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Le Quotidien is exclusively written in French while only some chapters are translated

Sandra Albukrek

An animated fantasy for Saint-Saëns: Creating daydreams

In the midst of the Verbier Festival’s 30th anniversary gala, the public was treated to an animated film setting the Carnaval des animaux valaisans (Carnival of the Valaisian Animals) to the music of Saint-Saëns. A magical world dreamed up by visual artist and set designer Sandra Albukrek. Portrait.

Saturday, 22 July, 10.15 p.m. The audience has deserted the Salle des Combins. Sandra Albukrek is at the console in the control room, checking the sequencing of the 14-part animated film that will accompany Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals at the 30th anniversary gala. A Carnival revisited in Valaisian style, at Martin Engstroem’s request. Out with the exotic animals of Saint-Saëns’ score! The donkeys, swans and fossils remain, as do the elephants, at Sandra’s insistence :

 

 

We really had to keep the elephants! Hannibal crossed the Alps with them!” On the other hand, goodbye to the majestic lion, who had to make way for the Swiss alpine cow; out with the kangaroo, replaced by a goat; farewell to the tortoise, ousted by a wolf. Ousted? Well, not quite! Sandra Albukrek plays a mischievous game of musical chairs between the animals of Saint-Saëns and the wildlife of the Valais. Through magical metamorphoses and clever allusions, for the space of a whimsical dream the illustrator surreptitiously conjures up in her images the animals she had thrown out. For instance, the marvellous parade of turtles which, although they shouldn’t have been there, follows the story of the wolf: a turtle begotten of the moon, then a French can-can turtle carrying on its back nothing less than the Moulin Rouge and even the Art Nouveau curves of the Guimard entrance to a nearby metro station.

“Saint-Saëns’ score features an incredibly slow and stretched out French can-can tune. I had fun with that.”

Sandra’s film is a feast for the imagination, as much for its colours as for the fantastic hybridity of the figures that parade through it: like the fish in Saint-Saëns’ aquarium (in this case a mountain lake) transformed into musical instrument fish: clarinet fish or fish with violin heads.

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Sandra Albukrek

An animated fantasy for Saint-Saëns: Creating daydreams


tels les poissons de l’aquarium (ici un lac) de Saint-Saëns devenus poissons instruments de musique, poissons clarinette ou poissons à tête de violon.

Born in Istanbul and a former student of the École des Arts Déco in Paris, Sandra Albukrek now lives in Geneva. Having grown up in a musical family, always surrounded by professional musicians, she cannot imagine her work without music. From a young age, she was fascinated by the music scene and ballet, and was responsible for the set design of Pina Bausch’s Nefés, inspired by Istanbul. “Working with Pina was an unforgettable experience, a school of creation and discipline.”

“Whether building huge sets for the stage, illustrating books, or making animated films in an effort to give life to my drawings, what I am doing is trying to create daydreams,” continues Sandra Albukrek. “It took me a full seven months to complete the 205 paintings, 14 storyboards, and animation instructions for the Carnaval des animaux valaisans. The key to a successful animated film lies in the complicity forged in the teamwork between the director and the animator, and for this latest film, I am particularly grateful to my excellent animator, Leandro Basso.”


Sandra Albukrek let her imagination flow from the music. A prolific imagination, nourished by hours of research of all kinds: representations of the cow through time and space – Antiquity, Egypt, India -, aboriginal art, cabinets of curiosities. Not to mention the Alpine herbarium for the flowers she chose “not only for their beauty, but also their virtues: arnica, dandelion, St. John’s wort. Because it all has to make sense, right?”

Alongside the dreamlike swan sequence, which conjures up Andersen’s Ugly Duckling to take us gliding across a lake amid vaporous mists, the aquarium sequence is one of the most enchanting: a bird – a kingfisher – dives beneath the surface to catch a starfish, amid fish and seaweed and a gazebo. As soon as the bird emerges, the starfish becomes a star in the sky, soon to be joined by a constellation of stars. “This is my tribute to Martin Engstroem,” says Sandra. “That, after all, is what he does: he seeks out talented young musicians who go on to become stars and fill our skies. He gave me absolute carte blanche for this work, and I am infinitely grateful to him. To have such freedom and trust is the most precious experience for an artist.”
The film closes with a shower of flowers, a colourful metaphor for the applause it accompanies like a flurry of silent petals.

Laetitia Brancovan

Ricola

Alexandre Barrelet

RTS and the Verbier Festival: thirty years of loyalty

“I remember the first edition of the Verbier Festival, when I was a young journalist. There weren’t many media outlets at the time, but RTS believed in Martin Engstroem and his project from the outset. RTS and, in particular, its radio channel Espace 2. Since then, we have been going up to Verbier every year with our teams of sound engineers, music producers and journalists to cover the event and record concerts.

