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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Salzburg Summer Festival; Gstaad; Les Arts Florissants

21 August, 2020 — By Michael White

Patricia Kopatchinskaja plays at Gstaad

NORTH London has its attractions. But if, like me, you’ve seen enough of them after six months of Covid and ache for something different – preferably with mountains, lakes and music festivals – the best way to get all that just now is online, travelling by mind.

And some of the best-located festivals have been busy with their websites to facilitate a virtual trip – posting not just old performances but new ones specially created for pandemic circumstances.

A good place to start is the Salzburg Summer Festival – traditionally one of Europe’s grandest, and showing far more guts than anything here in Britain by managing to hold a genuine 2020 season with live audiences at the same time as observing Covid rules.

This year marks the Festival’s centenary, so you can understand its determination to function. And not only has it been running opera, it’s been putting festival shows online with free access!

The programme is ongoing – it continues to the end of August – but as things stand you can watch Daniel Barenboim conduct his own West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Wagner, Beethoven and Boulez.

You can follow one of the most significant young pianists of today, Igor Levit, as he unfolds a must-hear Beethoven sonata cycle. Andris Nelsons conducts Mahler. The Blecea Quartet play Beethoven and Webern.

And there’s plenty more, showing the world how these things can be done in times of Covid.

To share the experience, visit, click on “Salzburg for Everyone”, and be envious.

ANOTHER European festival holding its nerve is at Gstaad, the chic ski-resort in the Swiss mountains that turns cultural during the summer when there’s no snow.

Yehudi Menuhin founded the Festival back in the 1950s. It’s flourished ever since.

And through the miracle of technology you can be there, because the 2020 season has gone digital, with everything accessible online and for free.

Much of the material is from past years, but there are brand new concerts too – including live-wire violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja playing Beethoven and Schoenberg in the exquisite little alpine church at Saanen which is one of the Festival’s regular venues.

Find it all at

FINALLY France, which you can’t visit at the moment without quarantine restrictions, so you might as well do it online – courtesy of some evocative material from the summer festival that William Christie and Les Arts Florissants hold during August in the gardens of Christie’s fabulous house in the Vendee.

Go to and you’ll be swept into hidden depths of the French countryside with immaculate performances of baroque music – some from past years but, again, some happening now in 2020.

And a highlight is that from August 22 there are live, late-night musical “meditations” streaming from the village church at Thire, which stands right beside Christie’s estate.

I’ve been to these events and found them utterly enchanting. Best experienced by candlelight and with a glass of local Merlot – which I daresay you can get at Sainsbury’s, Camden Town, so go for it.

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