Bachtrack.com: Star orchestras gather for the new Riga Jurmala Music Festival
There are many starry destinations for the classical music traveller in the summer months: established festivals at Salzburg, Lucerne, Aix-en-Provence and Bregenz among them. But turn your eyes – and ears – eastwards and you may be surprised by the quality of music-making that takes place at the Riga Jurmala Music Festival. Based around four weekends in July and August, one in the Latvian capital city, the others in the country’s flagship seaside resort, the festival features four great international orchestras as central pillars.
But it’s a leading Latvian who opens the first weekend. Mariss Jansons was born in Riga, son of the great Latvian conductor, Arvīds Jansons. In an interview last year, Jansons recalled being taken to Riga’s opera house as a child, constantly surrounded by music. Not surprisingly, he followed in his father’s footsteps and has long been widely regarded as one of the world’s finest conductors. In Riga, he brings his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, of which he has been chief conductor since 2003, to play two concerts in the Latvian National Opera. The BRSO was founded by Eugen Jochum in 1949 and is renowned for its excellent quality, particularly its mahogany strings and muscular brass. Both qualities should be to the fore in Sibelius’ First Symphony, with its Russian darkness far removed from the icier orchestration of his later symphonies. Julian Rachlin is the soloist in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto no. 2 in G minor, with its haunting middle movement, while in the Bavarians’ second concert, Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder plays Brahms’ autumnal Second Piano Concerto before the orchestra plays Beethoven’s Symphony no. 2.