For lucky young pianists, they receive an incredible opportunity to travel to this town, spending weeks with other like-minded individuals, under the artistic direction of Ilana Vered.
Speaking with the artistic director of the festival, I found out a bit more about why they settled on Perugia.
IV: ‘I always dreamt of living in Italy. I moved to Florence, and did a little festival there. I had a passion for painting too – I was painting mainly around Perugia. When I was there, I thought to myself ‘what a wonderful place!’ And there was no classical music there. They had a jazz festival there just before we wanted to do our festival, so the town had a good acquaintance with music – just not classical. Since they already had music there during summer, we thought it would be the perfect place to do a festival.
‘The walls of the city speak. Ancient Italy is there – there’s need to decorate, as you just feel the history. When you live in Italy, you’re inside a museum – in other countries you have to go to a museum to experience what you experience first-hand in Italy.
‘One of the things that makes it special is that it’s a very rare thing for a young performer to play a concerto with an orchestra. That was the main idea of the festival – get an orchestra, get students to play. Last year, we had 96 students each playing a movement of a concerto – it was wonderful.’
In addition, to giving every student this concerto opportunity, Vered believes that this festival in particular should be an opportunity to absorb as many teaching styles as possible:
IV: ‘In many festivals, there are normally two or three main teachers. I think Perugia should almost have the same feeling as a carnival, with many tastes from all over the world. I want the students to try the many flavours, soak up the thoughts… the students should get as many different tastes and perfumes as possible! We had about 40 teachers last year, and this year there’ll be about 50!’
In addition to the artistic direction of the festival, the practical side of things is overseen by Peter Hermes, the Executive Director.
PH: ‘I am not a professional musician, though when at medical school in Paris I went to the music conservatory for two years and studied voice. Doctors’ love of music is legendary; there are about as many doctors orchestras as professional ones!
The festival was not always in its current location – although very close, as Hermes recounts…
PH: ‘I founded the festival 9 years ago with Ilana Vered and her colleague, Enrique Graf.
We started with 8 students and hosted the students in a little casale in Monte Castello di Vibio, which was 40km from Perugia. We had sold out concerts in the church across from our house and we always thought the festival would be here… Then one evening, the students rented a car, went to Perugia, and on returning, said, ‘We will come back only if you move the festival to Perugia!’
The passion that emanates from both Vered and Hermes is clear – and this passion translates into providing an amazing backdrop for an amazing festival.
PH: ‘Ilana and I love music. We never thought in our wildest dreams that the festival would turn into the largest festival for young people in Italy. We love to encourage young talents to grow, and we are blessed with some youngsters that return year after year more accomplished than the last… We don’t have and probably will never have a competition within the festival, but there is a lot of support, good fellowship and recognition of hard work. If we could, we would have the festival 365 days a year!’
In my second article on Perugia I’ll be interviewing a couple of young pianists who partook in the festival. And since I’ll never be a good enough pianist to take part, I’ll just have to wait for someone to create a Mediterranean clarinet festival to get my dose of Italy’s amazing culture. Unless there are any out there already. Anybody? No? Ok, I’ll just keep waiting then…
Mozart Concerto K. 467, III – at Music Fest Perugia (Alexander Lu)