The Riga Jurmala Music Festival, an international classical music festival whose opening concerts are set to take place on the weekend of July 16 to 18, has announced that music students from all three Baltic states will have the opportunity to attend in-person masterclasses with guest artists performing at the festival this summer. The first masterclasses will take place already on July 17 at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music with the distinguished Hungarian pianist Sir András Schiff. Three young pianists will take part in the masterclasses: Kasparas Mikužis (Lithuania), Pāvels Laganovskis (Latvia) and Tähe-Lee Liiv (Estonia).

Pianist András Schiff is known for the special commitment he has made to supporting young talent, mainly by offering promising musicians the opportunity to perform in his Building Bridges concert series. Schiff is also a lecturer at the Barenboim-Said Academy and the Kronberg Academy, regularly giving lectures and masterclasses. On July 18, as part of the Riga Jurmala Music Festival, he will perform Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54, at Dzintari Concert Hall with the Mariss Jansons Festival Orchestra.

“The festival’s artistic and management team decided last spring to organise masterclasses for young musicians from the Baltic states and elsewhere around the world. Contributing to the education of young musicians is one of the festival’s goals – to leave a lasting mark. These events will give musicians the opportunity to meet, get to know and learn from some of the world’s finest performers of classical music,” says Zane Čulkstēna, the executive director of the Riga Jurmala Music Festival. “Seeing how successful the collaboration was with the artists who performed in the festival’s first season and how open they were to a variety of initiatives, including holding masterclasses during the festival, masterclasses for young musicians have now become an integral part of the festival in its second season.”

The famous French violinist Renaud Capuçon will hold masterclasses on August 6, pianist Yefim Bronfman on August 28 and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes on September 3.

At the onset of the pandemic, the bold decision was taken to hold masterclasses online. Although in the present situation that might seem normal, in the world of classical music it was nevertheless looked upon as a daring move. However, the Facebook platform allowed others to observe the masterclasses as well. In order for the classes to run smoothly, priority was given to their technical execution and sound quality. Almost all of the students commented that, although nothing can take the place of in-person classes, the format guaranteed the undivided attention of the teacher, and therefore the feeling was similar enough to an in-person masterclass.

“This educational programme is organised in collaboration with the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music and lets students learn from the best piano, string and wind instrument players, conductors and singers in the world. But also from orchestra musicians who have been invited to perform or have already performed at the Riga Jurmala Music Festival,” says Toms Ostrovskis, an associate professor in the piano department at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music and the director of the Riga Jurmala Academy. “We are pleased that these masterclasses have caught the attention of professionals as well as the press. But the main thing is that they let students learn from the very finest musicians, establish international contacts and promote the exchange of culture and best practices.”

From May 2020 until the present moment, more than ninety individual masterclasses have taken place with twenty-eight artists, including French violinist Renaud Capuçon, baritone Benjamin Appel, cellist Mischa Maisky, classical guitar virtuoso Miloš, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, soprano Olga Peretyatko, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, the celebrated pianist Yefim Bronfman and others. Masterclasses have also been led by orchestra musicians from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This year alone, the online masterclasses have reached almost one hundred thousand viewers.

This summer during the Riga Jurmala Music Festival, masterclasses will take place in person. Recordings of them will be available after the festival. Online masterclasses will resume in September.