Coming from an artist living through two epochs, Ludwig van Beethoven's works cover a massive range of styles. The same was true for Claudio Monteverdi as well as Schönberg. When Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 1770 (only the day of his christening and not the day of his birth are confirmed) Ludwig XV was the king of France, Elector Maximilian Friedrich von Königsegg-Rothenfels reigned in the Electorate of Cologne and Maria Theresia ruled over Austria. Absolutism in baroque glory, clear perspectives and principles in European society. Yet, unrest began to manifest itself in this same society, something we have covered during the Kissinger Sommer 2019. A look at 1927, the year of Beethoven's death, paints a completely different picture. After the French Revolution the old class system lost much of its meaning, nobility and clergy were nothing more than dignified titles and the bourgeosie rose up to become the social class that shaped the state. The Industrial Revolution was about to begin.
But what about Beethoven? As a member of the court chapel of Bonn he was first neatly working with the classical repertoire and providing compositions „comme il faut“. Then, however, he – very – quickly became the „enfant terrible“, the „hot head“ that questioned tradition, forged his own path and did not fear the effort and conflict this path required. In his later string quartets there are parts that eschew flowing melodies to deconstruct the music instead, single intervals and motifs are highlighted and presented as an expression themselves – this radical change is similar to music of the 20th century.
The adherence to classical sound looses its meaning and pure expression remains. During the 56 years of his life Beethoven covered a staggering range of music and world views.
Today Ludwig van Beethoven counts among the so-called Vienna Classical along with Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. According to his peer E.T.A. Hoffmann, however, he was the first romanticist. As Hoffmann died in 1822 he did not have the chance to experience Beethoven's later works.
A composer like this, whose melody is played every evening on the radio as the hymn of Europe and who is known all over the world, can scarcely be covered as the theme of just one summer festival. There are many festivals world-wide which are dedicated only to him. Therefore, to pay him his dues at the Kissinger Sommer 2020 we will not attempt to listen to everything he has to offer but instead give a small impression of a few of his works. One questions is very important in this – what does Beethoven mean to us today? Can we learn something from this rebellious, uncompromising artist and his world view?
During his 45 years of work Beethoven developed a sheer endless range of stylistic directions and furthered nearly all forms and genres of the time. His 9th symphony became the inspiration for the great symphonic concepts for Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Schostakowitsch. His piano concertos layed the foundations for Carl Maria von Weber, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin. His string quartets influenced Brahms, Schönberg and Luigi Nono.
For the Kissinger Sommer the anniversary year 2020 is a chance to turn „Zukunftsmusik“ into our theme, not just as a chance to play the greatest hits but to also cover special aspects and formats. Unlike the previous years, our motto is not centered around a certain year but instead revolves around the 56 of Beethoven's life between December 1770 and March 1827.
„I have never seen an artist more focused, energetic and intimate.“ (Goethe about Beethoven)
Beethoven may have enjoyed Bad Kissingen as he often visited health resorts with joy. In Baden near Vienna (which, together with Kissingen and other health resort cities, has applied at UNESCO to be regarded as world cultur heritage) he composed large parts of his 9th symphony. In Teplice he met Goethe, 20 years his senior, who was regarded as a master of poetry – a meeting between two generations and societies. Beethoven said about Goethe: „Goethe enjoys the courts' atmosphere to much – more than a poet should.“
Goethe about Beethoven:
„I met Beethoven in Töplitz. His talent astounded me yet he is of a fully unbound personality. He may not be wrong in thinking the world contemptible, however, through this thinking he does not make it anymore enjoyable for himself or others. Instead he should be excused and pitied as his sense of hearing is failing him which may hurt his musical skills less than his social ones. As he was already quite laconic he will be doubly so through his loss of hearing.“ At that time Goethe had already abandoned rebellion, unlike Beethoven.
How then do you honour such an abrasive, difficult personality in a festival when its image has been distorted after 250 years of comedy and commerce? At the Kissinger Sommer 2020 we will go about this in two ways.
