Festival

info@festival-salon.fr +33 (0) 6 26 76 17 95

 

SALON, Provence International Chamber Music Festival

The castle of Nostradamus

Château de l’Empéri proudly stands on a foothill high above the fortified town of Salon-de-Provence,

home of famous 16th century doctor and astrologer Michel de Nostredame. For 25 years now, a unique chamber music festival has taken place in the courtyard of this impressive gothic castle.

A festival at the heart of musical Provence

Salon-de-Provence is a medieval town in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône in the south of France. In summer, it becomes the chosen ground of music lovers. Music finds its way into these exceptional landscapes through three internationally renowned festivals. The piano is showcased in Roque d’Anthéron, opera in Aix-en-Provence and chamber music takes pride of place in Salon. These three events compliment each other perfectly and every year, they give rhythm to a musical summer in the South of France.

Excellence and friendship, a festival of artists

The festival in Salon has been organised by a trio of musicians of international acclaim since 1992: the clarinet player Paul Meyer, the pianist Eric Le Sage and the flautist Emmanuel Pahud. It rounds off Provence’s musical summer events, while distinguishing itself as a particularly convivial and unique festival.  Its warm and friendly atmosphere, so conducive to excellent music, is shared with some thirty musicians every year – great international soloists who play in the world’s most reputed orchestras, as well as young musicians in the making. 

They are all friends and that is, of course, keenly felt in the audience.  It’s a real collective of musicians who like to get together away from the more formal conventions of music, for the sheer pleasure of making music together.

Exceptional acoustics

The festival concert venues have been chosen for their exceptional acoustics: Château de l’Empéri, the Church of Saint Michel, the chapel of the Abbaye de Sainte Croix and the Armand Theatre. Acoustically, the Renaissance courtyard of the Château is a miracle of sound. 

Emilie Delorme, head of the Board
Madeleine Le Sage,Honorary Chair 
Thomas Pétillon, treasurer, 
Harry Bos, Secretary

Florent Piraud, administrator 
Laurent Cools ,communication 

 


 

SALON International Chamber Music Festival Provence

Presentation of the project

Excellence and friendship, a festival of artists

The festival in Salon has been organised by a trio of musicians of international acclaim since 1992: the clarinet player Paul Meyer, the pianist Eric Le Sage and the flautist Emmanuel Pahud. It rounds off Provence’s musical summer events, while distinguishing itself as a particularly convivial and unique festival.  Its warm and friendly atmosphere, so conducive to excellent music, is shared with some thirty musicians every year – great international soloists and musicians who play in the world’s most reputed orchestras, as well as young musicians in the making. They are all friends and that is, of course, keenly felt in the audience.  It’s a real collective of musicians who like to get together away from the more formal conventions of music, for the sheer pleasure of making music together. 

Exceptional acoustics

The festival concert venues have been chosen for their exceptional acoustics: Château de l’Empéri, the Church of Saint Michel, the chapel of the Abbaye de Sainte Croix and the Armand Theatre. Acoustically, the Renaissance courtyard of the Château is a miracle of sound.

What’s SALON’s recipe for success with regard to the audience ?

For 20 years, we have been attracting about the same number of listeners per concert. That’s our strength, but it’s also a problem. The number of concerts has increased, of course. Within the last ten years, it has gone up from five to 20. That means the audience has come along. We have our regulars – with many amateur musicians among them – but we don’t have the “big audience”. Without a doubt, that’s due to the fact that the festival is not based on stars. I once played the same concert with the same artists in front of 10 000 people in La Roque d’Anthéron and two days later in Salon for a mere 400 or 500. But our audience is a very loyal one. These people come from diffent corners of the globe, and you find all ages among them because our tickets are reasonably priced. Depending on the programme, ticket sales fluctuate a little from one evening to the next, especially when we play contemporary music. We stick to this mixture of genres, however, and will always play the pieces we feel like playing. 

How do you measure the festival’s success, when are the musicians content?

It is important, of course, that there’s an audience. That there’s a certain satisfactory level of quality. And it’s important to know that from time to time, we have staged some extraordinary concerts. The icing on the cake is “The Carnival of the Animals” with Lambert Wilson or “Peter and the Wolf” with another well-known speaker, but you won’t do that every night. I remember having been disappointed with wonderful concerts that didn’t draw a big crowd because people had been put off by Max Reger’s Clarinet Quintet, for example. For us, the most important thing is to put together programmes that do not scare off the audience while including demanding pieces that they definitely will enjoy as soon as they listen to us playing them.

Eric Le Sage (Interview on France Info TV, 2015)

History of the festival

The castle of Nostradamus

Château de l’Empéri proudly stands on a foothill high above the fortified town of Salon-de-Provence,

home of famous 16th century doctor and astrologer Michel de Nostredame. For 25 years now, a unique chamber music festival has taken place in the courtyard of this impressive gothic castle.

A festival at the heart of musical Provence

Salon-de-Provence is a medieval town in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône in the south of France. In summer, it becomes the chosen ground of music lovers.  Music finds its way into these exceptional landscapes through three internationally renowned festivals. The piano is showcased in Roque d’Anthéron, opera in Aix-en-Provence and chamber music takes pride of place in Salon. These three events compliment each other perfectly and every year, they give rhythm to a musical summer in the South of France.

