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Idea

Dear Music Lovers,

Every year is Mozart Year – for us in Würzburg at least. And sometimes it’s Beethoven Year as well. We see 2020 as an appropriate occasion to think about resistance, resurgence and renewal, and in this sense to explore the affinities between Mozart and Beethoven. It’s not entirely clear whether they actually met. Could be, but not necessarily. Subsequently, though, it was all the more stubbornly claimed that Beethoven had in Vienna received »Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands«. Well, Mozart’s spirit was indeed many things, but tangible to human hands it was definitely not. And Haydn, who recognised Mozart’s genius very early on, was much too astute to give the young Beethoven clever advice. The fact is that none of the three was in his lifetime aware of being a »classic«. All three of them were reacting to the era that was now dawning – in part imperceptibly, in part literally by violence. The (self-)liberation of the artist was the opportunity of the hour, and so of course, was the liberation of art. Orders now came increasingly from within, not from outside agencies. Resurgence and resistance exhibit particularly close links in this era: biographically, aesthetically, practicably. The two concepts can be comprehended as complementary – and rendered audible. The programs of this year’s Mozartfest explore the implications of this thought. Our third concept is taken directly from Beethoven. »Renewal is in the world of art the purpose, as in all of God’s creation«, he wrote, and was talking here not of any ominous progress, but a freedom dedicated to exploring boundaries, redefining them and venturing beyond them again.

The performers at the 2020 Mozartfest have addressed these themes in an admirably energetic spirit of enquiry. Together with them, we aim to experience the whence and whither of composers, works, and musical mindsets, focusing primarily on those of Beethoven’s works that are audibly reminiscent of his models. In several concerts, we shall also be encountering Mozart and Beethoven in a heterodox world of aural splendour between jazz and world music. Performers like Sebastian Sternal or the Hanke Brothers have written new works specifically for the Mozartfest.

If it’s true that »authentic art is wilful«, as Beethoven says, then we have made the right choice with our Artiste étoile. Reinhard Goebel – violinist, conductor, teacher, music comprehender – is not shy of speaking his mind. Wilful as he is, he cares little for conventions, researches the periphery of the mainstream repertoire, repeatedly awakens from hibernation composers and works that had long been forgotten, lost or disdained. He has conceived four programs for the Kaisersaal. He will also be teaching in the MozartLab, and exploring »Beethoven’s world« in a chat show format. We are spotlighting his intensive relationship with string-instrument music featuring multi-faceted line-ups: more than a dozen top-ranking violinists, including Viktoria Mullova, Carolin Widmann, Tianwa Yang and Augustin Hadelich, are enriching the Mozartfest, eight young string quartets, one string quintet, one string trio, two string duos. The list of pianists, too, is an imposing one: it includes Kit Armstrong, Martin Helmchen, Robert Levin, Jan Lisiecki, Fazil Say, Ragna Schirmer, and Herbert Schuch.

We feel fairly confident in postulating that Beethoven was not the only child to have been born in 1770, even if some anniversary campaigns may give this impression. We shall, for instance, be playing pieces by Friedrich Witt, the last Court Conductor at the Würzburg Residenz, who wrote 23 symphonies. One of them was for a long time attributed to Beethoven, and is of course included in the program. Witt also composed a quintet for piano and four wind instruments – like Mozart and Beethoven. The Mozartfest has for this specific purpose founded an ensemble, and is offering all three works in a single concert. Such as the »Triple Concerto«, which exists not only by Beethoven, but also by Johann Christian Bach and Hugo Voříšek. Or Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in C-Minor Op. 37 in the context of Mozart’s KV 491, from which it borrows. Or excerpts from the Leonora operas by Beethoven, Simon Mayr and Ferdinando Paër. These are just a few examples. 1770 also saw the birth of Hölderlin, whose lyric poetry provided inspiration for many composers in the 20th century. The Mozartfest will be demonstrating how Benjamin Britten, Heinz Holliger, György Kurtág and Peter Ruzicka engaged with Hölderlin.

Beethoven’s struggle with increasing deafness as a young man has inspired us to venture a cycle of six events. We have entitled it »Sinn(e)!«. It takes us on a journey into different perceptual universes. What happens if one of our senses ceases to operate? If we listen to music in the dark or bathed in a particular colour? If we don’t hear it, but see it as motion? If distractions intrude that disrupt the familiar interaction of our senses? We owe perspectives of this kind to the creativity of our performers.

We also subsume »Jenseits der Stille« in this category, devoted as it is to respectful remembrance. This concert in the Exerzitienhaus Himmelspforten is dedicated to relatives providing home care, the »everyday heroes«, with music from three centuries telling of illness, recovery, the yearning for tranquillity and ultimate verities. In »Always ... speak louder, shout, because I’m deaf«, medical experts discuss Beethoven’s deafness, and together with Kit Armstrong explore whether composing is an auditory or a mental accomplishment.

The titles of two workshops in the MozartLab encapsulate our chosen themes: Social Responsibility to the Arts and Culture and Here’s some classical music! Publicity without strident attention-seeking. And by the way: the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, making its debut at the Mozartfest, is travelling the world as a cultural ambassador. And there’s another debut: the Korean Chamber Orchestra, which has been appointed by the UN as an »Orchestra for Peace«, will be giving an exclusive concert in Germany.

You will be made very welcome at the 2020 Mozartfest!