Credit: Dominique Martinelli

This medieval village is close to Paris but far enough to shake off the city hum and feel like the true campagne. Once per year, it’s transformed into a veritable classical musical sanctuary and a seedbed of contemporary talent by one of the most prestigious musical events in France, the Festival d’Auvers-sur-Oise, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2015.

As is customary, the line-up of the festival’s ‘Opus 35’ edition features established luminaries and also embraces the discovery of young interpreters and composers. The programme resonates with such names as Hélène Grimaud, Maria-João Pires, Laurence Equilbey and Renaud Capuçon, and consists of over 20 concerts – opening with Handel’s Messiah under conductor Robert King, who’s celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest. The grand closing concert, meanwhile, will offer Beethoven’s sublime Missa Solemnis, his longest composition, under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi and choirmaster Gildas Pungier.

Auvers-sur-Oise holds a special place in art history and is linked to a number of celebrated artists, most intimately to Vincent Van Gogh, whose genius will be honoured during this year’s festival.

Vincent Van Gogh spent the final months of his life in the area, some 125 years ago, and is buried in the village – his brother Theo lies in a twin grave by his side. In Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent painted some 70 works in as many days, including one of his best-known masterpieces, L’Église d’Auvers-sur-Oise (1890), which can now be viewed at the Musée d’Orsay. He depicted the scene from a fork in the road that runs around both sides of the church, which has no visible entrance in his painting. This hints at a possible autobiographical meditation on the institution which had ended his chosen career as a young pastor.

A guided walk, ‘In the Footsteps of Van Gogh’, retraces his time in Auvers, going beyond the caricature of the tortured artist.

Variety, vivacity, curiosity and freedom are the themes of this festival, echoing the spirit of those who have found inspiration in this ‘village des artistes’.

Festival d’Auvers-sur-Oise, May 29 – July 9. Various venues, Auvers-sur-Oise, Île-de-France. Ticket price: €10-€90. Tel: +33 1 30 36 77 77

From France Today magazine

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