The 74th Besançon International Music Festival will open on Friday in its usual form, after a limited 2020 year due to the health crisis. The event will notably offer its competition for young conductors, one of the most prestigious in the world.

Until September 25, the festival will offer around thirty concerts of symphonic music, chamber music, recitals, but also world music and jazz, culminating in the final of the international competition for young conductors. orchestra on September 18.

This event, which takes place every two years, is renowned for being the most comprehensive conductor competition in the world. He has crowned chefs such as Seiji Osawa, Alexander Gibson, Sergiu Comissiona, Gerd Albrecht, Michel Plasson and Lionel Bringuier.

Twenty candidates of ten different nationalities, selected in Berlin, Montreal, Beijing, Paris and Besançon among 176 candidates auditioned will compete from September 13 to 18 to try to win the Grand Prize of the competition.

Aged 20 to 35, they will lead orchestras, soloists and singers to perform a varied repertoire during symphonic music, oratorio and opera events.

During the final in Besançon, which will be broadcast on giant screens in Vesoul, Belfort and Lons-le-Saunier, the finalists will perform in particular a symphonic piece created for the occasion by the composer in residence Camille Pépin.

The Covid-19 epidemic weighed on the preselections of the competition with around 40% of cancellations among the candidates, mainly due to the closure of certain borders, quarantines imposed in several countries or young chefs declared contact cases.

Despite these “preselections very disturbed by sanitary conditions”, especially in Canada, “the level of finalists is as high as in previous years with six candidates already come in 2019”, assures festival director Jean-Michel Mathé.

The president of the jury for the 2021 edition is the British conductor Paul Daniel, who is musical director of the National Orchestra of Bordeaux Aquitaine, as well as the principal conductor and artistic director of the Real Filarmonia de Galicia.

The festival, created in 1948, will kick off on Friday evening with the open-air symphonic concert of the Orchester Victor Hugo Franche-Comté, at the foot of the Citadel of Vauban. The ensemble will perform works by Saint-Saëns, Ravel, Holst and Saint-James, under the direction of Jean-François Verdier.

“We are enthusiastic because our program is complete, but we had to adapt with symphony orchestras from France, Switzerland, Italy or Armenia, but not from further away”, confides Mr. Mathé.

Among the most anticipated concerts, the Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky, which will be performed by the conductorless orchestra Dissonance and its 100 musicians. “It’s a rarity, it requires a lot of work from the musicians” to play together, underlines the director. “This concert without a conductor is a snub to our festival, which is organizing a competition for conductors,” he laughs.

The piano will also be in the spotlight of this edition with the soloists Boris Berezovsky, Katia and Marielle Labèque or even Alexandre Kantorow.

The Besançon Festival normally attracts around 25,000 spectators for a total budget of 1.3 million euros. They will be less this year because of the health context, anticipates Jean-Michel Mathé, “but we are not in danger thanks to the financial support of our partners and to the special fund set up by the State”.