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The Mandolin in France : with Vincent Beer-Demander

 

Vincent Beer-Demander (born in 1982) has won many awards from prestigious Conservatoires in France and Italy. He is the only mandolin player who has been granted the grade of as concert  performer at by the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and has won several international competitions, among which Giacomo Sartori (2004), Raffaele Calace (2008) and Jose Fernandez Rojas (2009).
He has played in many countries with such renowned musicians as Richard Galliano, Vladimir Cosma, Mike Marshall, Roland Dyens, Didier Lockwood, Philip Caterine, Claude Barthélémy, Roberto Alagna, Thomas Leleu, François Rossé, Nana Mouskouri, Féloche, Agnès Jaoui…

Vladimir Cosma, Claude Bolling , Francis Lai , Jean Claude Petit, Richard Galliano, Hamilton de Holanda,Mike Marshall, François Rossé, Félix Ibbarondo, have dedicated their mandolin concertos to him.

As a soloist as well as in chamber music groups, Markeas, Moultaka, Bon, Bosseur, Hadad, Solano, Martin, Pattar, Marty, Charpy, Rolin, Festou, Vella, Eychenne, Houdy, Crousier, Nascimento, Ogawa, Ourkouzounov, Hue, Iacono, Nicolau, Paliotti, Grivel, Oger, Carrenio, Tarroncher, Houdy, Peyrebelle, Tognan, Bensa, Arrue, Della Vecchia, Vial, Besingrand, Bakas, Parwez, Bohn, Branch, Giles, Gomes, Mollerskov, Olano, Tonawanda, Kan-no, Yip, Laval, Kassap, Brizmur, Feldhandler, Mazmanian, Sassier…
He is a regular collaborator of L'Orchestre National de France, l'Orchestre National de France, Minsk Philharmonic, l'Orchestre National de Lyon, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, L’Orchestre National de Toulouse, The Israel  Chamber Orchestra Ramatgan, l'Orchestre National de Montpellier, Bucuresti Orchestra Sinfonica,  l'Orchestre National de Nice, l’Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie,  l’Orchestre du CNSM de Paris, l'Orchestre Philarmonique de Marseille, l’Opéra de Toulon Provence Méditérranée., l'Opéra National de Paris – Bastille, Romania National Orchestra,  l’Ensemble Cbarré, l’Ensemble TM+, Proxima Centauri…

As a professor at the National Conservatory of Marseille in France, the Royal Conservatory of Liège in Belgium, he is regularly called upon to give master-classes either alone or in collaboration with such well-known musicians as Pierre Henry Xuereb, Philippe Muller, Patrick Gallois, Emmanuelle Bertrand, Dejan Bogdavovic, Hélène Dautry, Fabrice Pierre, Yehuda Hanany, Christophe Giovaninetti, Denis Pascal …

As a composer, he has produced a vast array of pieces which have been published by the Oz musical library (Canada), MundoPlectro (Spain), Trekel (Germany) & Hody (France).
His considerable number of records evidence the variety of his musical achievements.

« … His creations reflect his musical versatility and virtuosity. Through a rich repertoire and a renewed vision of the mandolin, it helps to highlight this remarkable instrument. "
François Hollande, Président of the French Republic 2017

"... The greatest mandolin player of the world, this is Vincent Beer-Demander! "
Vladimir Cosma, composer 2016

Vincent-Beer-Demander-(c)Raphael-Arnaud-
 

How did you meet the mandolin?

My meeting with mandolin was done in Toulouse. I started playing music at age 8 at the Mandolin School of Toulouse and my first teacher was Francis Morello. My parents were not very rich and they were very worried about my « fire » character so they enrolled me in this popular mandolin school to calm me down! It almost did not work! Toulouse is the oldest French plectrum orchestra still in activity. I am proud to have played there for many years.

How is your activity organized around the mandolin?

Today I share my time between teaching (Conservatories of Marseille and Liège), composition and concerts.
These 3 activities are very important for me and they are complementary.
Transmission is necessary if we want the mandolin to evolve and the musical creation need to be at the center of our concerns because we must create the musical repertoire of tomorrow by composing and playing the music of the composers of today .

Can you tell us about the history of the mandolin in your country?

France has always been a great country for the mandolin.
The Mandore is the ancestor of the mandolin and it was played by the King of France in the 17th century! Then the greatest Italian mandolinists of the eighteenth century like Leone or Gervasio came to perform in France and a lot of music was published in Paris during this period.
At the end of the 19th century there was again a great interest for the mandolin and a lot of plectrum orchestra was created in France. Marseille was then the capital of Mandolin with thousands of mandolinists and even the only mandolin class in the Conservatory. It is Laurent Fantauzzi who taught there and who composed a lot, edited and played until his death in 1941.
The mandolin has never disappeared in France because artists like Maria Scivittaro, André Saint Clivier, Sylvain D’Agosto, Christian Schneider or Mario Monti have maintained with passion and courage the practice of this mediterranean instrument.

