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David Whelton, © Marcel Giger

“It is a one off!”

For the fourth time, David Whelton has conceptualised the programme for Klosters Music. The artistic director looks forward with great expectations to the upcoming edition, which has the theme “Zeitreise. A Musical Journey” and reflects musically on the 800th anniversary of Klosters. Georg Rudiger spoke with him about the programme.

Georg Rudiger: The last two festival editions were shaped by the corona pandemic. With what thoughts and feelings do you look back? And what are your expectations for the next edition?

David Whelton: I was very pleased with the success of the 2020 and 2021 editions of Klosters Music. The leadership of the Foundation Board, and the excellent safety protocol devised by Franziska von Arb, provided a safe environment for our artists and audience. Looking back, I am astonished with what was achieved in such difficult circumstances. In 2020, Klosters was one of the very few festivals to take place in its entirety. We provided a platform for the very finest artists who rewarded us with outstanding performances which I will never forget. I am confident that Klosters Music 2022, celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Foundation of Klosters, will again provide a unique experience for our artists and audience.

This year the village of Klosters is celebrating its 800th Anniversary. That’s why you appropriately chose “Zeitreise. A Musical Journey” as the musical theme this year. How is the theme reflected in the programme?

This year’s theme, “Zeitreise”, provided an opportunity to programme repertoire from the 14th Century to the present day in a wide variety of formats which, I am pleased to say, has captured the imagination of our artists. Nine exceptional concerts, each reflecting a different historical period, will take our audience on a musical journey.

Klosters Music is still a young festival in Switzerland’s rich festival summer. What is special about the festival?

Klosters Music offers an opportunity for music lovers to enjoy concerts given by outstanding musicians performing great music in a beautiful Alpine setting. The two weekends feature high profile orchestras, and the carefully chosen programmes are performed in venues with fine acoustics creating an intimate musical experience. Everything is of the highest quality, and the audience receive a very warm welcome from our volunteers who create the perfect ambience within which to enjoy a unique series of concerts.

In the past you have often worked with the Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. This year, three orchestras are celebrating their debut in Klosters: the Münchener Kammerorchester, the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg and the Freiburger Barockorchester. Why this change?

One of my main goals in planning the early editions of Klosters Music was to gain the trust of the audience by inviting high profile ensembles in successive years. It was a great pleasure to work with Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, one of the very finest chamber orchestras in Germany, with an outstanding reputation. However, planning constraints require that we invite them for a pair of concerts. This year, because of the theme “Zeitreise”, it was not possible to do this. We will feature Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in future editions. I am delighted that this year our three orchestral concerts will be performed by ensembles I also particularly admire, the Münchener Kammerorchester, Freiburger Barockorchester and the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg.

Artists such as Sir András Schiff and Maurice Steger are regular guests. There are new faces with Arabella Steinbacher, Francesco Piemontesi and the Hagen Quartett. Do you consciously rely on this mixture of familiar and new?

I believe a good festival programme should combine the familiar with the new, hence this year we have once again the pleasure of hearing Maurice Steger and Sir András Schiff, together with wonderful artists new to Klosters such as Arabella Steinbacher, Francesco Piemontesi and the Hagen Quartett. It is a great privilege to be able to present such a range of superb artists in Klosters and they all want to return, the best possible measure of the festival’s success. Incidentally, this year we have the two finest harpsichordists of their generation appearing in Klosters: Francesco Corti and Sebastian Wienand.

The programme also includes many well-known works such as Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto or Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto. How do you design a concert programme?

Planning a concert programme is an organic process and an art. The starting point is of course the theme of the festival and the pattern of days available which changes each year. Within this framework, the opening and closing weekends are reserved for orchestral concerts. The mid-week concerts include chamber music, recitals, special events such as film and music, or music and the spoken word. Within the festival theme I will have specific repertoire that I wish to programme and specific artists, whom I know well, that I would like to invite. The relationship between the artist and repertoire they perform is key to the success of the concert. In the case of the conductor, it is also essential that they have a close and successful relationship with the orchestra and will have previously worked with the soloist. The planning process is driven by artists’ availability and requires detailed conversations with the artists and their managers. The juxtaposition of repertoire in each programme is critical, both in terms of key relationships and emotional intent; each work must form part of a coherent whole. Opera Gala programmes are the most complex to plan. My aim is to ensure that artists go on to the platform inspired to give of their best in a programme which will delight our audience.

What is the collaboration with the Foundation Board like, especially with Reinhard Winkler?

It is a great pleasure professionally, and personally, to work with the Foundation Board. They are immensely supportive and absolutely committed to enriching the musical life of Klosters and, by creating Klosters Music, making Klosters a cultural destination. With Heinz Brand as president of the foundation and Daniela Lütjens as president of the patrons’ association, we are in a very strong and secure position. Reiny Winkler, who has responsibility on the Board for the artistic programme, is a good friend and colleague, and always available to discuss and resolve the most complex issues.

What personal connection do you have to Klosters?

My musical connection with Klosters started through my involvement with the Christmas Concerts when I would bring friends from my orchestra, the Philharmonia London to give concerts in St. Jacob’s Church. Of course, all young men of my generation knew Klosters for its excellent skiing, but that was a long time ago!

Which concert are you most looking forward to at the festival? And why?

I know that every concert in Klosters will be special. However, having spent so much of my professional life in the opera and orchestral world, I am particularly looking forward to the Hagen Quartett with Kirill Gerstein on the  3 August.

And which concert are you particularly excited about?

I am very excited by the concert on the 4 August, a brilliant programme including music from the earliest days of Klosters. It is a one off! Maurice Steger, Nuria Rial and La Cetra Barockorchester Basel are peerless in this repertoire and using the Koeberle organ will add a special dimension to the evening.

Why do you think people should visit Klosters Music 2022?

Klosters Music 2022 is a musical gem, a sparkling series of concerts and “the summit meeting for musical delights”.