First, we will present some categories in complete work cycles, pure and unchanged. Discover Beethoven's cello sonatas in chronological order, Matthew Barley and Shai Wosner will explain and perform them in both monastery concerts on the 28th of June. Beethoven's violin sonata cycle already began in 2019, this year Frank Peter Zimmermann and Martin Helmchen will perform the works of the middle and late periods. In order to perform all 32 piano sonatas it requires eight regular concerts. We limited ourselves to five and will give you an overview of one and a half decades of Bad Kissingen Piano Olympics at the same time. Pianist from Herbert Schuch to Juan Pérez Floristán will design these solo recitals, every programme is tailored to the wishes and personal styles of each artist. In the special concerts on the 8th of May Khatia Bunitishvili will get us ready for the Beethoven Year.
The Kissinger Sommer will also present a selection of the symphonies and string quartets. After we experienced symphonies no. 3 and 7 in revolutionary interpretations in 2019 we will now turn towards no. 1 and 8, more importantly however, there is the famous 9th at the final concert with a choir performance of Schiller's Ode to Joy. In the concerts of Danish String Quartet, Hagen Quartet and Kuss Quartet you can experience a small selection of early to late string quartets. The later piano concertos will be performed by Kit Armstrong, François-Frédéric Guy and the 1st prize winner of the Bad Kissingen Piano Olypmpics 2019, Arabella Steinbacher, will interpret the violin concerto.
The second way to approach Beethoven is more adventurous, the way of metamorphosis. We change by way of listening and take a new look at the composer by putting his works in a new context or adding a new layer of meaning. At the Kissinger Sommer it is already tradition to look beyond the horizon. In cooperation with Bozar in Brussels, Konzerthaus Dortmund and other partners a new scenic project has been created for Beethoven's string quartets. Together with the Kuss quartet and under the title of „Force & Freedom“, the inventive theater company Nico & the Navigators has devised a poetic interpretation of Beethoven's later quartets, a concert for string quartet, electric guitar, performer and sound designer.
In the Bad Kissingen SongWorkshop we also tackle the composer's works. Under the title „Beloved Distance“ our composers formulate a modern view on the romantacist longing for other places. On the 18th of July our „Palace Revolution“ in the Regentenbau will emphasise the title of this years festival – Beethoven Metamorphosis. From 10 AM until Midnight you can experience creative versions of Beethoven's works or unique views on him over the course of five concerts. Violinist Elena Denisova will perform a violin version of Beethoven's 2nd piano concerto. Ragnhild Hemsing and Tor Espen Aspaas illuminate Beethoven's connection to folk music, the Minguet quartet takes us into modernity and the our musicians form Uwaga! show us how Beethoven felt right at home in the Balkans.
All these appropriations give us something to think about, they are imaginative aids in discovering the world through music. If we follow Beethoven's example and are uncompromising in our art it will make it easier for us to return into our „contemptible“ world after the concert.
Concerts around the theme 1710 - 1827 Beethoven Metamophorsis:
05/08/2020 Special Concert
06/20/2020 Nordic String Sound
06/20/2020 „The best of Beethoven“
06/21/2020 Beethoven – Piano Sonatas 1
06/23/2020 Beethoven – Piano Sonatas 2
06/24/2020 Scottish and Irish Songs
06/25/2020 „Force & Freedom“
06/27/2020 Award Winner Concert
06/27/2020 The Classical Way
06/27/2020 And Now Beethoven
06/28/2020 Beethovencello 1
06/28/2020 Beethovencello 2
06/29/2020 World Class String Players From Salzburg
06/30/2020 Beethoven – Piano Sonata 3
07/01/2020 „Janoska Style“
07/02/2020 Beethoven – Violin Sonatas 1
07/03/2020 Beethoven – Violin Sonatas 2
07/04/2020 Song Workshop 1
07/05/2020 Song Workshop 2
07/05/2020 Not of this World
07/08/2020 Beethoven – Piano Sonatas 4
07/11/2020 Festival Orchestra
07/14/2020 Virtuosity and Brilliance
07/14/2020 Beethoven – Piano Sonatas 5
07/17/2020 Kissinger Beethoven
07/18/2020 Beethoven-Metamorphosis 1&5
07/18/2020 „Leonore“ / „Fidelio“ 2020
07/19/2020 „Leonore“ / „Fidelio“ 2020
07/19/2020 Final Concert