The Alps are a powerful place. Crisp air, miles (or kilometres...whichever you prefer) of majestic mountain peaks covered in crystal white snow, hundreds of ski lifts and slopes, and as one would expect just near the Mont Blanc, a beautiful concert hall.
During the last four weeks, I've had two incredible opportunities to play in the Alps. The first was in Crans-Montana, Switzerland at the selt-titled Crans-Montana Classics and two weeks ago, an 8-day residency in Flaine on the other side of the mountains in France. There in Flaine lies a beautiful festival called 'Musique à Flaine' and each August, a wonderful summer académie takes place for strings and piano. I joined French pianist Nathanael Gouin, and French violinist/violist and brother/sister extraordinaries Guillaume and Marie Chilemme. The idea of skiing and playing concerts simultaneously makes people nervous especially since most musicians I know avoid doing high-risk physical activities or sports around the time of performance (or, ever). But as we are artistic risk-takers, it only seemed fitting that our residency consisted of skiing near the Mont Blanc and performing four concert programs including a children's program about Schubert!
All programs during this week were Carte Blanche (def: unrestricted power to act at one's discretion) and as I've had a constant love affair with the music of Schubert, naturally, there was an all-Schubert program including his Notturno Op. 148 in E-flat, Impromptu Op. 142 No. 3 in B-flat, Arpeggione Sonata, and his Fantaisie for Violin and Piano, Op. 159 in C major. We also did a program of Debussy, Ysaye, Ravel, and Fauré; and another of Brahms and Schumann. Musique à Flaine is a beautiful place and the spirit of the residency was generous, honest, and focused on the music which surprisingly, can be a difficult thing to hold onto when you are constantly traveling and playing.
Also, I won't ever forget former ski racing champion and my instructor for the week, Denis, who completely took me by surprise when he professed his love for Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky while we were skiing downhill! He even sang his favorite themes of the Shostakovich String Quartets and Piano Trios while on the ski lift and described in detail what he likes most about the Violin Concerto. Who knew...! It's exciting to know even in the mountains, music is being appreciated so passionately. I shall call him #hotshostyskier from now on.