Pascal Bertin, Artistic Director of the Pontoise Baroque Festival: “We always owe our predecessors”

As the 37th Baroque de Pontoise Festival begins this weekend with contralto Anthéa Pichanick and Caravaggio in Vivaldi, Voice Messenger and pianist Clare Hammond, in the repertoire of Hélène de Montgeroult, Festival Director, Pascal Bertin, develops for Tout La Culture the theme of this Edition: Legacies.

The season is marked under Legacies. Which one is yours? Who are the great gentlemen who distinguished you?

It’s a good question because no one asked me. Obviously, my heritage is multiple. We are the heirs of our parents, we were not musicians but just music lovers. I am heir to the fact that we used to sing Michel Vaughan songs in the car with my father. I am heir to the efforts my parents made when I wanted to be a part of the children’s choir in Paris and they had to take me there twice a week when we lived in the suburbs, and that’s d especially since it wasn’t their world. From a professional point of view, I am the heir of my first choir director, and then above all Philip Herwig, who at the end of the conservatory gave me a place in the choir of the royal chapel. At that time, among the sopranos were Sandrine Biao, Veronique Gaines, among the tenor Vincent Bouchot, Joel Sohobet, among the bass Renaud Machart, Herve Nicket. Back this week, I went to listen to sunset prayer Monteverdi directed by Herreweghe in Saint Roch (Paris) and I understood why it was my main legacy. It really is a music that touches me the most.

What Baroque visions does Herreweghe offer? It takes place at the turn of the 20th century, and is a great moment to reflect on the harmony between instruments and music.

It is a very good example of what early music is today. English speakers have a more appropriate term that can be translated as “historically informed practice”. Everyone The work was done from the sixties to the eighties in Baroque music composed by Harnoncourt and Herreweghe and the musicians of the Louvre. Historically all yesterday’s Baroque conductors do the same research work on clarity, context, physiology, and instrument selection. This means that the Baroque revolution extended until the beginning of the twentieth century because we must never forget that in 1913 at the Champs-Élysées theater when Stravinsky created spring weatherThe orchestra went up on stage with strings in the gut. At that time, we were still on tools that had nothing to do with what we mean today by modern tools.

In the program of this festival there are all edges of the Baroque, especially the slightly more “primitive” Baroque (Schütz, Rasi …)

When I got to the head of the festival, four years ago, I didn’t want to change the name but wanted to expand the meaning of the word Baroque. Baroque doesn’t really interest me as a time barrier, from L’Orfeo Monteverdi in 1607 and Bach’s death in 1750. First of all, it must be remembered that historically the term “baroque music” is very recent, dating back to the 1950s. And when it was said in the eighteenth century about one of the composers that Baroque music was not a courtesy. Baroque means irregular. It is a jewelry term that specifically defines the aspherical pearl. This irregularity is what interests me, which in its deficiency can give something more beautiful than an ideal. Thus, the Baroque is not just an era and we can allow ourselves to program the music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, primitive Baroque such as Seicento, classical, romantic, jazz, song and then contemporary creativity. We don’t want to hold a festival where there is only The messiah Handel and four seasons From Vivaldi because the audience also needs something else, which is discovery. The challenge is to arouse the viewer’s curiosity.

The festival also organizes an exhibition focusing on time, choreographer François Chaynaud will intervene. Is interdisciplinary dialogue at the heart of the Pontoise Baroque Festival?

It’s something I inherited and I’m very happy with it. The festival has always been interdisciplinary (music, theater and dance) and I am fortunate to have partners. Since we are a semi-nomadic festival with two Pontoise churches as our base, we work with all the urban community theaters in Cergy-Pontoise and on a larger scale with the entire Val d’Oise region, even Evelyn and Paris. I have partners who are more competent than me in other expressions and the whole game is the selection of performances together, projects that fit both the general aesthetics of the Baroque Festival in Pontoise and the styles of expression they know much better than me, like dancing contemporary. I am glad that this is also our wealth, because our partners also bring us their knowledge and suggestions. In general, my partners are not specialists in baroque music, so I offer them a bunch of things and we choose them together. Sometimes they are the ones who give me suggestions. For example, the Tumulus project was proposed by the director of the National Theatre. I immediately liked it because it also combines François Chaynaud and Jeffroy Jordan. This is the bottom line: to find interdisciplinary projects with different aesthetics that can bring us together.