Excellence and friendship, a festival of artists

The festival in Salon has been organised by a trio of musicians of international acclaim since 1992: the clarinet player Paul Meyer, the pianist Eric Le Sage and the flautist Emmanuel Pahud. It rounds off Provence’s musical summer events, while distinguishing itself as a particularly convivial and unique festival.  Its warm and friendly atmosphere, so conducive to excellent music, is shared with some thirty musicians every year – great international soloists who play in the world’s most reputed orchestras, as well as young musicians in the making. They are all friends and that is, of course, keenly felt in the audience.  It’s a real collective of musicians who like to get together away from the more formal conventions of music, for the sheer pleasure of making music together.

What makes you musicians invest so much time and energy into the festival? 

We have been organizing this festival for 25 years. Emmanuel Pahud, Paul Meyer and me were in our twenties when we started it. We wanted to spend a part of the holidays with our families, but it was very important to us as well to be with friends to make music. So, in winter, we went to Paul’s family home and in summer, to mine in Provence. Somehow, it grew into a festival. In the beginning, we played in a small church at Vernègues. Later, when it turned out to be no longer possible to organize the concerts there, Salon-de-Provence welcomed us. That was great – only 10 km away. The town already had a festival culture, albeit in the field of jazz. Miles Davis and Coltrane had played there. Since then, our lives and personal situations have changed, of course, but we still highly enjoy to have this festival, most of all for playing together. With regards to this, it’s definitely a unique festival. There’s no money to be earned, the budget is very small. My personal theory on putting together a festival is that  you have to be either very rich or very poor. We settled for poverty in order to be free  – we are not accountable to anyone (laughts).

A memory of the festival

I remember a magical evening after it had started to rain – that kind of heavy thunderstorm we get in the south, short but very heavy. Afterwards, the acoustics are always grand. The air is a bit damp, the sound is crystal-clear and much richer than before. We continued playing our Ravel trio and it was wonderful. For the audience, that evening had a very special atmosphere as well. Impressions like these make you really love open-air concerts.

Eric Le Sage (Interview on France Info TV, 2015)

2016 – “Musique à l’Empéri” becomes SALON …

… because we are at Salon-de-Provence

… because we haven’t limited our concerts to the courtyard of Château de l’Empéri for some years now

… because the results of a survey have shown that many people don’t know “Empéri”

… because, among themselves, the musicians say SALON anyway

… because, last but not least, SALON is a nice pun when you talk about chamber music

 

Presentation of the event

The world’s best soloists meet in Salon – for pleasure

For musicians, making music in a warm and friendly atmosphere is the biggest pleasure. In 1992,  the desire to create such an atmosphere made Éric Le Sage, Paul Meyer and Emmanuel Pahud start the festival “Musique à l’Empéri” in Salon-de-Provence. In 2016, the name was changed to “SALON”. Its warm and friendly atmosphere, so conducive to excellent music, is shared with some thirty musicians every year – great international soloists and musicians who play in the world’s most reputed orchestras, as well as young musicians in the making. They are all friends and that is, of course, keenly felt in the audience.  It’s a real collective of musicians who like to get together away from the more formal conventions of music, for the sheer pleasure of making music together.

SALON is the summit of chamber music in summery Provence – cordial, laid-back and inspired by musical excellence.

Some figures

20 to 25 concerts at up to five venues

(Château de l’Empéri, Église Saint Michel, Chapelle de l’Abbaye de Sainte Croix, Théâtre Armand…)

10 days during the last week of July and the first week of August 

5200 to 6000 concert-goers

The artists donate their small fee, which in turn is reinvested into the festival.

Ticket sales are 35% of the budget.

25 editions – that’s 242 concerts, 191 artists, 35 contemporary compositions for SALON, 890 pieces played, 34 000 hours of music so far.

Why do the musicians take part in SALON?

Above all, of course, they enjoy high-level music-making with friends. We try to put together very demanding programmes that include pieces you need a certain combination of players for. Basically, that’s what draws the musicians to the festival. Once, Emmanuel Pahud and me put it that way: If one day nobody wants to come to play at SALON anymore, it means that we have lost the level of playing necessary to attract fellow musicians. It’s certainly not the remuneration that draws them to SALON (laughs).

They don’t get paid?

They do, but 110 euro per concert is a very low fee. For musicians, potentially, summer is a very lucrative time of the year. So, to play at our festival for ten days means to lose a little of your business. Gradually, we’ve built a network of friends, colleagues and future colleagues that spans several generations. Among the youngest are cellists Aurélien Pascal – who is younger than the festival – and Bruno Delepelaire, who became 1st Principal Cello of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2013. We make sure that there’s always about a dozen seasoned “Salonists” plus 10 to 20 novices who might come back in the future. In any case, it’s the natural course of things: Musicians keep attracting their peers – they know they meet other excellent players here. When Daishin Kashimoto came to play with us for the first time, he met Guy Braunstein who was then Berlin Philharmonic’s 1st Concertmaster. A couple of years later, Daishin became 1st Concertmaster there as well – it all started here. Festival life also means getting to know people, it’s like that. 

Eric Le Sage (Interview on France Info TV, 2015)