists to perform a work for the first time.”—Martin Engstroem

A quarter of a century later, the Verbier Festival is now indisputably one of the “big,” “famous” festivals but it has still kept this spirit of openness and adventure. After all, where else would over dozens of world-class musicians agree to perform a version of Rossini’s William Tell Overture without their instruments? Another “only at Verbier” moment.

▶️ Click here to watch the full gala concert that led up to this magnificent moment!

From a village of 3,000 to screens in 3,000+ cities

As we spoke to those involved in the festival over the course of the day, we also took the opportunity to discuss the role live streaming has played over the years. Martin Engstroem was on board from the start; he recalled that the first year, medici.tv’s founder Hervé Boissière had approached him with the idea of streaming just two concerts. They ended up live streaming around twenty performances (nearly half of the 2007 festival) and this summer the number is over thirty, plus a selection of master classes. “Every year we try to do a little bit more.”

Hervé’s memory of that first festival was more dramatic. Just moments before the first concert ever in medici.tv history, nothing worked:

“Nothing was working five seconds before the beginning of the concert. This is a true story! We had to keep the maestro, Manfred Honeck, waiting—he was conducting the Brahms Requiem and I really thought it was going to be my requiem! But the Verbier magic happened and after a few seconds, the screens came on and everything went well.”

Co-host Dmitry Sitkovetsky confirmed that a decade later, filming has become a key part of the festival experience, not only by opening the event to music lovers around the world but also by allowing concert-goers in Verbier and the musicians themselves to re-live performances from different angles.

We’ll be continuing to explore these themes in the rest of our Verbier Festival coverage in the days to come, along with the favorite “only at Verbier” moments musicians have been sharing with us this week. For now, let’s look back on medici.tv’s personal highlight reel of some of our own most memorable performances the past eleven years…

Yuja Wang’s unforgettable Flight of the Bumblebee in 2008, Joyce DiDonato’s performance of Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été in 2015, Martin Fröst’s rendition of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in 2010, Evgeny Kissin in recital in 2009… click here to check out our playlist of viral Verbier Festival videos! 

Don’t miss a beat of our 2018 Verbier Festival coverage on our website and our blog! For a true play-by-play, join us on social media as well.

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