Skip to content

In Switzerland, the Menuhin festival orchestrates its ecological transition

This is an increasingly central concern in the world of culture: how to fight against global warming and its effects? Many festivals take the issue very seriously, such as the Gstaad Menuhin Festival in Switzerland. The 66th edition is taking place right now, until September 3, and with more than 60 classical concerts and thousands of trips, the carbon footprint is bound to be significant. The Menuhin festival is therefore in the process of measuring it, with the help of the Swiss foundation Myclimate, et is working on concrete measures. France Musique went there.

Put an end to charter flights

Put an end to long plane journeys, which are practical for symphonic bands, but which release tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. It is on the movement of musicians that the Menuhin festival wishes to act in priority. “A very precise and very concrete change is, for example, to invite next year only symphony orchestras who travel by train”explains Christoph Müller, the artistic director. “We can also work more with artists who don’t live very far away, who come from Switzerland or Central Europe. In particular, charter flights should be avoided.” Not to mention the movements of the artists once on site: “that the transfers from their hotel to the place of the concert be done by electric car, or by train.”

It is also up to the musicians to take their responsibilities. “We’re all in this together and sinking, right now. To prevent this, or at least die with dignity, we need, as artists, and as human beings, to express our worry”warns violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, named ambassador of the theme by the festival: “Music has always had the power to touch people’s hearts. I hope to touch their brains as well.” An initiative that is all the more significant in that it is in line with the philosophy of the founder of the festival. “The right of people to peace, to clean air and water, to grasslands and forests, and to wholesome food, is enshrined in the constitutions of all states,” underlined Yehudi Menuhin, who left us 23 years ago now.

The bust of Yehudi Menuhin, in the center of the village of Saanen
The bust of Yehudi Menuhin, in the center of the village of Saanen

© Radio France
– Louis-Valentin Lopez

Sol Gabetta abounds, she who pays attention to her journeys. “I try to organize my schedule much better. If I go to the United States, don’t just stay three days. 20 years ago it was a bit like that, sometimes I would just go to Japan for two days. or in Korea, remembers the cellist with an international career: “Once you’re older, have traveled a lot and seen the world, and have a child, like I have, those are things we think about a lot.”

Changing viewer habits

There is also the question of public travel. Among the tracks: advance the time of the concerts, so that the spectators can take the last train and leave their car in the garage. That all the participants of the festival, too, consume locally, instead of importing products from the other side of the world. Because here, in the canton of Bern, the effects of global warming are very tangible. Anita Roth-Reuteler, guide and native of Gstaad, looks up and observes, worried, the summits, at 3000 meters above sea level: “Everything was white in the summer, we saw the snow, the glaciers. Now, as the ice is melting, it’s turned a little grey, like a desert. It’s scary.”

The glaciers at the bottom of the valley are threatened by climate change
The glaciers at the bottom of the valley are threatened by climate change

© Radio France
– Louis-Valentin Lopez

The initiative of the Menuhin festival is therefore welcome, she welcomes. “We want to change our behavior, to show, as an organization, that a music festival can reach out to the audience and the artists to become more responsible”, insists Christoph Müller the artistic director. Once the carbon footprint has been measured, it will have to be limited, but also offset. It is the planting of trees that will probably be retained, the management tells us. Ambitious objective: to achieve carbon neutrality from 2023. The results of the study on the carbon footprint of the festival, in partnership with Myclimatewill be known at the end of August.

Find all the programming of the Gstaad Menuhin Festivalwhich this year puts Beethoven in the spotlight, by clicking here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.