The summer nights at Fontainebleau are always cool and fresh. After the palace closes a day of exhibition, the town recovers from the bustling and crowded streets that one will see in daytime. Tourism brings vigor and vitality to this small town and at the nights these ancient buildings start to show the charm and history. Everything is quiet now, yet, if you listen carefully you may hear the sound of piano playing and a voice of an old lady. She speaks with great strength: “I go from here to there, and how do I get there?...” That is the voice of Nadia Boulanger in the documentary Mademoiselle teaching the Schumann Davidsbündlertänze. It is a Fontainebleau tradition to show the documentary of Nadia Boulanger to all the summer school’s students. Therefore, under the silent dark blue sky and with the presence of bright shining stars, I watched the documentary with other 30 fellow students while holding a glass of wine in my hand.
The next morning I went to the palace to practice. The moment I walked into Salle des Colonnes I felt that I had gone back 500 years in time, to the era when the room was built. I suddenly felt uncomfortable with my sneakers as they stepped on the floor and the rubber on the soles creaked. The piano sat on the other side of the room and I approached to it, but my attention was drawn to the magnificence of the surroundings. Being in such a beautiful environment, I was touched by my own playing in the next 3 hours of practice. Although it was rough practicing a new piece and I hit so many wrong notes, my senses were influenced by the beautiful surroundings and I found my wrong notes pleasant.
The place itself is a gift [...]
I could spend 10 more pages describing the beauty and the grandeur of the palace and its surroundings, but one has to touch every stone of the staircases, to open every wooden door of the palace, to see every statue and painting by his or her own eyes to experience them. The place itself is a gift and all the Fontainebleau students were so lucky to be able to spend precious time in it. But that is not even the best part of the school.
The real advantage of Fontainebleau school is the authentic teaching of French music that it provides. I remembered playing Ravel Jeux d’eau in La chapelle de la Trinité for one of the faculty, and he thought it was too romantic: “People often have a misunderstanding of French music, they think French music only focuses on the color, the atmosphere, the freedom in rhythm and sound, and everything else is not so important... But that is not true. We have our discipline and we take them very seriously. If you listen to the recordings of this piece made by French pianists, you will notice that they obey everything written in the score: phrasing, pedaling, dynamics, rhythms, etc. The essence of French music is built upon this kind of discipline, and it is our pride for our culture and nation.”
Pride, the word you will see, hear, and feel every day in France. Kings and nobles are proud of their palaces, architects are proud of the Eiffel Tower, artists are proud of the Louvre, and ordinary people are proud of their wine, food and elegant lifestyle. French people will never lose their pride, and here at Fontainebleau, musicians’ pride is well-preserved. There is no better place to learn French music than at Fontainebleau. Its long history, well-structured teaching faculty and unique environment are everything you can expect from summer festivals. And what adds to it is the incredibly high standard of the students. Every musician is brilliant, intelligent, and inspiring. I had one of the most amazing experiences of summer festivals at Fontainebleau last year.
Fontainebleau is a magical place. If you ever interested in the summer school, do not hesitate to apply, go and see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears: its art and music will make you reluctant to leave.