Pont Croix, chamber music at its best

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Finistère has some of the most beautiful cliffs in France. Here the view from Pointe du Van

It was a magical evening thanks to the talent of very young musicians and the energy of Yves Petit de Voize. Brittany was warmer than ever and we had spent the day watching antique boats crossing from Brest to Douarnenez. The old Collégiale of Pont Croix, population 1 500, was packed with music lovers. And the Hermès quartet and French star violinist Renaud Capuçon, were excellent beyond words. My whole body is still trembling from recounting the evening.

Guillaume Bellom and Renaud Capuçon were magical

Guillaume Bellom and Renaud Capuçon and his violin “Le Panette” were magical

My cousin Thérèse de Maigret had invited me months ahead to this two year old chamber music festival and my trip to far Finistère was engineered around the evening. I knew that Yves Petit de Voize, a Breton by birth, is a genius at running very special festivals and music Academies. He was at Royaumont for twelve years, has been running the excellent program of the Singer Polignac foundation for 8, and his concerts in the private house of Winnona Singer, avenue Henri Martin, are the most discreet and sought after musical evenings. Raised in Rennes by a mother who taught the piano (he still plays two hours a day) and was a curator in Quimper, he keeps a house near Pont Croix.

Yves Petit de Voize and film producer Martine de Clermont Tonnerre

Yves Petit de Voize and film producer Martine de Clermont Tonnerre before the concert

I was very lucky to sit on the third row in the beautiful Church of Notre- Dame de Roscudon.   And to have a perfect view of the musicians’ bodies and faces, for chamber music is very physical and relies heavily on the good connection between instruments. After a great dinner of shell fish with a group of members of Cercle Carpeaux (benefactors of the Paris Opera), we joined the 360 music lovers who had flocked from all the local villages. I was happy to meet one of the Audierne celebrities, Xavier Henaff, whose name is well known by sailors, for his family specializes in canned food, taken on board by all navigators. He was a student of Alfred Cortot and still plays the piano at 93. He was so pleased to hear these young concertists after having founded in 1987, the Société littéraire et artistique du Cap Sizun with martine Montestrucq.

Collégiale Note Dame de Roscudon dates from the 12th century

Collégiale Note-Dame de Roscudon dates to the 12th century

In the Beethoven string quartet Opus 18 n°2, the young musicians selected by Fondation Singer Polignac were incredibly handsome, moving and musically excellent. They form the Quatuor Hermès and have performed recently in Deauville. The joy of discovering new faces and true passionates was all there.

The last piece, César Frank’s sonata for violin and piano in A minor, was very moving and fabulously played by Renaud Capuçon and his very elegant and discreet accompanist Guillaume Bellom. I immediately thought of the perfect beauty of Cap du Levan, we had walked on that morning. A nice lady from Audierne, Martine Montestrucq, had driven Renaud Capuçon around the different capes to show him what Finistère was like, and I could not resist thinking that all that natural beauty had penetrated his soul.

Thérèse de Maigret and the Mayor of Pont Croix, Benoît Louriou

Thérèse de Maigret and the Mayor of Pont Croix, Benoît Lauriou, who is a world expert in windmills

Of course playing Isaac Stern’s violin, “Le Panette” did not hurt. And he seemed genuinely happy to be back to Brittany where he had come as a little boy. When he played the second encore, pianist and violinist had to share the music score and it was obvious that Capuçon was playing for the piano and not the reverse. What modesty.

Brittany is a world to itself an Pont Croix is now the center of it for me!

Brittany is a world to itself and Pont Croix is now the center of it for me!

He spoke at the end and mentioned that when « he was small, and he was still small by height », he loved coming to Beg Meil… and he promised to come back next year with all these young musicians, whom he follows year long at Fondation Singer Polignac.

Sunset on cap Sizun

Sunset on cap Sizun

The question is of course to find money to keep the 100 000€ budget going. with all the successful French businessmen who come from Brittany, it should work…

Xavier Enaf, studied piano with Cortot and lives in Audierne like Martine Montestachi who volunteers for the festival

Xavier Henaff, studied piano with Cortot and lives in Audierne like Martine Montestrucq who volunteers  for the festival

The project of transforming the former seminary next to the church is on its way. When Yves Petit de Voize talks about it, his eyes become brilliant. Fourty rooms are planned for this music academy which could change the course of Pont Croix, a town which was rich and powerful until the turn of the century.

 

The lovely Hermès Quartet a brilliant group of young musicians

The lovely Hermès Quartet, a brilliant group of young musicians

Make sure to put down the dates for next year 15-23 July… This festival is a very special oyster in the middle of the ocean.

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