The San Sebastian Musical Fortnight
It has the honor of being the first classical music festival organized in Spain, and one of the oldest in Europe.
Browsing the programme we will notice that this event includes ballets, Operas, numerous orchestras and groups of modern and ancient music, choirs, courses, storytelling and even opportunities to discover the surroundings with excursions and, of course, elite dinners…
How was it born?
This great initiative was born at the end of the civil war in 1939, thanks to the owners and merchants of San Sebastian, who wanted to animate the city in the summer. 14 years later, due to these same merchants the famous San Sebastian International Film Festival was born, but that’s another story.
The ‘Gran Kursaal’
The first edition of the ‘Musical Month’ was held in the ‘Gran Kursaal’ building and lasted three weeks (look how nice it was in this photo). This building had been since its construction in 1921 symbol of the cosmopolitan and relaxed Belle Epoque.
Kursaal is a word of German origin: Kur (cure) and Saal (hall), i.e., Cure Hall or spa. In order to heal themselves at that time, they needed everything that this building housed: a gambling casino, a restaurant, movie theaters, several complementary rooms, and a theater… with a capacity for 859 spectators!
Under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera gambling was avoided in Spain in the third year of life of the building, until 1978, so the ‘Gran Kursaal’ had to be dedicated to other activities. A good example of it is that shortly before its demolition in 1972 was held there the International Congress of Witchcraft.
The ‘Musical Month’
The main participants of this first edition of the festival were the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, the San Sebastian Municipal Conservatory, the Choir of Donostia, Pamplona and Bilbao, the Grand Casino orchestras and some European artists, who had been sheltered in the Theater Victoria Eugenia after World War I… Do not forget that just that year began the Second one…
The Press praised the initiative, although there were many problems because of the war. The most emotional moment of the festival was led by a group of musicians, who acted in front of the tomb of Enrique Fernández Arbós, the orchestra conductor who died two months earlier.
The following editions were held at the Victoria Eugenia Theater and lasted two weeks, more consistently with the festival name. Thanks to the reception of the public, the Musical Fortnight has gradually extended its duration, and since a few years it is held throughout the month of August.
Challenges for the future
This new edition of the festival seeks to bring classical music closer to the public, including those who do not know yet that they like classical music.
Thanks to discounts for young people, friendly talks and playful and educational events, the organizers want to make the festival appealing for the attendees, regardless of whether the building that hosts it is emblematic, or that the epoque is belle… the essence of the festival is simply to enjoy music in summer.