The Artie’s are back

It has been ten years since cellist Gauthier Herrmann, artistic director of the Artie’s festival India, has been coming to the NCPA with his chamber ensemble. A biannual fixture on the NCPA calendar, he talks to ON Stage about the tenth anniversary.

“Ten years, 20 editions, more than 50 different musicians, more than 150 musical works – and still so much music to be played and discovered”

ON Stage: You’re coming to India for the 20th edition of Artie’s. When you began in 2008, did you think this would last a decade?

Gauthier Herrmann: First of all, I really want to say that no part of this major adventure would have been possible without the support of the NCPA and its team. What we have created together is a very special project, and the greatest part of it is that it is (and has been for many years) awaited as much by the audience as by the musicians. A decade is a long time, but we are already looking forward to and planning the next decade. Ten years, 20 editions, more than 50 different musicians, more than 150 musical works – and still so much music to be played and discovered. Music is an endless story and we are very happy and proud to tell it in India.

The discovery of India as a 20-year-old has been one of the most important events of my life, and it has driven me to pursue chamber music as well as an entrepreneurial career. I can say it now, at age 36 – India has made me the man I am. In this special edition, my two daughters (Indiya and Augustine) and even my parents will be joining us for the festival. This will be their first trip to India. It’s very exciting to be able to give them the opportunity to discover my beloved and precious country. They gave me so much in my childhood; it’s a great feeling to be able to give them something back.


OS: What can you tell us about Bruckner’s 7th symphony that you will be performing at the NCPA?

GH: The Bruckner’s 7th is something very unique to us. We created the ACO (Artie’s Chamber Orchestra) especially to play this kind of programme. In between the two World Wars, Arnold Schoenberg and a few of his students started to work on reducing major works from requiring big symphony orchestras to being possible with just ten to fifteen musicians.

When Pierre Fouchenneret, Konzertmeister of the ACO, came up with the idea of the Bruckner 7th, I was not really enthusiastic, but he always knows how to convince me. I came with the project to Mr. Khushroo N. Suntook and his team. To be honest, nobody believed that it was possible or even interesting to play it with only nine members, but it was a big hit. We practised the score like crazy, and we spent hours and hours deeply involved with the music. The big issue was to understand that we should not expect the same result with ten musicians than what we did with 90. It was a completely new reading of the work, sounds, tempo, balance; it was interesting for us onstage and for the audience as well.

When we thought a bit about what should be part of the programme of the 20th edition, Khushroo suggested immediately that we play the Bruckner again. One of the members of the ACO, the horn player, wanted to rework the arrangement. He added five musicians, including a trumpet and a trombone. The result is fantastic. I am sure you will enjoy it.


OS: Which is the one piece you’re truly looking forward to performing at these concerts, and why?

GH: All of them, but I have a little crush on the Kakadu Variations by Beethoven that’s being performed on 21st November and, of course, the Brahms Variations on the 22nd. Both are being played for the first time with Artie’s in Mumbai.


OS: What can you tell us about the rest of the programme you will be performing?

GH: Beethoven’s wind and piano quintet is a major work in the winds’ repertoire. Not often played and a very clever use of the instrument by my favourite master: Beethoven. I think there is no need to explain the Schubert Octet. This was a special request from Khushroo. It is quite long but so varied. It’s like a book – you just have to let go and travel with the flow.


OS: What can you tell us about the team of musicians you’ve assembled for these concerts?

GH: As usual, we are bringing musicians that have been a part of Artie’s for many years (Pierre Fouchenneret, Mathilde Borsarello Herrmann and Jean Michel Dayez, for example) as well as new musicians. Fourteen of us will be onstage, all from many different worlds of music. Soloists, teachers, chamber musicians and members of the most important French orchestras such as Orchestre National de France and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. I think that Artie’s has been very successful in India for many reasons – the first one being the high quality of our players and the great energy of our performances. But, one of our main strengths is that we always play new repertoire and bring in new musicians. It’s important to bring in new faces, new personalities and new talents.


Artie’s Festival November 2017 will take place on 21st & 22nd November.

This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the November 2017 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.