At the general assembly held on 25 February, the day after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the town of Colmar and the organisers of the International Festival wished to give peace a chance.

They gave themselves a period of reflection before making any decision about the 2022 edition, while strongly disapproving of the use of weapons and expressing their solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Given that the situation has continued to deteriorate since then, and that there is no longer any hope of a peaceful outcome to the conflict, they have decided not to organise the 32nd International Festival next July.

32nd Colmar International Festival

Artistic director: Vladimir Spivakov

Tribute to

Ivry Gitlis
2-14 July 2022

A message from Vladimir Spivakov, the Festival's artistic director

"… to be alive, to be aware, to hear, know, feel, see, love and be loved a little sometimes."

Ivry Gitlis


There are important meetings in life which make an impression and over time become unforgettable. This was the case for me when I met Ivry Gitlis in Paris in 1965, after I won a prize at the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud competition. Gitlis invited me to his home. Since he spoke many languages, our conversation was in Russian, which was surprising. For a young man (I was just 20 at the time) it was very important that such a great maestro who was already seen as a legend, should give you encouragement, and that was the first thing he did. Ivry praised my performance. Then he suddenly picked up the violin and started to play Bartók to me. I was captivated by his style, dazzled, not only by the quality and technical excellence, but also by his incredible sense of freedom, something only the great masters have. The encounter left a lasting impression on me. It was when I was thinking back to it that I decided to play Bela Bartók's Rhapsody No.1 at the Festival…

Afterwards, political events prevented us from leaving Russia. But the students at the Conservatory managed to swap recordings. So when the recording of La Capricieuse, a little piece by Elgar, came out, and we compared it with the versions by the great violinist of the time and who often played it, we had to recognise that Ivry played it better!

What was so special about it?

To answer this question, I would like to tell you a parable. In Japan, there lived a great master of the tea ceremony who had a son. He taught his son all the rules of the ceremony, and one day, now an old man, he said: "Now I would like to see what you have learned". The son got all the cups and bowls ready, according to the rules of the tea ceremony, covered the path leading to the pavilion with sand, and called his father. The father looked around him and said: "Everything is right, but there is something missing". He then stepped outside, went up to a tree and shook it. A single red leaf fell on the path. "Now it is art".

This parable applies perfectly to Ivry Gitlis: you can hear "the red leaf" in all his performances of different works.

I developed the Festival programme in the same way Marc Chagall created stained-glass windows: with a whole host of small fragments to create the impression of a single work. I invited today's best violinists and created a programme around the works that Gitlis illuminated with his interpretations.

So, we will hear Viktoria Mullova performing Sibelius' Violin Concerto, the first work Ivry played in the US. In his autobiography, he wrote: "To play Sibelius, you need to think of the hundreds of lakes in Karelia, of the wide-open spaces in this country. The spaces are linked to my mother's steppes. From there, we heard distant Russian voices approaching crescendo, and then moving away, diminuendo".


We will be playing Beethoven, too. Ivry Gitlis loved him so much, his chamber music and his symphonic works, including the Violin Concerto. Vadim Gluzmann will be the soloist. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, which Ivry Gitlis played in the final of the Long-Thibaud competition, will be performed by Serguei Dogadin, winner of the 1st prize in the Tchaikovsky competition. Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto will be played by Maxim Vengerov, and Bruch's first Violin Concerto by Renaud Capuçon, who took masterclasses with Ivry Gitlis when he was 16. For Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto, the soloist will be the first violinist from the National Philharmonic of Russia, Timur Pirverdiev, who also took masterclasses with Gitlis in Israel.

The Festival programme also includes works by Brahms and Bartók, who were important composers in the Gitlis' repertoire. Clara Jumi-Kang and Alexander Ramm will be "crossing bows" (to use Ivry's expression) in Brahms' Double Concerto. Daniel Lozakovich will be the soloist in Brahms' Violin Concerto, while Maria Dueñas will be performing works by Chausson, Ravel and Saint-Saëns.

The programme of chamber music concerts will show all the diversity of Ivry Gitlis' repertoire, ranging from Bach and Mozart to Klezmer music.

I will be opening the 32nd Colmar Festival with Berg's Concerto to the Memory of an Angel, a work that earned Ivry Gitlis the Grand Prix du Disque award.

Some time ago, I was the jury president at the Violin Masters competition in Monaco. The organisers invited the famous French writer Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt as an independent expert for the third round. He was there for the final vote and fully supported my choice and my selection criteria. I was seated beside him at the gala dinner. With great enthusiasm, Schmitt told me he had just written a short story, "Concerto to the Memory of an Angel" (which later won the Goncourt short story prize). I asked if the title was linked to Alban Berg's concerto of the same name. He said it was. James Conlon, the leading conductor at the Paris Opera at the time, and I had played the concerto in Spain and Germany.

When I read Schmitt's story, I found the following words, which I would like to share with you: "The notes from the Concerto 'to the Memory of an Angel' rose up between the trees to meet the azure sky, the tropical mists, the trill of the birds, the lightness of the clouds. Axel did not perform the piece but lived it; he was inventing the melody; he guided the shifting moods, the changes in pace, now faster, now slower, taking the orchestra along with him, at each instant creating a chant shaped by his fingers and expressing his thoughts. […] He meditated on the violin, with the radiant authority of inspiration, bringing out the healing effect of music, awakening in listeners the spiritual dimension that makes them better."

For me, this portrait of the inspired artist is a perfect evocation of Ivry Gitlis.

Vladimir Spivakov


Direction artistique : Vladimir Spivakov

Chaque année, le choix d’un thème porteur assure au Festival un concept pérenne. Ainsi l’hommage annuel rendu à un grand musicien devient le fil conducteur, permet d’aborder tous les répertoires et ouvre de nouveaux horizons : hommage à un instrument, à un pays, à une culture… Cette approche confère à l’ensemble de la programmation musicale une unité et une cohérence artistique qui lui permet d’accueillir les plus grands musiciens de la scène classique actuelle et un public fidèle.



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Président : Francis Hirn
Directeur : Hubert Niess


Le Festival International de Colmar est organisé par l'Office de Tourisme de Colmar