Dawn of the Modern Age – Third streaming festival

The third digital HAUSFESTSPIEL will be dedicated to the thresholds of musical epochs

Photo that shows 1 Swr Symphonieorchester Swr Alexander Kluge. ©  Swr Alexander Kluge
© Swr Alexander Kluge

The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden will once again be coming to music lovers' living rooms with several free live streams in May. The Whitsun Festival will thus be celebrated a little earlier this year from May 13 to 16, 2021, featuring the SWR Symphonieorchester and several well-known guests. The motto of the Festival is "The Dawn of Modernism" and will highlight works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that each date from the threshold of a new musical-aesthetic era.

As with the previous editions of the HAUSFESTSPIEL, the focus will be not only on music but also on the interaction between the artists and audience. Once again it will be possible to ask questions in advance and during the streaming via the Festspielhaus social media channels, by e-mail, or by phone. The comment functions on Youtube, Facebook, and on the Festspielhaus website are available during the streaming from Baden-Baden, serving as a “direct line” to the artists from the screens at home. The broadcasts on www.festspielhaus.de will begin on May 13, 14, and 16 at 8:15 pm and on May 15 at 7:00 pm.

Another very special digital event is scheduled for May 16 at 4:00 pm: the final presentation of this year's children's dance festival will be broadcast on www.festspielhaus.de. In four two-day online contemporary dance workshops, brief choreographies will be created and performed in a live stream.

“The Dawn of the Modern Age” is the motto of the the newly-designed Whitsun Festival, which the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is celebrating together with its partner, the SWR Symphonieorchester. This year the audience can only experience it digitally, but Festspielhaus Artistic Director Benedikt Stampa is certain that “the motto and the idea behind it have lost none of their power. On the contrary, we share the impression, with the composers who are the focus of our Whitsun Festival, of being at a historical turning point. In the standstill imposed by the pandemic, there is a growing feeling that things will be reoriented and will continue afterwards in a different way." The composers featured in the Festival – Beethoven, Schumann, Berlioz, Stravinsky, Messiaen, and Widmann – offer examples of what "The Dawn of the Modern Age" can mean musically. Baden-Baden has always been a place to venture such new departures. At Baden-Baden festivals, Berlioz tried out many of his works for which he felt the Parisian audience was not ready. For Dr. Johannes Bultmann, the Artistic Director of the SWR ensembles and festivals, Baden-Baden is the ideal place to organize such a festival, tie in with traditions of the past, and write the next chapters of the history of the modern age: “Musicians of the SWR played here with Stravinsky and Messiaen – and with Pierre Boulez, who chose Baden-Baden alongside Paris as his place of residence and work. Legendary recordings were made in the Baden-Baden Rosbaud Studios." With the joint HAUSFESTSPIEL from May 13 to 16, the SWR and Festspielhaus are building a bridge to today, since “with streaming we have found a new, digital, and interactive way to reach the audience. This is also a new departure,” explains Benedikt Stampa.

May 13, 2021 A star pianist and an eightsome of winds

Things will kick off on Thursday, May 13, 2021 (Ascension Day) at 8:15 pm with works by Robert Schumann and Igor Stravinsky. Martin Stadtfeld will perform the piano part in Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat major, op. 44. The pianist, who hails from Koblenz, has been a regular guest at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden for many years. The Piano Quintet was premiered in 1843 by Robert Schumann's wife Clara, who performed the work in Leipzig with violinist Ferdinand David and violist Niels Wilhelm Gade. Clara Schumann was "truly ravished by this beautiful work, which is so youthful"; she found “strength and freshness” in her husband's opus 44, calling it “extremely brilliant and effective.” The striking Octet for winds by Igor Stravinsky – "dry, cool, clear, and sparkling like champagne," in the composer’s own words – will be presented by soloists from the SWR Symphonieorchester, and the evening will be moderated by Jasmin Bachmann.

