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The Montpellier Festival is virtually unique, not only because all of its concerts are recorded or carried live by Radio France, but because of the remarkable courageousness of its programming. For while it naturally devotes a good proportion of its time to orchestral and chamber music -- The English Chamber Orchestra, Le Concert Spirituel, L'Orchestre Royal de Chambre Wallonie, Hanseatica, L'Orchestre de Chambre de Basle, Camerata Vocale de Fribourg, the Trio Chausson, the Laurent de Wilde Trio, the Quatuor Aron (playing Beethoven, with Gérard Depardieu reading Beethoven's letters), Europa Galante (under Fabio Biondi), L'Orchestre National de Montpellier and L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France are all participating; there are chamber concerts virtually every day and a substantial part of the festival is given over to 'musique d'aujourd'hui -- contemporary music -- as well as a lively jazz programme. Indeed large parts of even its more mainstream programming are careful to include works a French audience (or indeed any listener) would not expect to meet every day.

René Koering. Photo © Festival de Radio France et Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon
René Koering. Photo © Festival de Radio France et Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon

The moving force behind the hundred or more concerts embraced in the festival's eighteen days is the composer René Koering, himself a leading figure of the French avant-garde for four decades since he first studied at Darmstadt with (in particular) Bruno Maderna, and moved in the circles of Boulez, Stockhausen and the young Hans Werner Henze (who remains a good friend, and whose music is often featured at the festival). Koering's music is available on disc: for instance his Third Symphony and Violin Concerto can be found on a substantial recording by the Orchestre National de Montpellier, Accord 476 096-8, together with Aigaion, an elegy in memory of another of his good friends, the Romanian-born, French-domiciled Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, who died in Paris in 2001, aged 78. Two of Koering's string quartets, Nos 2 and 3, can be found played by the Quatuor Danel, paired with two quartets (Nos 1 and 4) by his younger contemporary Pascal Dusapin on Accord 476 1919.

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Copyright © 12 July 2006 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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