How has the mandolin and its repertoire evolved in your country?

In France, the musical repertoire played by the mandolinists is linked to the history of the instrument. Indeed, as early as the 18th century, many Italian mandolinists came to France to play, compose and edit their music.
So we have many methods, sonatas, concertos that have been preserved at the National Library of France such as the sonatas of Michel Corrette, Pierre Denis or Jean Fouchetti and all these music constitute a large part of the Baroque repertoire played by French mandolinists.
Throughout the twentieth century, there have been in France music magazines specializing in mandolin such as Estudiantina, Plectre, Méditator ... that proposed partitions. All this repertoire is still played by the 90 French plectrum orchestras  and some pieces of Fantauzzi, Macciochi or Dagosto still appear in the imposed works of the competitions organized by the musical confederation of France.
But the current French classical mandolinists also play the universal repertoire as: the 12 sonatas of Leone, the 10 preludes of Calace, the solos of Konietzny, Kuwahara and also new pieces which are published with the Productions of Oz as Colibri of Holanda, Claude Bolling's Encore ... Also some of my compositions as the Tombeau à R. Calace or my pedagogic compositions (Bestiaire, Livre d’enfants, Mandol'in, Petit Bal des bêtes, Children Suite ...).

Some French Mandolinists have more personal way. This is the case of Patrick Vaillant, who is very close to the traditional repertoire  and Provencal music (he lives in Nice) and who composed works inspired by Mediterranean folklore.

There is also Florentino Calvo who has been working in the field of contemporary music for 30 years and some works by Régis Campo, Frédéric Martin and Alexandros Markeas have become "classics" of the mandolin repertoire in France.

Two years ago, I also founded with Fabio Gallucci, Cécile Soirat and Grégory Morello (founding members of the Nov Mandolin Ensemble, an ensemble with more then 10 years of activity) the Quatuor à Plectre de France and we met the greatest French musicians like Vladimir Cosma, Claude Bolling, Francis Lai, Jean Claude Petit or Richard Galliano to convince them to write new works for 2 mandolins, mandola and guitar.
He did it all and some of these works on our first CD "La French" are already played by other Mandolinists.
We have just created a music collection to distribute these new musics with the Editions Hody.
The issue of repertoire is at the center of my concerns and we continue  to create the repertoire that will be played in the future.

What is the position of the mandolin currently in your country?

The mandolin has long been discredited but today there is a real revival of this instrument. The Lunel International Festival has made an important role in the reconquest of an audience for this instrument. By presenting to France artists like Hamilton de Holanda, Mike Marshall, Ricardo Sandoval, Patrick Vaillant ... the Lunel Festival proved that the mandolin could be a magnificent instrument.
Today there are more and more professional mandolinists, more and more classes in music schools and conservatories and more and more composers who are interested in our instrument. We also have luthiers, publishers who particle to the French school of mandolin.

What is the most played repertoire in your country?

In France we study all the musical mandolin repertory but some pieces are much studied like the 12 sonatas of Leone, the 10 preludes of Calace, the solos of Konietzny, Kuwahara and also new pieces which are published with the Productions d’Oz as Colibri of Holanda, Claude Bolling's Encore… Also some of my compositions as the Tombeau à R. Calace or my pedagogic compositions (Bestiaire, Livre d’enfants, Mandol’in, Petit Bal des bêtes, Children Suite ...)

Where is the mandolin taught?

In the 1970s, only three major classes trained young mandolinists to become professional musicians: Mario Monti at the Conservatoire d'Argenteuil, André Saint Clivier at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and Christian Schneider at the Conservatoire de Courbevoie.
Plectrum orchestras, so popular in the early twentieth century, then cross a great crossing of the desert and many disappear between 1950 and 1980. Rare are those who manage to create their own mandolin school in their musical society to train young people to this instrument that seems from another time. This is the case of the «Ensemble à Plectre de Toulouse», where one of the most active members, Francis Morello, created a Mandolin school in Toulouse.
These initiatives, as well as the support of large structures including the CMF, have allowed to maintain a practice of the instrument, to diffuse this art, to train young professionals who today actively participate in the renewal of the mandolin.
These last 10 years have seen the creation of Mandolin classes in the Conservatories of major cities like Marseille, Paris, Toulouse, Valence, Annecy, Béziers, Chalon ...
To date there are no less than half a dozen classes in conservatories and music schools, more than twelve municipal schools and nearly thirty private schools and associations that offer mandolin lessons. Such renewed interest in this instrument encourages us to persevere in our efforts and suggests a better future for the mandolin.
A list of all educational institutions offering mandolin is available on the website of the CMF (Confédération Musicale de France).

If you had to choose a word, which one would it be?

Remember Camille Saint Saens who wrote: « mandolins and guitars have sounds that make people love! »