The 40th Dresden Music Festival from 18 May to 18 June 2017 has taken the motto "Light" for this anniversary year's programme. In altogether 59 events, it will put a spotlight on a wide variety of top international orchestras and soloists and present a première about that luminary figure of the Reformation, Martin Luther.
Robert Schumann, who composed almost a third of his works in Dresden, was already aware of the special mission entrusted to the musical artist: "To send light into the depths of the human heart". The 2017 Dresden Music Festival could thus have chosen no better motto – especially since it is one that also makes a socio-political statement, as director Jan Vogler explains: "The theme of 'light' describes the perennial human vision of the Enlightenment. Music raises awareness, connects people and creates new perspectives. It can make a big contribution to healing communities and societies."
Particularly in politically troubled times like the present, the Dresden Music Festival aspires to take a stand. One way it will do this is by putting European solidarity into musical practice in a place where many have called this solidarity into question in favour of individual national interests. The festival, which has as its patron Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will, for example, welcome the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowksi (22.5 with Jan Lisiecki on the piano + 23.5 with Steven Isserlis on the cello) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Gustavo Gimeno (26.5), which will perform Benjamin Britten's Cello Symphony op. 68 with Jan Vogler. The opening concert (18.5) in the Semperoper will feature Anne-Sophie Mutter, one of the greatest violin virtuosos of our day, who will interpret Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor and Tōru Takemitsu's "Nostalghia" alongside the Italian Fabio Luisi and the Philharmonia Zürich. The unique combination of globally acclaimed musicians and exquisite programmes at altogether 22 different venues in the city in 2017 will be preceded by the re-opening of the rebuilt concert hall in Dresden's Kulturpalast. The Dresden Festival Orchestra under its principal conductor Ivor Bolton will inaugurate the new hall before the festival begins with a special concert on April 30, featuring works by the two adoptive Dresdeners Robert Schumann and Carl Maria von Weber, along with Beethoven's Triple Concerto. The modern 1,800-seat concert hall integrated into the Kulturpalast, which has outstanding acoustics (reverberation time: 2.2 sec. when full; 2.4 sec. when empty) and striking architecture in the form of a vineyard, is an internationally competitive concert venue. Visitors to the 2017 Dresden Music Festival will be able to attend 14 further concerts in the hall to gain an impression of the flexible possibilities it offers, ranging from performances by large symphony orchestras (including the Orchestre de Paris under Thomas Hengelbrock with the soprano Kate Lindsey on 2.6 and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä with the pianist Peter Serkin on 24.5) and an evening of chansons and hit songs (Max Raabe & the Palast Orchester, 30.5) to a recitation programme with Hollywood legend Bill Murray accompanied by Jan Vogler and friends (4.6) and a Lieder recital with Bryn Terfel and his accompanist Eugene Asti (31.5).
In the field of chamber music as well, the Dresden Music Festival has invited both established stars and highly sought-after newcomers. Among other things, the Armida Quartet will present a programme of Haydn and Mozart with recitations from works by and about Casanova given by popular TV performer Sky du Mont (8.6), the Spanish Cuarteto Casals can be heard in the Palais am grossen Garten (13.6), and the Schumann Quartet, dubbed "the Best Newcomers of the Year" in 2016 (BBC Music Magazine Award), will give its début at the Dresden Music Festival (25.5). Not to forget the numerous solo recitals, such as those by the pianists Francesco Tristano (19.5.), Francesco Piemontesi (20.5.) and Niu Niu (29.5.), the enfant terrible of the organ, Cameron Carpenter (5.6), and the violinist In Mo Yang (7.6), who has recently been awarded the Premio Paganini. On June 3, there will be a particular highlight in the Kulturpalast with the première of a work commissioned by the music festival: Sven Helbig has written new music for the silent film "Luther - A Film of the German Reformation" of 1927 that will be given its first performance by the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra under Kristjan Järvi. The leading light of the Reformation will again be a focus on June 16 in the portrait-concert "Martin Luther: Preacher, Politician, Private Individual" with Flautando Köln and the recitation artist Martin Brambach. For lovers of early music and historical performance practice, Dresden will be an almost obligatory destination in early summer, with a virtual Who's Who of the scene putting in appearances at the festival: as well as the Dresdner Barockorchester (27.5), visitors will be able to hear the B'Rock Orchestra under René Jacobs (9.6), Anima Eterna Brugge (1.6.) under Jos van Immerseel with a Monteverdi programme (in which the Prégardiens, father and son, will perform together as singers!), the La Folia Baroque Orchestra (11.6) or the Norwegian Barokksolistene (14.6). And the closing concert of the Dresden Music Festival also promises to be an equally exceptional listening experience, with the Festival Orchestra playing Ludwig van Beethoven's “Leonore” - the original version of “Fidelio” from 1805.
Over the past years, the Dresden Festival Orchestra, founded in 2012 in the tradition of the legendary “Orchestra di Dresda”, has gained itself an excellent reputation for its performances on historical instruments. This has encouraged the ensemble to record a first studio production (Sony 88985372122), which has been commercially available for a few weeks now. The two works by Robert Schumann it has recorded, the Symphony No. 2 in C major op. 61 and the Cello Concerto in A minor op. 129 (soloist: Jan Vogler), show that the orchestra has developed its very own Schumann sound in its deliberate exploratory quest for the original Dresden Romantic style. Visitors to the festival will be able to hear this for themselves live in 2017 when Ivor Bolton conducts the orchestra for Schumann's Symphony No. 4 in D minor op. 120 (30.4).
Many more of the 59 events in the variety-filled programme for 2017 also deserve detailed mention: for example, the performances by the percussionist Martin Grubinger (25.5) and the jazz trombonist Nils Landgren (26.5), the youth presentations “Fidelio” (21.5) and “Opernbaustelle” (“Opera Construction Site”) (22.5) by the Taschenoper Lübeck (“Lübeck Pocket Opera”), the dance acts of the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company (24.5+25.5) and the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (9.6+10.6), and an orchestra performance by Christian von Borries with the title “Rage: Jelinek – Wagner – Jesus of Nazareth” (17.6), among others. So what could be the right words to end this overview of the festival? Let us simply borrow from Goethe (who, incidentally, visited Dresden seven times in the course of his life): “More light ...” - the artists at the 40th Dresden Music Festival in 2017 are sure to fulfil this request in a multitude of ways.