The first edition of the Riga Jurmala Festival featured four weekends throughout July, August and September with an impressive lineup of world-famous pianists, including Rudolf Buchbinder, Yuja Wang, Seong-Jin Cho, Lukas Geniušas, Jan Lisiecki, Denis Kozhukhin, The Osokins and Lucas Debargue. Verbier Festival wizard Martin T:son Engstroem was headhunted to create the new prestigious Latvian music festival.
The festival took place at the Latvian National Opera, the Great Guild, and in the Dzintari Concert Hall in Jurmala, beautifully located close to the sea 20 minutes from Riga. The beach town functioned as a retreat for many renowned artists during the Soviet times. Legends such as Richter, Gilels, Oistrach and Kogan spent recreational time there with their families in the past.
Four international top orchestras added to the global presence: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mariss Jansons, the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda, and the Russian National Orchestra and Mikhail Pletnev. Yuja Wang performed Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto together with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Zubin Mehta.
Martin Engstroem’s Winning Philosophy
Knowing that top musicians are open to artistic challenges during the summer, Engstroem wants to create situations based on the possibility to allow a variety of programs with different and unexpected combinations of performers sharing the stage. For Engstroem it’s always important to seek something new and out of the ordinary – he has noted that bringing these people together may very well result in them working together again elsewhere.
– And I remember András Schiff who, at the beginning, was very sceptical of this kind of showcase. And he played some four-hand repertoire with Yuja Wang and, on one piano, together with Mikhail Pletnev, said Mr. Engstroem in an interview with Gramophone.
Constantly looking for talent and exciting programming certainly mirrors Engstroem’s career in music which has embraced arts management, as A&R with Deutsche Grammophon and service on juries for numerous music competitions including the important International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Born in the Swedish capital Stockholm, Engstroem feels a natural geographical and historical attachment to Baltic Latvia which also includes a personal experience having spent a honeymoon in Jurmala.
More about the festival: www.riga-jurmala.com