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croisière musicale avec le violoniste Renaud Capuçon

Renaud Capuçon: a violinist at sea

All the beauty and poetry of a world without end

After his first cruise aboard the Lyrial in September 2022, Renaud Capuçon will set sail once more in December 2024 to celebrate Christmas aboard the advanced polar exploration ship Le Commandant Charcot during an unprecedented trip to the Far North in mid-winter. It will be an opportunity for the famous French violinist to live out his unquenchable desire to learn and travel the world in search of new musical territories.

A musician’s destiny

In life, some doors are more important to open than others. When, a four-year-old Renaud Capuçon opened the door to the conservatory in Chambéry, his hometown, with his parents, he couldn’t yet imagine how much it would change his life. “I’d advise him to choose the violin; he has a good ear”, the teacher in charge of children’s music education said that day. And that was it. “I didn’t have a revelation; listening to a disc didn’t make me cry. Ultimately, it was something very organic and simple that changed my destiny.” But one thing is certain: “Music would have been part of my life in one way or another.” Renaud Capuçon is now one of the most sought-after solo violinists on the international scene.

croisière musicale avec le violoniste Renaud Capuçon

Before becoming a big name, he practised his scales at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, where he began studying at the age of 14. He won numerous awards and made important connections during his five years there, including with Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini, whose leadership he followed from age 15 as part of the European Union Youth Orchestra. “There was something very spiritual about him,” recalls Renaud Capuçon. He then moved to Berlin, where he refined his bowing alongside Thomas Brandis and Isaac Stern before becoming, at age 21, the concertmaster of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester under the prestigious baton of conductor Claudio Abbado. Finally, he played with Martha Argerich, “a prodigious pianist”. These precious connections shaped Capuçon’s art as an artist as much as his philosophy as a man.

Sharing passion

“There is nothing better than seeing young musicians develop their art and settle into it. I learned from my elders and want to pass on what I’ve learnt. It’s a wonderful cycle.” Working for hours and hours to indulge a selfish pleasure makes no sense to him. He plays to give. To fully experience the shared moments of an encounter or a concert. In front of his students at the Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne, where he has been teaching since 2014. Through the three festivals he directs: the Rencontres Musicales d’Evian, the Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad and the Festival de Pâques d’Aix-en-Provence, which he created in 2013. Or with the baton of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, which he has been conducting for four years now. “I could use twelve-day weeks!”, says the hyperactive virtuoso with enthusiasm.

Boarding a boat means agreeing to let go, which is probably one of the most difficult things for a classical musician to do.  However, letting go is incredibly inspiring.

You have to be able to cast off!

Renaud Capuçon

croisière musicale avec le violoniste Renaud Capuçon

Experience or the art of permanent doubt

Although the passion of his twenties has mellowed, his experience makes it all the more intense. “The day I tell you I have finished learning”, warns Renaud Capuçon, “is the day I need to think about putting my violin away and changing professions.” He is deeply convinced that there is always something more to learn!” He could put the same Brahms or Schubert score on his stand 200 times but would offer a different interpretation every time. “All this matures and evolves over time. Like a fine wine.” Of course, “I have much more maturity and experience than when I was 20 years old, but the older I get, the less things seem fixed”. Renaud Capuçon draws his freedom from his doubts, seeing certainty as the sign of an impoverished artist at the end of the road. “I’m proud that I am increasingly doubtful. Doubting means being free. It makes me stronger.”

“Music is a world without end…”

… that Renaud Capuçon never tires of exploring. “I’m 47 years old. I’ve been travelling for 20 years”: 20 years of wandering around the world. 20 years of musical exploration with his violin, a Guarneri del Gesù, two centuries older than him, dating back to 1737! 20 years in search of the absolute. The ideal sound. He knows and readily accepts it is a lost cause. “Looking for your sound is looking for yourself. But you never really find yourself completely. You find yourself; you lose yourself, and then you find yourself again… All of this is very subjective, of course, but this is how I perceive my life as an artist”, he says. And so in 2022, when he set sail with PONANT on board the Lyrial for a musical cruise, Renaud Capuçon and his violin set off in this “world without end” to discover new lands, driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. It offered him a new opportunity to stoke the creative doubt that is such a key driver for him.

croisière musicale avec le violoniste Renaud Capuçon

The benefits of letting go

This musical cruise was a huge challenge for this man from the mountains with untested sea legs. But Renaud Capuçon’s fears were quickly swept away. “I immediately felt comfortable and safe. The French chic spirit on board was a delicate combination of comfort and refinement.” And ultimately, “it was a unique experience. At sea, you disconnect from what’s superfluous to better reconnect with nature. To what matters.” Everything becomes a source of contemplation and inspiration. A magnificent landscape, a light, a colour, a reflection, a fragrance… “Passengers and artists are all uplifted together in the face of the beauty of the elements surrounding us.” Renaud Capuçon learned to receive and appreciate this incredible sensory experience to make it even better, sharing some of his favourite music inspired by the ship’s passage with passengers. Like a “journey within a journey”…

December 2024: Renaud Capuçon makes Christmas on board even more magical

In partnership with RADIO CLASSIQUE, Alain Duault and Renaud Capuçon will set sail aboard Le Commandant Charcot for a magical Christmas cruise: heading to the Far North for a journey set to the rhythm of several unforgettable concerts. They will be accompanied by an exceptional musical line-up: Guillaume Bellom (Piano), Guillaume Chilemme (Violin), Adrien La Marca (Viola) and Edgar Moreau (Cello). Full steam ahead for new emotions and inspirations: departure planned from Helsinki, in Finland, the homeland of one Jean Sibelius… Who knows? The composer from the Far North could well be one of the inspiring figures of this new musical adventure. Also on the agenda during this cruise: 2 lectures by Laurence Ferrari.

Photos credits :  © StudioPONANT-Adrien MORLENT / Thibault Garnierb ; © Simon Fowler

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