Sometimes we broadcast them live, sometimes later in the season, and they are available for replay on our website. “We also belong to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), a network of some sixty radio stations which, every spring, organizes a major news exchange. This enables radio stations with fewer resources, or those located in countries where there is less music on offer, to air concerts from European countries that are better off in that respect. For the Verbier Festival, we are a gateway to all European radio stations, in particular France Musique, Musiq’3 (RTBF) and the BBC, to mention but a few.

“For the Festival’s thirtieth edition we pulled out all the stops, devoting a special TV show to the Verbier Festival on the eve of the opening night. As for radio, we are recording 20 concerts this summer, to be presented, often live from the Combins or the Église, by our journalist Julian Sykes, who is based in Verbier for the duration of the Festival. His reports enable us to provide a day-by-day account of musical life in Verbier.

“I see the partnership between the Verbier Festival and RTS as a fruitful collaboration between a rich musical and educational project and a genuine public radio service. Our goal is to bring the richness and diversity of the Verbier Festival to the entire population of French-speaking Switzerland.”

Alexandre Barrelet
Head of RTS-Espace 2, Culture Unit

To listen to the concerts again

Link on RTS Podcast

Richard Goode

First and foremost, the score

“It takes more than either great technique or musical ability to make a great musician”, according to Richard Goode. A score, like a text, must be understood in terms of its intrinsic ideas, so that it can be communicated as effectively as possible to the audience for which a particular interpretation is intended.

On Leonard Bernstein’s advice, the New York pianist embarked on an international career, which included a Grammy award for his recording of Brahms’ Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano with Richard Stoltzman. However, stage fright and shyness prevented him from giving any solo recitals in public until he was in his 40s when, after more than two decades devoted to chamber music, he performed the complete Beethoven Sonatas in New York, a cycle which he subsequently recorded at the beginning of the ‘90s. The Bonn composer, whose music he describes as “immensely powerful and positive”, is an inspiration for him, as are the Hamburg composer Brahms and other Germans such as Bach. The three Bs, who dominated German music for more than a century, form the common thread running through his two concerts this week in Verbier, one featuring some of Beethoven’s Bagatelles and his 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, the other with cellist Steven Isserlis.

For nothing in the world would he listen to his own interpretations, for fear of disagreeing in retrospect with his instrumental ventures. As far as method is concerned, it is fidelity to the score that motivates Richard Goode, in terms of both tempo and expression. He goes so far as to say that a performance can hardly match the inherent boldness and richness of the composition. Remaining true to the score is somehow liberating: each work presents itself as a new beginning, without any predefined dogmas. “All music is one”.

“Music is music”, he sometimes says. He is particularly moved by pianists who find “the centre of the music, the centre of the musical feeling”, around which “all the other things then seem to form…, making the proportions of the work.”
He cannot imagine his profession without teaching, the key to his musical understanding, be it in the form of lectures, individual classes or masterclasses. In his role as mentor at the Verbier Festival Academy, he sees the talents of tomorrow follow one another in succession, brimming with ideas and helping to perpetuate a certain tradition of “enlightened pianistic restoration”, faithful to the letter and open to all possibilities.

Mari Samuelsen

Curiosity without bounds

After a dazzling Four Seasons revisited by Max Richter in the heart of the Alpine pastures of La Chaux last Saturday, on Wednesday Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen will be performing, in the basement of the Taratata (a somewhat more intimate setting), a signature program representing the confluence of periods.

You last came to the Verbier Festival some twenty years ago…
I was a student at the Academy at the time, and to have all these amazing artists gathered in such a small place seemed almost unreal. I attended a lot of masterclasses and concerts, and that has remained with me ever since.

This time, you are back as part of the UNLTD series for a carte blanche performance…
Yes, since I am used to putting together programs, the series is a perfect fit for me. This evening’s event is an invitation to venture into my own world: I am very much into minimalism and appreciate the links it has with the Baroque repertoire, which I adore. I will be playing Max Richter, whose music is part of my DNA, so to speak, as well as pieces by composers ranging from Hildegard von Bingen to Caroline Shaw, a young American composer, not to mention Philip Glass, Hildur Guðnadóttir (known to the public for her music to the films Joker and Sicario), Meredi, from the minimalist movement, and Lera Auerbach.

In addition to the solo pieces, and because I like working with other string players, I will be joined by two different quintets made up of musicians from the Academy, and by pianist Pedja Mužijević, whose overall artistic approach – not only musical – I find deeply inspiring.

You seem very keen to move classical music out of traditional concert halls…
This has to be done if we want to continue to attract audiences, especially after Covid, because however wonderful the broadcasts may be, I don’t think music can survive without live performances. I love playing in places like Taratata, where the atmosphere is relaxed and people are there to have a good time. I adore the proximity it affords.

The Verbier Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Any special wishes?
Thirty more years of inspiration and fulfilment! It has already come a long way, notably with the UNLTD series, which is so inspiring for musicians like me. I wish the Festival continued success as the centre of the midsummer musical world, where the legends and the talents of tomorrow come together.

Interview by Anne Payot-Le Nabour