The Hitzacker Summer Music Festival – Tradition Meets the Future
The small town of Hitzacker in Lower Saxony is located in the former boundary zone, on the previous German-German border. For Carolin Widmann this was a reason to place her first season under the motto of “Exile”. A tricky and uncommonly multi-faceted theme: in some concerts those composers will be performed who fled the German-speaking world during the Nazi period – for example, Arnold Schönberg, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Friedrich Hollaender. Or the city of Vienna will be considered as a hub for exiles. But Widmann also understands the theme of exile more broadly: the opening concert on July 28, 2012, will illuminate the inner exile that composers have experienced – for example, Ludwig van Beethoven because of his deafness and Robert Schumann shortly before his admission to a sanatorium. And the baritone Matthias Goerne will sing Schubert lieder about the night and dreams as places of refuge and shelter.
Musicians as directors
Carolin Widmann made her name as a violinist and particularly as an interpreter of contemporary music. The native of Munich and sister of the composer Jörg Widmann thus continues a Hitzacker tradition, for since the Festival’s founding in 1946 it has been headed almost without exception by a practicing musician. Similarly, from its start, a forum for contemporary experimental music has been part of the Festival. For 2012, for example, Widmann has invited the composer Rebecca Saunders, whom she knows from personal collaboration. Appropriately to the theme of “Exile”, Saunders comes to the Festival as “Composer out of Residence”. The English musician has lived in Germany for 20 years, studied with Wolfgang Rihm, and is now no longer perceived in her homeland as an English composer. “She therefore had to come to Germany, in aesthetic exile”, says Widmann, who as part of the Listener’s Academy will explore together with Saunders the background and main features of her work.
The Listener’s Academy has developed in recent years into a further hallmark of the Hitzacker Summer Music Festival. In workshop discussions and lectures accompanied by music, it aims to expand the audience’s horizon. And it is a special audience that makes the pilgrimage to the remote town. “The Festival visitors bring with them a high degree of interest and curiosity”, says Widmann. And for her this was one of the decisive reasons that she said “yes” when asked whether she would assume the artistic directorship of the Festival. “I didn’t want to have to awaken an interest in the first place. For me, it’s therefore the ideal festival. Here I meet with open ears when I present a musical discovery.”
Tradition with a view
Carolin Widmann’s predecessor was Markus Fein, who shaped the Festival over ten seasons. The musicologist gently but consequently modernized Germany’s oldest chamber music festival. Along with the Listener’s and Young People’s Academies, with the marvelous Clip 'n' Concerts project and master courses for amateurs, he established the performance of unusually conceived concerts. For instance, the Festival Walk, a musical stroll which, like much else, Widmann has adopted in the program of her inaugural season. “The Festival was handed over to me in very good shape”, she says happily. “I’ll set my own accents by, for example, taking up modernist music into the program on an even more equal standing. And it’s important to me to perform neglected composers and works with unusual groups of performers.” New in 2012 is that participants in the Festival course “Professionals Teach Amateurs” will appear in a final concert with the Camerata Bern, in keeping with the family charm of the one-week Festival.
Video-Feature of the Hitzacker Youth Academy 2011
Widmann finds the Hitzacker Summer Music Festival to be an oasis amidst an ever more meager German chamber music scene. “Money has become scarcer and is preferably put into mega-events. Yet there are so many marvelous chamber musicians – in the younger generation too.” And it is precisely the younger generation that increasingly lacks opportunities to grow into the performance of chamber music. For Widmann, who is also a professor for violin at the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Academy for Music and Theater in Leipzig, this is “a fatal development”. For her first season the new Festival head has therefore deliberately engaged the still unknown but highly talented Icelandic violinist Elfa Rún Kristinsdóttir. Quite in the spirit of a chamber music mentoring that points to the future.
is a fully qualified music scientist and editor. She works as a music journalist for the Deutschlandfunk, Deutschlandradio Kultur and the German ARD Radio Broadcast among others.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write to us!