Peter Greenaway's film "The Draughtsman's Contract" was my introduction to this most original of British directors. The late seventeenth-century civility of an English country house hid a secret, one that was slowly revealed by the landscape drawings of a young artist. The film is a murder-mystery masterpiece in a Baroque style, and it was the Baroque, in the form of Michael Nyman's score, that added to the film's overall weirdness.
Greenaway and Nyman have collaborated on several occasions since. Nyman has become one of the great names in the world of film music. He is to be the headline act at this year's Pollensa festival.
I went to the presentation of this year's festival programme with a sense of foreboding. It had already been announced that the festival would be broader in its scope in becoming more of an arts festival than purely a music festival, but the music is what the Pollensa festival has always been about, and the immediate pre-presentation information had suggested that there had been a fair cut to it.
Purely by chance, I opened the programme brochure at the page devoted to Nyman. Blimey, Michael Nyman. That's a coup, I thought. And it is a coup, but on closer examination it became clear that Nyman was a rare highlight in a festival programme which bears little resemblance to the diversity that has been evident at recent editions of the festival.
To be charitable, and one should be charitable, artistic director Joan Valent, working under considerable constraints, has created some musical themes within themes. Along with Nyman's Baroque and minimalist style, there will be other Baroque works. But in truth, this is a festival for austere times, there is no getting away from the fact. The number of concerts is down to ten, and five of these are by Josep Vicent's World Orchestra, or components thereof. This essentially youthful orchestra has a highly credible name, there's no questioning that, but for it to be responsible for half of the concerts is an indication of how the programme has had to be put together this year.
At the presentation, Pollensa's mayor Tomeu Cifre referred to the many difficulties that have surrounded the staging of this year's festival. There is bound to be criticism of the programme, but critics should take the charitable view. There isn't the funding available, and everyone knew there wouldn't be, while Pollensa town hall were left in the financial lurch last year when the Balearic Government's tourism ministry did not come up with the aid that it had promised.
It is very noticeable that the government's involvement this year does not come from the tourism ministry. It comes from the culture ministry, and it is about time that it did. I have questioned previously the tourism aspect of the festival, as I am far from convinced that it has ever generated a significant amount from what has always been a cultural event, primarily for Mallorca's residents. At least the festival now resides in the correct government ministry.
Mayor Cifre also referred to tourism in connection with the festival, but a look at the entire programme, which includes sessions on music in the cinema and the crime novel as well as an exhibition of plastic-art sculpture, gives the game away. It has very little for the tourist. The only other international name that many might have heard of (and I'm assuming that many might even have heard of Nyman) is Ludovic Bource, who won an Oscar for his score for "The Artist". Bource will be having a piano conversation with Nyman and Valent's pianos in a special presentation on music in the cinema. It is to take place at the Hotel Formentor, which exposes something of an elitist quality to the whole programme and not one for the general tourist hoi-polloi.
The most charitable view of this year's programme is that it was essential the festival went ahead, even if it faced mayor Cifre's many difficulties. The festival is part of Mallorca's cultural scene, and were it to stop for even one year, it might not come back. But one does have to ask just how valued the festival is. Camper have come on board as a sponsor, Colonya Bank is there, as Colonya often is, as are Barceló, through the Hotel Formentor, and the Son Brull Hotel, but when the festival's financial difficulties and therefore future became evident last year, I wondered whether private sponsorship would come to the festival's rescue. Up to a point it has, but it needs more. And you need only look at the music programme for this year to know that it does.
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