DW Festival Concert: Rheingau Music Festival | Music | DW | 02.11.2021

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DW Festival Concert

DW Festival Concert: Rheingau Music Festival

What do you think of when you hear the word romantic? Roses and chocolates perhaps? How about stormy seas, heavenly landscapes and solemn symphonic chorales?

Listen to audio 116:38

DW Festival Concert: Rheingau Music Festival

This year's Rheingau Music Festival featured sounds from great Romantic works that embodied the 19-century literary and artistic celebration of human emotions, nature and the imagination.

The festival took place at Eberbach Abbey, located in the wine hills of western Germany in the town of Eltville am Rhein. Built between 1136 and 1186, the former Cistercian monastery is one of the most famous abbeys in Europe and featured in the 1986 movie, The Name of the Rose.

Every year, the abbey hosts the opening concert of the Rheingau Music Festival, which always features the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. Andres Orozco-Estrada conducting.

A picture of Sean Connery holding a rose

A file photograph of Sean Connery, who acted in the 1986 film 'The Name of the Rose'

Scottish inspiration

Composer Felix Mendelssohn's concert overture The Hebrides kicked off the opening concert of this year's Rheingau Music Festival.

Mendelssohn's inspiration came from a trip he had taken to England and Scotland, and in particular to Fingal's Cave on the Scottish island of Staffa. Staffa belongs to the Hebrides, an island group some 30 miles off the northwest coast of Scotland.

The howling winds and billowing swellsMendelssohn experienced while heading there by steamship were later captured in the overture.

His British audience was thrilled by the music. And so too was the audience at Eberbach Abbey on June 26, 2021. The performance featured the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by then chief conductor Andres Orozco-Estrada.

It's always an intense piece, but the orchestra's sound was made even more powerful by the concert venue, the basilica of the abbey, and its eventful history.

A view of the island North Uist after sunset

Scottish islands inspired Mendelssohn's 'The Hebrides'

"It has a colorful past," explained festival founder and director Michael Hermann. "It was a monastery for a long time, and then it was plundered by the Swedes in the 30 years' war. Today you'll find the abbey library in Sweden. It later became a psychiatric institution, and it also served as a school and a prison. But now it's a foundation and only used for cultural events."

Conjuring images and landscapes

The second piece in the latest episode of DW Festival Concert is a violin concerto by 19th-century Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Sibelius, who originally wanted to be a concert violinist, wrote this virtuosic composition with its atmospheric sounds in 1903. It was not well received by critics. Today, however, the Sibelius violin concerto is part of the standard violin repertoire.

"The beginning of the piece is something very special, because the orchestra creates such ashimmering sound, an association with fog and snow. When listening to Sibelius, you can't help but think of images and landscapes." Augustin Hadelich, solo violinist, says.

Watch video 26:01

Blazing a trail with classical music

Hadelich loves the instrument's round, warm, full sound, but the opening of Sibelius' violin concerto starts with some very delicate sounds from the violin. The orchestra, for its part, will start with a sparse, glimmering soundscape that will grow fuller as the piece goes along.

Hadelich is performing with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andres Orozco-Estrada.

Religious history

Mendelssohn composed his Reformation Symphony for the celebrations surrounding the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. And if you're not up to scratch on your religious history, that's an early foundational protestant text written in 1530 by theologist and church reformer Martin Luther.

Different chorale melodies appear throughout the Reformation Symphony's different movements. They all culminate in the final well-known chorale, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," written by Martin Luther.

Watch video 01:00

Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth

The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra's performance of Mendelssohn's Symphony number 5, the Reformation Symphony received lots of applause. Andres Orozco-Estrada conducted, using his whole body, making grand gestures. At times he was so energetic, it seemed the podium could barely contain him. 

Inspiration from the Baroque

The final piece is the Pulcinella Suite, composed by the Russian musician, Igor Stravinsky. "Pulcinella" is a comedic stock character from the Italian theater style called "commedia dell'arte." Stravinsky composed the ballet music in 1920 for a small orchestra. This makes it perfect for touring today, when the pandemic means audience numbers are limited. 

The ballet was composed during what's referred to as Stravinsky's neo-classical phase. During this period, the composer took inspiration from earlier styles of music, such as the Baroque dance music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. But Stravinsky added his own twist to things.

Conductor Paavo Järvi explains: "This typical Stravinsky needs to surprise all the time, to add something that is not necessarily expected. And that's his signature. And this piece is a kind of masterpiece actually."

Watch video 42:35

The Brahms Code - Paavo Järvi and The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Part 2

Järvi conducted the musicians of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, who are known for their clean sound and precision. The orchestra has performed the Pulcinella Suite at numerous festivals, including at the Rheingau Music Festival this past June 30th.

However, that concert wasn't recorded, so instead, we'll hear a performance from the Kissinger Sommer Music Festival in Bavaria, recorded by Bavarian public radio. 

That's all in this edition of DW Festival Concert. Join us next time with host Cristina Burack. 

Performances featured in this DW Festival Concert:

1. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Overture "The Hebrides" op. 26

Performed by: Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Andres Orozco-Estrada

Recorded by Hessian Radio (HR) in Kloster Eberbach on June 26, 2021

Cristina Burack

DW Festival Concert host Cristina Burack

2. Jean Sibelius, Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47, Allegro moderato, Adagio di molto, Allegro ma non tanto

Performed by: Augustin Hadelich, violin

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Andres Orozco-Estrada

Recorded by Hessian Radio (HR) in Kloster Eberbach on June 26, 2021

3. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op. 107, Reformation, Andante – Allegro con fuoco –  Allegro vivace –  Andante

Chorale"A Mighty Fortress is our God" (Andante con moto – Allegro vivace – Allegro maestoso)

Performed by: Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Andres Orozco-Estrada

Recorded by Hessian Radio (HR) in Kloster Eberbach on June 26, 2021

4. Igor Stravinsky, Pulcinella Suite

Performed by: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Conductor: Paavo Järvi

Recorded by Bavarian Public Radio (BR) at Kissinger Summer Music Festival on June 25, 2021

Produced at Deutsche Welle with sound engineer Thomas Schmidt, producer and Russian show host Anastassia Boutsko, and host Cristina Burack. Text and production by Gaby Reucher.

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