Every year, in early summer, the Baroque city of Würzburg, former residence of the Prince-Bishops, hosts the renowned Mozartfest – and has been doing so ever since 1921. Evolving from the Mozart Week of the 1920s, the Mozartfest nowadays embraces its mission to cherish and communicate the oeuvre of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, and to create a platform for a contemporary approach to his music. The festival’s program, featuring more than 70 concerts and events, invites its visitors to experience classical music performed by top-class ensembles: chamber music, symphonies, vocal music and world music. Every year, around 30,000 visitors appreciate the sheer diversity of the program: first-rate orchestral and chamber music concerts in the magnificent Kaisersaal of the Würzburg Residenz (a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site) and atmospheric open-air concerts in the illuminated court gardens – the popular »Nachtmusik« – have been fixed items in the repertoire ever since the festival was founded. Outside the Baroque magnificence, the Mozartfest treats its guests to exclusive events that wed Mozart’s music to the attractions of the Main-Franconia region for superlatively splendid synergies: world music and cabaret in the region’s wine cellars and wineries, symphony concerts in Würzburg’s imposing cathedral, entertaining classical concerts in a post-industrial ambience, or musical-culinary gala evenings against a backdrop of picturesque vineyards and Franconia’s life-affirming ethos.
Mozart(fest) in the 21st century
The Mozartfest stands not only for conservancy and continuity, but also for expanding artistic and intellectual horizons. For confronting great music of the past with present-day actuality, re-examining its essentiality, rendering it freshly comprehensible and emotionally accessible in a contemporary setting, that’s the essence of the Mozartfest in the 21st century. Not classical music as an exercise in museological nostalgia for its own sake, but rejuvenated by the here and now. Mozart is always the starting point here, and the coruscating lodestar. The festival’s annual theme focuses on archetypal aspects of classical music. The program for the year concerned is built around the concerts given by a truly eminent performer, the season’s Artiste étoile. Exclusive und innovative programs, commissioned compositions, renowned composers and world-class performers: all combining to create an exciting Mozartfest that offers fresh new aural and experiential perspectives.
For, with and through Mozart
Würzburg as a Mozart-themed city? Yes, most definitely! »My dearest heart, best of all women!« wrote Wolfgang Amadé Mozart to his wife Constanze in 1790. »At Würzburg, we regaled our precious stomachs with coffee; it’s a magnificently beautiful city.« It’s alluringly easy to imagine Mozart arriving in a coach rumbling over Würzburg’s bumpy streets, and going into raptures at the sight of the Residenz, back then a mere fifty years old. His music has stayed in Würzburg, and found a home here. Every year, when the Mozartfest opens its doors, visitors from all over the world descend on Würzburg. Here the people speak »Mozartese«, the musical language of the entire planet. A magnificently beautiful city, in which the spirit of Mozart and his music lives and breathes – as indeed it has always done! A unique elective affinity in intellectual discernment!
The festival, the city and the people
The Mozartfest has put down deep roots in the surrounding region. Strengthened by numerous alliances with top-ranking representatives of the city, the Mozartfest is a place for meaningful networking and fresh ideas. Supported by the public purse and by the involvement of potent partners from the business community, plus patrons and friends, its renown as a cultural flagship extends way beyond the borders of its Franconian homeland and indeed of Bavaria itself.
The people of Würzburg are proud of »their Mozartfest«. And the festival repays this public support with its multifaceted program under the motto of »Mozart für alle«. New concert formats like the »Jupiternacht«, as a Last Night with a subsequent party, or the Mozarttag which transforms the city’s streets and squares into the aural splendour of a concert hall – Würzburg’s Mozartfest triumphantly achieves a balancing act between classical artistry and entertainment, between regional rapport and international stature.
Music speaks for itself, but it’s getting progressively more difficult for it to find a hearing. With its music communication program, the Mozartfest embraces its responsibility to share classical music with those who are feeling their way into it – no matter whether their ears are youthful or even younger, whether they’re people in the prime of life, or senior citizens. The Mozartfest aims to build bridges, kindle enthusiasm and communicate the sheer enjoyment of encountering classical music, not only as passive consumers, but as active participants as well.
Mozart in a test-tube: the MozartLab
You have to venture into uncharted territory to discover new lands: with the MozartLab, the Würzburg Mozartfest is trialling fresh approaches. Accommodated in the idyllically situated and at the same time inspirational Exerzitienhaus Himmelspforten, it offers facilities for music-making, discussions and experimentation – with sounds, language and digital media. Established performers and eminent thinkers encounter young scholarship holders from disparate disciplines within the framework of platform discussions, lecture concerts, public rehearsals or multimedial projects. This intergenerational, cross-disciplinary mutual feedback provides – not least for the public – an opportunity for passionate research on and with Mozart.
A tradition since 1921
In 1921, on the initiative of Herrmann Zilcher, the then Director of the Music Conservatory, the first Mozart concert was held in the Kaisersaal of the Würzburg Residenz. »A profound symbiosis of sound, architecture and colour,« is how Herrmann Zilcher describes the synergies of Mozart’s music, Balthasar Neumann’s magnificent architecture, and the sublime artistry of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Antonio Bossi. It was this enthusiasm that helped to lay the foundations for Germany’s oldest extant Mozartfest. Since then, it has established itself as a unique venue for serious, vibrant fostering of Mozart’s works, and is unique throughout Europe in what will soon be 100 years of its history as a votary of his music.