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08 December 2016

As Emilie Capulet prepares to lead an ACE tour in April 2017 to Aix-en-Provence for its famous music festival, Festival de Pâques, she muses on her first memories of the region where she spent many years studying.

 Musings on Aix-en-Provence

As Emilie Capulet prepares to lead an ACE tour in April 2017 to Aix-en-Provence for its famous music festival, Festival de Pâques, she muses on her first memories of the region where she spent many years studying.

A REGION STEEPED IN HISTORY

Aix-en-Provence has always had a very special place in my heart. My family lived in the Provencal countryside, just outside a small village some 20 kms away, at the foot of the monumental Sainte Victoire Mountain so often painted by Cézanne (as illustrated above). Only a few years ago, in the vineyards below our house, a forgotten medieval cemetery was discovered. Nearby the rounded walls of the baths of a Gallo-Roman farm were uncovered. Further underground are undoubtedly the remains of the numerous dinosaurs which roamed the lands.

THE HOTEL DE CAUMONT AND QUARTIER MAZARIN

One of my first memories of Aix-en-Provence is when I entered the magnificent Hotel de Caumont which then housed the Music Conservatoire, to audition for a place as a piano student. The Hotel de Caumont was built in the very early 18th century and had retained much of the original layout, including the monumental staircase and the little winding back stairs for the servants. Neglected for quite a few years, it was rather crumbling at the time but was recently restored to its full and authentic splendour. My piano lessons took place in what had been the historic salons and lush bedrooms of the aristocracy. Darius Milhaud’s piano stood proudly in what had been the ‘music room’. We gave concerts in Robert de Cotte’s classical Jardins à la Française. Situated in the aristocratic Mazarin Quarter, designed by the Archbishop Michel Mazarin, brother of the Cardinal, on a classical grid plan, the Hotel de Caumont was just a stones’ throw away from my secondary school, the College Mignet, where I spent four years. Mignet has a long history, dating back to the first purchase of the ‘Gardens of the King’ and the two adjacent convents in 1583, in order to create a Collège Royal in 1603 on order of Henry IV. Many well-known figures have studied there, including Paul Cézanne and Emile Zola. Others frequented the schools as tutors, such as Darius Milhaud and Marcel Pagnol.

THE GRAND THÉÂTRE DE PROVENCE

I find it fascinating that underneath what is now one of the most prestigious concert halls of the south of France, the Grand Théâtre de Provence, opened in 2007, were found several quasi intact dinosaur nests, now re-homed in the Natural History Museum. The Grand Theatre has exceptional acoustics which will complement the orchestras and soloists you will be hearing in the concerts of the Festival de Pâques. 

Emilie returns to Aix-en-Provence later in December, and will post some photos and more memories to entice you to join her in April:

Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence, April 10-14, 2017; £1925 

 
 
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