Varna Summer International Music Festival - EFFE Laureate

Simon Mundy - 19 Jul 2019

Get more insight on Varna Summer International Music Festival Read Simon Mundy's interview with Artistic Director Mario Hossen.

For most people in Western Europe, Bulgaria is undiscovered country and, if they are aware of its Black Sea city of Varna at all, it is as holiday resort of crowded beaches. It is a surprise to find that its summer classical music festival runs all through the hot season and has been doing so since 1926, long before Salzburg and Edinburgh began their operations, started by the composers Pantcho Vladiguerov and Dobri Hristov.

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It has evolved through many names and formats since then, emerging as an international festival in 1968.

2019 sees 93 years since the foundation but with the international acclaimed violinist Mario Hossen's first as Artistic Director. For all that he has known the festival most of his professional life. 'I was only 17 when I first appeared in Varna Festival Hall, performing Paganini's Concerto No.1 with Varna Philharmonic Orchestra, and that was (he sighs) 27 years ago.'

With all its longevity, though, the festival and the city is still in the process of rediscovering its potential and Mario sees there is plenty still to do. 'We want to create a real atmosphere across the whole city, not just in the centre, to reach out and persuade all the people that we can to celebrate together. The festival needs to be much more visible all over the city.'

Varna is not short of good music venues. It has a Festival Hall seating 1100 and an open air theatre for 2200, as well as smaller halls at the university and in the roof space of the main Art Gallery. The cultural department of the City of Varna has contemporary music in the archaeological museum set among the ruins of the Roman buildings (Varna Gold Treasure is considered the oldest processed gold in the world dating back to 5000-4000 BC) and, he points out, 'the jazz is where it should be: in the jazz clubs but also on the beach.' The programme covers most genres from baroque to contemporary, though its core is in the mainstream, heavily influenced by the legacy that Vienna classical music tradition has left across Europe.

Mario insists that in his tenure as an international violin virtuoso there will be no artistic compromises and that he wants to broaden musical horizons. 'Even if some of the world established names are not so well known in Bulgaria, and the young bulgarian artists are still not enough famous abroad the level will be very high and we also want to be able to bring some of the world's great orchestras and ensembles to Bulgaria for the first time. Varna has been part of the European festival family for so many years. It is open to the ideas of sharing the message and we want to open Bulgaria to other Europeans. There is such a pulse in this city: such young energy.'

Note from the EFFE International Jury

Varna Summer International Music Festival gives artistic substance to Bulgaria's principal Black Sea resort. It engages audiences in international exchange and productions not only with well-known orchestras and ensembles but also new talents and a very fine choice of artists from the country and the region.

Varna Summer International Music Festival

24 Mar 2019 - 02 Dec 2019