Contemporary ballet at the Festival de SantanderAs one of Spain’s oldest music festivals around, the Festival Internacional de Santander (FIS) holds a very special place in the hearts of that city’s populace.

Born out of a need to provide a cultural platform for visiting students attending the UMIP (Menéndez Pelayo International University), it was first held in 1948. This preliminary festival was a comparatively low-key affair, consisting of a few musical events held in the atmospheric setting of the cloisters of the Corban Seminary, within the atrium of San Rafael Hospital.

From 1952 until 1990 the festival’s main concerts took place in a massive tent in Santander’s Plaza Porticada, while more intimate events were typically scattered around various smaller concert halls in the Cantabria region. The end of this era was marked by a performance of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and Mstislav Rostropovich and, in 1991, the Festival Internacional de Santander moved to its new home, the Palacio de Festivales, designed by renowned architect, Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza.

Naturally, a concert hall is only as good as its acoustics. Fortunately Sáenz de Oiza proved to be especially skilled when taking this factor into consideration and Sala Argenta, the main auditorium at the Palacio de Festivales, is known throughout the world for the excellence of its sound.

The best of classical music, Festival de SantanderSince 1972, the festival has been organised by José Luis Ocejo, a respected conductor and founder of the Coral Salvé de Laredo, who has the unenviable task of ensuring that every year’s performances surpass the successes of the previous year! Such is the quality of the concerts that much of FIS is broadcast live on Spanish national radio, RTVE. This collaboration has also resulted in some of the most popular performances being issued on compact disc under the RTVE label.

Many distinguished singers, musicians and conductors have appeared at the Festival Internacional de Santander, including Zubin Mehta, Sir Georg Solti, Riccardo Muti, Arthur Rubinstein, Alicia de Larrocha, Daniel Barenboim, Diletta Rizzo Marin, Montserrat Caballé, Teresa Berganza, Samuel Ramey, Juan Diego Flórez, Mirella Freni, José Carreras and Plácido Domingo who appeared with the Kirov Opera in 1992.

This year’s festival will take place in August from the 1st to the 26th and will showcase performances from such artistes as Shlomo Mintz, Isidro Barrio, the American Spiritual Ensemble, the Prague String Quartet, Marzio Conti, Jue Wang, Ana Belen, Sunnyboy Dladla and Estrella Morente.

With so many years of experience behind them, there is no doubt that the organisers of Spain’s second largest music festival will be able to look back on 2011’s programme as its most successful yet.

Rimontgó has a beautiful, modern villa for sale in Somo, Cantabria, perfectly placed for a visit to the FIS and Cantabrian city of Santander.