"From a young age, it was my dream to organize concerts," said Rene Martin, the founder and director of the La Roque d'Antheron Festival, the producer of 1,200 other concerts around the world each year and an internationally powerful and influential figure in the world of musical performance and recordings.
The hypnotic music was like a revelation to the young Martin
, then 16, who wanted to understand what he
heard and went to study at the conservatory for musical professions while also pursuing higher education in commerce and business administration.This combination helped him to achieve a dream and at age 22 he
first concert with renowned pianist Wilhelm Kempff.A year later he was organizing concerts for other celebrated pianists, such as Argentinian Martha Argerich and Russian Sviatoslav Richter, a legendary pianist whom he befriended and whose career he nurtured during the last decade of his life. After he was hired to organize the music scene near Aix-en-Provence, he met the mayor of La Roque d'Antheron and the idea for the festival began to germinate.
believes the piano recital is as viable a medium today as ever.
"Why did 20 percent more visitors than the previous year arrive each year?Classical music has the greatest potential for an audience," Martin
said."Anyone who hears Schubert's impromptu for piano once, regardless of who he
is, will be affected by it for life.The only problem is that not everyone has access to classical music and I want to solve that."
Martin's love of classical music and his
belief that every person in the world can listen to it and enjoy it has not let up.
"I was with my kids at a U2 rock concert and I thought 'Why don't so many people come to classic music performances?' I was sure that it's possible," Martin
was already running and succeeding, but I want to move forward, to inject new blood into the concerts and to introduce classical music to people who had never heard it."Bringing in a new audience is the shared dream of every orchestra, festival and impresario in the world, but no one has found the formula to achieve it.Martin
decided to crack this riddle.
"In 1995 I established a classical festival in my hometown, Nantes, and I decided on three conditions that I wouldn't deviate from: to uproot the traditional formality of the concerts and transform them into fun events, enjoyable for all and choose a venue that was pleasant convenient for all; to limit the length of concerts to 45 minutes, instead of two hours; and to reduce the cost of tickets to a minimum and all of this as a backdrop to the underlying condition, which is uncompromising, perfect, professional musical quality."The result is unbelievable: the Festival (known as La Folle Journee, or the mad day, is taken from the name of the district on which Mozart based the opera, "The Marriage of Figaro") attracts huge crowds, more than half of whom have never attended a classical concert in their lives.
"The success was such that I decided to export the festival to the world," said Martin
with a smile and lists his
international spread: "La Folle Journee" festivals in Lisbon; Bilbao, Spain; Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro."After Nantes, the festival simply wanders, every month, to a different city," he
explains.In every city, tens of
thousands of people attend.A look at the figures from the tenth anniversary of the festival in Nantes two years ago sparks astonishment: around 300 concerts for a fee (starting at five euros per ticket) and dozens of free concerts; thousands of performers at nine different venues over five days from morning until nighttime; 120,000 visitors, 60 percent of them new to classical music, who came to the city from all over France."It's like a bustling airport passenger terminal," said Iddo Bar-Shai
, 30, in a conversation at La Roque d'Antheron
, describing the Folle Journee festival he
participated in in Tokyo."Dozens of orchestras come and go; 1,000 performers, an audience that comes from vast distances and all in the spirit of Martin
, expressing a love of music and enjoyment of it."
Bar-Shai performed the night before at a recital of baroque music at the Granet Museum
in Aix-en-Provence.The recital followed a lecture beforehand on pictures from that period displayed there.Bar-Shai is a particular favorite of Martin's
and participates in all the festivals he
organizes and even merited a recommendation from him to the famous French artistic management agency, following which his
international career has taken off.
A tractor that appears among the trees in the park tows a long platform behind it.It is reminiscent of the kibbutz paths, perhaps Kfar Blum, where the Israeli version of the La Roque festival
takes place.A large Steinway grand piano sits atop it and Martin waits for the tractor engine to die before he
continues to explain how to produce a Folle Journee festival in cities around the world.
"I'm like an architect; planning, drafting the schedule, arriving at the venue with a small team and guiding the local producers on how to realize the sketches, how to build them on the ground," Martin
The question about holding a festival in Israel is inevitable and Martin
shows great willingness but won't make any commitments.To Martin
, the piano festival is not enough.He
also organizes a series of liturgical concerts, a chamber festival and numerous other concerts.
"They say it's an era of crisis for classical music and in order to save it we have to change our way of thinking in a fundamental way," he