This concept of heritage includes the familial dimension that we know so well in the Bach family; What about Scarlatti that you put in the spotlight?

Among the Scarlatti, filiation is less important than in the Patch, where the youngest of the cousins ​​is a composer, but among the Scarlatti we know especially Father Alessandro and his son Domenico. The funny thing is that they are two major musicians of their time, but in the end they have completely different paths; So the legacy is the music but their music is completely different. Alessandro wrote 115 operas and hundreds of cants. Domenico is best known for the 555 Harpsichord Sonata that he wrote. There are also differences in their geography with Alessandro living in Italy and Domenico in the court of Spain and Portugal.

How does your programming resonate with current events?

This is what we always look for when choosing a theme. The latter is not musical because we don’t want to lock ourselves up there, we have a multidisciplinary dimension so we’re not going to organize a festival around Picardie III in rhythm (laughs). The subject should always be able to transfer it to social issues. So we look first at the birthdays of the composers, then there may be a link between them and then the link with our time. This year’s composers are Schutz, André Cardinal Destuches, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Bird. How do we connect them to each other? There is a pedigree in education, that is, Heinrich Schutz was an exceptional pupil of Gabriele and Monteverdi in Italy, and he would also direct all the German music that would succeed him, even Bach’s. André Cardinal Destoches was a pupil of Cambra, a brilliant composer at the court of France and Aix-en-Provence. Ralph Vaughan Williams is inspired by German Baroque and English music. William Byrd was probably a student of Thales and the inspiration for One Hundred Years of English Music. Thus, the interesting thing among all these people is where they come from and where they go, what they receive from the elderly and what they will pass on next. Compared with our own times, it is interesting because there is a space of imagination, especially among younger generations, about no one owing anyone, about doing everything alone, while I am convinced that we always owe someone, to what has preceded us, even if it is a reaction. That is why Brigitte Engerer’s sentence is found in the opening inscriptions.

“If I become what I am, it is thanks to others, my parents, and my teachers. We are like pebbles in the sea, formed by the successive waves of our encounters. They confuse and change us. You never do anything alone, you have to know how to recognize it.”

I tend to think that in our age when everyone is connected, where the networks of friendships and relationships are incredibly wide, we are paradoxically in a time of individuality, and I would really like to remind you that we never create anything and certainly not in music.

Who was your audience 37 years ago? Same thing (laughs). Are these people living in Pontoise? Did these people come from all over France because they liked the Baroque? How to diversify it?

The public is struggling to renew itself. We have a very loyal audience present. We shine all over our territory but it’s hard to bring Parisians to Pontoise. We’re aware of this, so we’ve built a car sharing system. When you take a ticket, you are redirected to a page where you can request or offer a transfer. Also, since we’re in about twenty different places, the audience itself is very different. That’s why I’m programming with theater art directors who welcome us because they also know their audience very well, their sociology, their origins.

Are you still working with conservatories and schools?

The festival is full season so we play all year round to be closer to the schools. When the festival is in October for cultural mediation, working with pupils is impossible because the beginning of the school year has just begun, while if we are planning for the whole year, we can do projects over several weeks. We work with more than 10 elementary schools and two colleges. We also have a youth friendly pricing policy (free for children under 18 and €5 for children between 18-25). Price should not be a hindrance.

Is there a concert you’re particularly looking forward to?

It’s very hard to answer this question since there are things I already know so I don’t get the same excitement as signed projects when they aren’t set up yet. So there are shows that I can’t talk to you about in depth because I don’t know them myself but I know they’re going to be interesting, because the people who do them are interesting. One thing that excites me because it’s a look we’ve never done before, a movie party. It is a montage of Millier’s films and on the photos they wrote music for both ancient and modern instruments. Since this is very new to us, there is something that excites me. After the rest of the programming is exciting! On our first weekend we have Il Caravaggio, vocal transmitters and a piano concert at the Château de Montgeroult. In three days we have a complete panorama of what we can do!

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