May 14, 2021 REPEAT – Worth hearing twice: the Quartet for the End of Time

Written in 1941, Oliver Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps will be the focus of a special “double” concert on May 14, 2021 at 8:15 pm. Under the motto "REPEAT – hearing a work twice," the work by the French composer will be heard in two performances. At the beginning, the musicians will be asked questions and parts of the work will be played individually so the listener can truly immerse him- or herself in the music afterwards. Dramaturge and music educator Rafael Rennicke will explain the special features of the Quartet for the End of Time. The piano part will be played by French pianist Bertrand Chamayou, who last appeared in Baden-Baden in 2019 in a trio with violinist Vilde Frang and cellist Sol Gabetta. Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps is one of the most central and most performed chamber works of the twentieth century. The "The End of Time" in the title refers to seven verses from the Revelation of St. John, in which the end of the world coincides with the beginning of eternity. A redemption at such a faraway time may not seem particularly comforting, but in Messiaen’s music, we hear that eternity does not have to wait until Judgement Day. It begins already with the singing of the birds, continues with the rainbow that shimmers in the gentle rippling chords of the piano, and becomes more and more human.

May 15 Beethoven, Widmann, and Berlioz: the “greatest success of a lifetime” along with a contemporary homage and French summer nights

One of the most sought-after young conductors of our time, Antonello Manacorda, will lead a concert with the SWR Symphonieorchester on Saturday, May 15 at 7:00 pm. This evening the orchestra will trace a broad arc from the beginning of the nineteenth century up to the year 2008, when Jörg Widmann composed con brio, his homage to Beethoven. Since it was first performed in 1813, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, infused throughout with the dance, has been regarded as the “greatest success of his lifetime,” and its musical furor still fascinates us today. The work inspired composer Jörg Widmann to write his Concert Overture for Orchestra. Entitled con brio and composed in 2008, it is unmistakably anchored in the musical language of the twenty-first century, yet harmonically and rhythmically, allows multiple references to Beethoven to shine through. Hector Berlioz's Summer Nights will be conjured up by Véronique Gens. The French soprano, who has sung at the major European opera houses, was already a guest at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden in 2011 in Così fan tutte and the Mozart Requiem, with Teodor Currentzis on the podium. At the HAUSFESTSPIEL on May 15, Antonello Manacorda, a founding member and longstanding concertmaster of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, will serve as music director. His most recent successes include the musical direction of Dmitri Tcherniakov's sensational new production of Weber's Der Freischütz at the Bayerische Staatsoper last autumn. The evening will be moderated by Jasmin Bachmann.

May 16, 2021 Style or expression, play or seriousness, civilization or culture – questions from the turn of the last century and more relevant today than ever

Members of the SWR Symphonieorchester will bring the third digital HAUSFESTSPIEL to a close on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 8:15 pm. The program will feature Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and Maurice Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet, and String Quartet.

Many emotive words are associated with the name of Arnold Schoenberg, above all “atonality” and “twelve-tone music.” The late Romantic Verklärte Nacht, however, is one of Schoenberg's most popular and most performed compositions. In 1899, the 25-year-old composer was inspired by Richard Dehmel's poem of the same name and his love for Mathilde von Zemlinsky.

Competition stimulates business – a dictum that also applies to music. Thanks to the competition between the Parisian instrument makers Pleyel and Érard, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel composed two important works for the harp almost simultaneously: Debussy the Danse sacrée et danse profane and Ravel his Introduction and Allegro. Despite its small ensemble, this masterpiece of instrumentation evokes an almost orchestral sonority. And, as the biographer Orenstein writes, conveys in its rapturous style “an exuberant feeling of joy.”

“The Dawn of the Modern Age" from May 13 to 16 will be the first HAUSFESTSPIEL in the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden to feature a large orchestra, and thus poses a special challenge during these times. The SWR Symphonieorchester, its chamber music ensembles, the soloists, and the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden team are looking forward to tackling this challenge together. All of the live streams can be viewed free of charge on www.festspielhaus.de as well as on YouTube (Festspielhaus Baden-Baden).

Updated: 5/4/2021