As the summer season winds down, three festivals in way out places in Europe promise outstanding value for music lovers wishing to experience the beauties of nature, history and culture.
In the breathtakingly beautiful alpine resort of Maribor in eastern Slovenia, Australian violinist and conductor Richard Tognetti and an array of top class musicians serve up adventurous, offbeat programming for the fourth annual Maribor Festival, September 1-11. The director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, who recently scored big time at the Ojai Festival, Tognetti and his crew will provide a heady menu of classical, jazz and ethnic tunes and tones.
Given Tognetti's exhilarating bent for artistic experimentation while exploring new ways of cross-cultural exchange, it's no surprise that Festival programs, prepared, rehearsed and premiered on the spot, offer visitors a gaggle of rare opportunities to check out what's happening behind the scenes.
The Festival's chamber music matinees feature programs that reach beyond the traditional repertoire, hour-long afternoon concerts showcasing various music genres, and a host of spectacular evening concerts with the likes of pianist Dejan Lazić, cellists Giovanni Sollima and Monika Leskovar, violinist Satu Vänskä, and the celebrated Baroque and early music ensemble Giardino Armonico.
Maribor's multimedia project for 2011, combining music with visual arts, is themed Nothingness. If you wonder what that sounds like, how to play it, or whether it can even be played at all, stay tuned!
The following week, in Gniezno, once (in the 10th century) the seat of Polish political power, violinist Janusz Wawrowski and a bunch of his brilliant pals present the Spaces of Music Chamber Music Festival, between the 9th and 17th of September 2011.
Organized by the Zygmunt Noskowski Foundation on the 100th anniversary of the composer's death, the Festival promotes the union of music and architecture at historical sites of architectural and artistic value.
For one spectacular week, the emphasis will be on Polish composers from the turn of the 20th century, with names such as Noskowski, Zarębski, Różycki, Karłowicz and Maliszewski, once forgotten but now ready to play a vital part in the festivities. The Festival will also include music by Bach, Liszt, Brahms, Bottesini, Boccherini, Górecki, Stravinsky, Debussy, Mahler and Moniuszko.
Superb Polish and international musicians will perform in splendid castles, palaces and churches all of which have witnessed important moments in Poland's history and culture. The concert trail includes the Parish Church in Poznań, the Gniezno Cathedral, the Garrison Church in Gniezno, the Parish Church in Konin, the palaces in Dobrzyca and Rogalin, Mansion Róża Poraja in Budziejewo and the Gołuchów Castle.
In paying tribute to a man who devoted his entire life to the promotion of Polish artists and Polish music, Wawrowski will also organize a series of educational events in Gniezno, including concerts ("In the Realm of Music") and music workshops ("Artistic Euphoria") in which children come in direct contact with art through active participation and meetings with artists, with particular emphasis will be put on work for social inclusion of children and people with special needs.
If you love nature with your music, the Lammermuir Festival in six "unexpected" locations in Scotland east of Edinburgh September 16-25, takes place against a backdrop provided by the Lammermuir Hills in East Lothian, one of Scotland's remaining untouched wilderness areas. An area of stunning natural beauty, they form a unique landscape of rolling hills, big skies and a sense of tranquillity and space.
This year, the Festival celebrates the centenary of one of East Lothian's most celebrated residents, Gian Carlo Menotti, who settled there in 1974, persuaded by the acoustics of Yester House in the village of Gifford, the ancestral home of the marquesses of Tweeddale. While there, the composer referred to himself as "Mr McNotti."
Among first time Lammermuir performers will be trumpeter Alison Balsom, the Scottish Ensemble, teenaged harpist Emily Hoile, violinist Jennifer Koh (playing Menotti's Violin Concerto) and stellar early music ensemble Stile Antico.
In addition to the music and the stunning landscapes, with the Lammermuir Hills on one side and spectacular cliffs and seascapes on the other, venues like St Andrew Blackadder Church, North Berwick and Poldrate Granary, Haddington are too good to resist.
All this, and that's not even to mention the Concorde hangar at the National Museum of Flight, where the National Theatre of Scotland will play Philip Glass's 1000 Airplanes on the Roof.