Olivier Bensa and Cécile Cardinot serve as artistic directors for the festival and always perform there, too.
We always like to post reports from guitar festivals and competitions when they come our way. This one is from a festival that took place over the summer, Le Temps des Guitares in the picturesque medieval village of Puy-l’Évêque in the Lot region of southern France. The text comes courtesy of one of the event’s organizers, Susan Harrison, and the photos are by Nadine Boffetti—BJ
In this fourth year of the International Guitar Festival of Puy-l’Évêque—we were hoping to improve on the attendance figures of previous years, of course. People kept asking if flamenco could be included in the festival, so this year we brought in a tablao flamenco—with Sandie and Juan Santiago, Blas and José Deleria—on the closing Saturday. They did not disappoint, either, despite the performances taking place in the church right above the amphitheater because of warnings of rain. The excitement was palpable, and the huge crowd did not want them to stop! Pedro Soler, with his son Gaspar Claus on the cello on the second evening, also mixed flamenco styles with other more modern works of their own.
Traditional Argentine guitar was also highlighted this year: Roberto Aussel, a great friend of Astor Piazzolla, is an acknowledged master, and in addition to playing Piazzolla, also treated us to works by Zamboni, Scarlatti, de Falla, and lovely folk pieces from Atahualpa Yupanqui. One man at the festival told us he traveled across France using two trains and a bus because he saw that Aussel was playing; but he loved all of it. Argentine music also enthralled the crowd through Duo Tierra del Fuego on Friday: Nora Buschmann and Agustín Luna played in duo and also each in solo; Piazzolla, of course, but also Barrios, Villa-Lobos, Baden Powell, and one of Augustín’s own compositions. Everyone agreed that he is, indeed, among the most talented guitarists in Argentina.
As a surprise addition, ten-year old Antonella Duperrin opened the “Soiree Argentine” playing a tango by Tárrega with amazing panache and musicality. Spotted by festival artistic directors (and annual players here) Olivier Bensa and Cécile Cardinot playing on the Petite Scene, and living in Puy l’Eveque, she was invited to be part of the Argentine evening, and no doubt we will be seeing her again! Also a delight, and just 17 years old was Cassie Martin, who played works by Weiss, Regondi, Alfonso, Legnani, with delicacy, great style, and composure.
But it was our own Bensa-Cardinot duo who opened the show, for their fans and newcomers. Playing Villa-Lobos and Pernambuco as well as some of Oliver’s own compositions, they demonstrated their great skills as instrumentalists. But it was with the Renaissance songs of John Dowland that allowed us to appreciate the unparalleled purity of Cécile’s voice, accompanied by Olivier’s delicate touch on the strings.
As always, the colorful arrangements of the Theatre de Verdure, the harmony with the wines of the four local vignerons, all set a lively and enjoyable ambience. The exhibition on flamenco, the demonstrations of guitar-making from Jean Verly, guitar lessons, and light duck meals on offer, all came together to create four wonderful evenings.
So did the attendance figures increase? Almost 1,500 people spread over the four nights would suggest “Yes, indeed!” But perhaps as important, local restaurants had pre-festival bookings, local hotels and chambres d’hotes reported people coming here specially for the festival, including some from Spain. Yes, little Puy-l’Évêque is now known in the world of the guitar as a place to be each summer, and artists are very happy to be invited to play here.
Preparations are already underway for the fifth festival, which will take place July 16–19 in 2020. We’re always trying to improve the festival experience and we hope to see some of you in France next year!