The summer holidays are upon us. After a post-Covid season during which you may have been on your guard, tentatively dipping a toe and then an ear into a concert hall, in the manner a holidaymaker fearing hypothermia in the North Sea, surely it's now time, at last, to take advantage of the orgy of live music that is the summer holidays in France? Here is a short guide for you: in chronological order, we've shown 15 festivals of musical riches in varied settings. Whether it's on an island, on a mountain, in a cave or under trees, you will surely find inspiration for musical adventures.

© Google Maps | Bachtrack Ltd

1Rencontres musicales d’Évian, 25th June to 2nd July

For its famous Grange au Lac, a concert hall that smells like a pine forest and whose ceiling decorated with metal scales gives the impression of listening to Debussy under the belly of a dragon, this festival is worth going out of your way to visit. Add a five-star programme with renowned keyboardists (Bertrand Chamayou, Jean Rondeau, Alexandre Tharaud) and orchestras galore: these are just some of the reasons to want to spend some time on the south shore of Lake Geneva.

Awaiting a recital at La Grange au Lac (Rencontres musicales d'Évian)
© Matthieu Joffres

2Estivales de musique en Médoc, 29th June to 15th July

If you are attracted by the châteaux of the Médoc, the vineyards, the cellars and the tasting of great wines, book your ticket while you can! And have no fears about the programme, which combines artists on whom we can rely (Jonathan Fournel, Le Consort, Théo Fouchenneret) with initiatives that we will follow with curiosity (the Marmen Quartet, percussionist Aurélien Gignoux, the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine conducted by Chloé Dufresne). To be consumed in moderation, of course...

The storehouse at Château Lafite-Rothschild (Estivales de musique en Médoc)
© Estivales de Musique en Médoc

3Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, 4th to 23rd July

All the opera lovers of France and Navarre will be there: with its daring new productions and its panoply of stars, Aix is THE major French event of the summer – for those who can afford it. A special feature of this 2022 edition is Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony at the Vitrolles Stadium, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and staged by Romeo Castellucci.

Audience at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché (Festival d'Aix-en-Provence)
© Vincent Beaume

4Festival de La Vézère, 5th July to 16th August

Isabelle du Saillant, who founded this great festival in the Corrèze region of central France, died a few months ago, but her children immediately took up the baton and are determined to pay tribute to her throughout a rich and varied edition. From recitals to grand operas, all music lovers will find something to satisfy their ears, including those who enjoy unusual experiences – amongst which the "strange concert" proposed by the pianist and mentalist Pascal Amoyel...

Between concerts at the Festival de La Vézère
© DR

5Académie-Festival des Arcs, 15th to 29th July

Lovers of high mountains will find happiness in this festival which is based on an academy dedicated to young musicians, together with a team of top artists. The educational ambitions are reflected in the lectures offered to the audience before the numerous concerts, which highlight a host of rarely programmed French composers, amongst them Farrenc, Pierné, Godard, Alkan, Koechlin, Ropartz.

Between rehearsals at the l'Académie-Festival des Arcs
© DR

6Nohant Festival Chopin, 21st to 27th July

The 56th edition of the great Chopin gathering at the George Sand estate began on weekends in June, but it is in July that its final hurrah will take place, with a host of excellent pianists (Charles Richard-Hamelin, Philippe Cassard, Brice Liu, Claire Désert, Florent Albrecht, Javier Perianes, François Chaplin). All of this will be accompanied by masterclasses, talks and other conferences that promise to be fascinating.

7Festival international de piano de La Roque d’Anthéron, 18th July to 20th August

It just has to be on your bucket list. The plane trees, the redwoods, the cicadas and the conch shell of its open-air auditorium are as famous as the artists who are honoured there: La Roque d'Anthéron is to the piano what Aix-en-Provence is to the opera, a Mecca for lovers of the genre. Impossible to detail the hundred or so concerts planned but you can stick a pin in the programme with your eyes closed. Especially as the prices, reasonable to start with, have become extremely attractive for the under 30s.

Célia Oneto Bensaid under the plane trees at La Roque d'Anthéron in 2021
© Valentine Chauvin

8Festival du Périgord Noir, 28th July to 19th August

In the land of Périgord with its castles and ancient cave-dwelling sites, a stone's throw from the Caves of Lascaux, the Festival du Périgord Noir celebrates its fortieth anniversary under the presidency of its unquenchable founder, Jean-Luc Soulé. Regulars Bruno Rigutto and Gérard Caussé will be there, with the younger generation represented by Dmitry Masleev, the Tchalik Quartet and a wonderful trio of lyric singers (Adriana González, Marie Perbost and Jeanne Gérard). Of particular note is the presence of an international baroque academy, directed by Iñaki Encina Oyón, which will perform Handel's famous oratorio La Resurrezione to close the festivities.

