For almost 40 years, the International Piano Festival of La Roque d'Anthéron has established itself as an exceptional mainstay in the worldwide musical and piano scene.
Although other Festival venues have been added in recent years, the grounds of the Château de Florans remain the key site for unclassifiable encounters between all types of musical creation (classical, contemporary...), every style (jazz, electronic...) and all types of artists, with emerging talents alongside the greatest international performers.
The acoustic qualities of the stage, just as suitable for piano recitals as it is for concertos and symphonies, only add to the charms of this mythical and magical park, filled with the entire history of the Château de Florans.
It was between 1598 and 1667 that the "petit Château" and the "grand Château" were erected at the behest of the powerful Forbin family, principally by Annibal de Forbin Janson. In 1653, the La Roque title became a Marquisate. The Château remained in the Forbin family until 1818, when the buildings and grounds were sold to Louis Raphael of Cordoba, a descendent of whom had married the Marquis de Florans, from a family of the Comtat Venaissan. As a result, the Château de Forbin became the Château de Florans during the 19th century. The 20th century marked an important turning point in the destiny of the Château.
In 1937, Marquess Marie de Florans, last in line and sole survivor from the era, bequeathed the estate to the Archduchy of Aix-en-Provence. A decade later in 1948, Paul Onoratini rented and renovated the Château, rapidly transforming it into a medical and nutritional facility. He became the owner nine years later, thanks to his rigorous management and tireless work. In time, the Centre Médical Soleil et Repos would become the present Clinique du Château de Florans.
Taking great interest in local life, Paul Onoratini was elected mayor of the town of La Roque in 1959. In 1971, assisted by his son Bernard, a piano-obsessed interior architect, he launched "Musique à Silvacane", a series of seven annual concerts. Local cultural organisation the DRAC (Direction Régionale de l'Action Culturelle) soon put Paul Onoratini in touch with René Martin, whose ambition was to create a piano festival in or around Aix. His discovery of the Parc de Florans provided him with extraordinary possibilities. Paul Onoratini was equally enthusiastic about the project. The first Festival was held in 1981.
Bernard Onoratini, Paul Onoratini and René Martin:
At the heart of the grounds, surrounded by 365 plane trees and centuries-old sequoias, the festival transforms the clearing into an oasis where summer evenings are not to be missed for all music lovers.
From the very first Festival in 1981, featuring just one stage in the grounds of the Château de Florans, 9000 spectators came to enjoy 12 concerts featuring such distinguished performers as Youri Egorov, Vlado Perlemuter, Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman and more
From its second year, the Festival made significant operational investments to offer musicians the best working environment and audiences the best acoustic experience:
The Festival is the result of an exceptional evolution, based around the relationship of reciprocal trust between artistic director René Martin and the Onoratini family, Paul Onoratini died in January 2010. His son Jean-Pierre Onoratini took the reins as Festival President in 2007.
In 2014, Michel Onoratini took his place as President. He had acted as Deputy Vice-President throughout his brother's tenure. As the Festival expanded, the two brothers rose to the challenge together. At the end of 2016, Jean-Pierre Onoratini took over as President once more, this time accompanied by his sister Marie-Claude Alcaraz as Vice-President, who hadbeen working as part of the Management Committee for a number of years.
The scope of René Martin's activities is unquestionable. In addition to being artistic director for the Festival de La Roque, the Festival de la Grange de Meslay and the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud festival, he is also behind the Moments Musicaux de l'Hermitage-Barrière at La Baule and La Folle Journée in Nantes, Tokyo, Bilbao, Rio and Warsaw, among others.
Thanks to the successful collaboration between the Artistic Director and President, the Festival International de Piano de La Roque d'Anthéron has expanded while retaining the same spirit: simplicity of hosting artists and audiences, quality of concerts and facilities and the devotion of many volunteers at the heart of this event. The 76,500 tickets sold for the 2019 edition are testament to this extraordinary journey and help us to appreciate the brilliant pursuit of a magnificent human and artistic endeavour.