Bergen, Oxfordshire and rural America - summer festivals unveiling new online plans

Leif Ove Andsnes joins the online Bergen International Festival

Leif Ove Andsnes joins the online Bergen International Festival (photo: Gregor Hohenberg / Bergen International Festival)
Leif Ove Andsnes joins the online Bergen International Festival (photo: Gregor Hohenberg / Bergen International Festival)

The closure of concert halls and other venues swiftly saw the summer festival pretty much cancelled. But a number of festivals are instead finding innovative online solutions to still offer audiences new music-making within the rules of current restrictions.

One of the first embarking on an impressive 15-day programme tomorrow is the Bergen International Festival. A total of 28 concerts will be streamed, plus six debates, and 36 outdoor events designed to be experienced on social media. Many concerts will be pre-recorded, and while live indoor concerts won’t be in front of audiences, they will be streamed free on the festival’s website.

One ambitious project is a performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto, on May 24. It’s a work that has featured at almost every Bergen International Festival since it began in 1953, and this year will be no different - what will be different, however, is that soloist and orchestra are divided by almost 1000 miles of sea, Víkingur Ólafsson (Gramophone’s current Artist of the Year) performing his part in Harpa Hall in his Icelandic home city of Reykjavik, and Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra theirs in the Norwegian city’s Grieghallen.

The festival opens on Wednesday May 20 with a concert by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Edward Gardner, and featuring soprano Mari Eriksmoen, violinists Eldbjørg Hemsing, Ludvig Gudim, composer and artist Einar Selvik, and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes - the Norwegian pianist also featuring in the festival's closing gala conducting the Oslo Philharmonic in Mozart, in a recording from Oslo Concert Hall.

'What we are presenting with barely concealed pride is a festival with an extent and an artistic diversity which means that our large national and international public, from the "front row" in their homes, can experience the cornucopia of options that has always been a hallmark of the Bergen Festival', says the festival director Anders Beyer. Full details at the Bergen International Festival website.

Another festival starting this week which has drawn together a programme aiming to capture the spirit of the planned original is the English Music Festival, opening this Friday with filmed concerts and talks held at the same times that the EMF events were planned to take place, featuring some of the same artists, including baritone Roderick Williams, who would have appeared in Oxfordshire.

Other festivals this summer which are already announcing digital plans featuring new performances include Tanglewood, with concerts there to be filmed in June and July and available from July 1, spotlighting artists who were due to have performed this season. Meanwhile, August 21, 22 and 23 will likely see an abbreviated online version of the Grand Teton Festival with Music Director Donald Runnicles hoping to conduct three newly filmed concerts in what's being called 'an immersive film experience'.

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