9Lyrique-en-mer, 29th July to 14th August

At a time when many festivals take the easy way out by offering programmes that do the rounds throughout the summer, the Belle-Île International Festival – on an island off the coast of Brittany – reinforces its insular nature by offering only in-house productions. In addition to an ambitious Orpheus and Eurydice (with staging), a recital by Anne Queffélec, a participatory Messiah and an evening of cabaret will be on the menu for this year's iodised festivities.

A Reynaldo Hahn concert at La Pointe des Poulains (Lyrique-en-mer)
© Laureen Pasche

10Bach en Combrailles, 8th to 13th August

In the heart of the Auvergne, not far from Clermont-Ferrand but away from the beaten tracks that are most frequented during the summer, there is a small, green region that is popular with hikers. It is here, in the Combrailles, that an organ was built, an exact reproduction of the Arnstadt organ on which Johann Sebastian Bach earned his spurs. For more than 20 years, a swarm of specialists has been working on this instrument, turning the quiet region into the capital of Bach's music. Whether you are a fan of the Leipzig Cantor or simply curious, you will not be disappointed!

11Festival de Quatuors à cordes du Luberon, 13th to 27th August

Among the many summer festivals that put the spotlight on chamber music, this one occupies a special place: the Quatuor Béla, artistic directors of the festival, invite the cream of the current crop of quartettists (Ébène, Takacs, Voce, Zaïde, Hanson) to the magical setting of the Luberon. Listening to Dvořák's "American" Quartet after criss-crossing the "Provençal Colorado" of Roussillon should be a striking experience.

12Festival Berlioz, 18th to 31st August

Under the direction of Bruno Messina, the birthplace of the greatest Romantic in the history of French music has become the summer rallying point for all lovers of symphonic music. Once again, this year, a host of orchestras and conductors will come to La Côte-Saint-André to transform the courtyard of the Château Louis XI into a seething cauldron of Berliozian music – but don't forget to bring warm clothing, as the summer nights can be filled with caprices...

A concert in the courtyard of the Château Louis XI (Festival Berlioz)
© Festival Berlioz

13In the gardens of William Christie, 20th to 27th August

It's a 16th century Vendée manor house behind which stretch classic French-style gardens that would make Marie-Antoinette green with envy. Created from scratch by William Christie and now listed as a Historic Monument, this 12-hectare estate has been hosting a festival for the past 10 years, ruled by Les Arts Florissants and where their name has never been more appropriate! Candlelit concerts alternate with stagings around the Miroir d'Eau, to the delight of lovers of the baroque.

Partenope in the gardens of William Christie
© Jay Qin

14Rencontres musicales de Vézelay, 25th to 28th August

Its "eternal hill" and its sumptuous Romanesque basilica are a beacon for the surrounding Burgundy. Vézelay is also home to the Cité de la Voix and is thus a major centre for choral music in France, as the programme of the Rencontres Musicales shows once again this year (Latvian Radio Choir, Ensemble Aedes, Coro Ghislieri...). Let's give a mention to notable excursions outside the learned Western canon: thus the concert of the Cuban singer and cellist Ana Carla Maza, the Bulgarian songs of the Balkanes Quartet or the Gypsy Ball which, according to the festival's joyful tradition, will set the Saturday evening ablaze.

The basilica at Vézelay
© Vincent Arbelet

15Festival Ravel, du 19th August to 11th September

Ever since Bertrand Chamayou took over as director, the Festival based in Saint-Jean-de-Luz has had everything needed to become the Ravelian equivalent of the Berlioz Festival. In the Basque country, a place with many tourist attractions from the superb coastal paths to the house where Ravel was born, the French pianist has invited a number of first-rate orchestras and musicians this year, from the Czech Philharmonic (conducted by Semyon Bychkov) to the Modigliani and Belcea Quartets, from Les Siècles (in Daphnis et Chloé) to Kristian Bezuidenhout. The host himself will give two monster recitals, Liszt's complete Années de pèlerinage and Messiaen's Vingt Regards – two cherries on the cake of a summer that promises to be already abundant. But who's to complain?

A concert at the Festival Ravel in the church of Saint-Jean-de-Luz
© Mathieu Mengaillou / Komcébo

Translated from French by David Karlin