Swiss ambassador to Bulgaria upbeat on Allegra Festival

A lover of classical music, Switzerland’s ambassador to Bulgaria Raymund Furrer speaks with smiling enthusiasm about this year’s 10th Allegra Festival and Academy, of which the embassy is once again the patron.

For Furrer, the Allegra Festival – which saw its beginnings in Rousse before transferring to Bulgaria’s capital Sofia – is a project “which has an underlying philosophy of bringing talented musicians together and doing something creative, a very laudable, very noble initiative”.

Asked how long it took for the embassy to decide whether to continue its patronage of the festival, he says that any such decision has two aspects – the functional and the emotional.

“The emotional one was very easy – it is so likeable, the collaboration between Bulgaria and Switzerland, the interplay, the engagement of youth – it was a no-brainer,” he tells The Sofia Globe in an interview.

The 2024 festival programme includes many composers from Furrer’s personal top 10 favourites list.

This year’s characteristically rich programme includes Strauss, Mozart, Dvořák, Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler, Korngold, Gadé, Bruch, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Glazunov, Mendelssohn, Vladigerov (notably, born in Zurich) and Beethoven.

He applauds the festival’s approach of a mixture of works by composers, those well-known to audiences and those perhaps less well-known: “I like to exposed to something I don’t necessarily know”.

So too, there is a “lightness” to the programme, appropriate for these summer days. Allegro, after all, does mean that music is to be played in lively fashion, cheerfully, upbeat and brisk.

Furrer speaks with enthusiasm of Petar Naydenov, the Bulgarian double bass player who is currently a soloist with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and teaches at Zurich University of the Arts, and who is the founder and artistic director of the Allegra Festival and Academy.

Furrer has a great appreciation for Bulgarians such as Naydenov who have achieved great success abroad and come back to the country and give something back, saying that Naydenov does so with “a lot of passion, against obstacles, year after year – it is not something that is easily done”.

The Swiss ambassador definitely will be in the audience for the first and fourth concerts and will, depending on his diary, do his best to attend the two others: “I want to take advantage as much as I can,” he says, smiling.

No less important is that this year’s ticket prices are again affordable, which Furrer describes as democratic, that attendance is by no means confined to the well-heeled. A further aspect of the Allegra concerts is that among the audience, many are from the young generation.

Furrer underlines that as seen from abroad, Bulgaria is anything but a cultural desert, and attracts top-level performers from abroad to come here.

The Allegra Festival is but one of several cultural initiatives supported by Switzerland. The numerous others include literature projects, artists in residence in Bulgaria and Switzerland, translation and provision of subtitles for Swiss films and this September’s World Festival of Animated Film, to be held in Varna.

For Furrer, his hope is that year’s Allegra Festival will again be a success and, after all, he says: “Success breeds success”.

Tickets for the Allegra Festival, being held at the Central Military Club in Sofia from July 12 to 20, are now available at:

For more information, follow the official website of the festival and its social networks on Facebook and Instagram.

The Allegra Festival and Academy is made possible with the financial support of Ministry of Culture, Sofia Municipality, the Italian Cultural Institute, is under the patronage of the Embassy of Switzerland, and in partnership with the Lyubomir Pipkov National Music School.

Related: Bulgaria: Tradition and talent to captivate in Allegra Festival and Academy 10th anniversary edition

The Sofia Globe is an official media partner of the 2024 Allegra Festival and Academy.

The Sofia Globe staff

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