Dear Music Lovers,
what would Würzburg be without the Mozartfest? What would the Mozartfest be without Würzburg? The two of them have been inseparably linked for 100 years now, growing and growing together under ever-changing conditions. The Mozartfest was launched in 1921 when the First World War was still casting deep shadows. It was an initiative which looked to the future with optimism, an impactful pointer towards reflection, self-discovery, public education. And not least, it provided a new identity for the Residenz, which was now open to the public. A regional initiative that quickly became an alluring option for national and international artists, too, attracting audiences from both near and far. The Mozartfest was relaunched »on the ruins of time« – to quote Mozart researcher Erich Valentin – in 1951, this time directly sponsored by Würzburg City Council. It’s a hundred years of chequered German history that are reflected in the Mozartfest and its city.
During these years, about two and a half million music-lovers have been attracted to the Mozartfest, accepting it with all its transformations and constants, lending it the requisite stability, just as the concerts themselves have lent many people stability in difficult times. All events have invariably been about much, much more than just the cliché of »classical« music in a festive, late-Baroque ambience: they have been about a dialogue with the present, a dialogue that can – thanks to Mozart – strike a balance in ever-new ways. Every era, though, forms its own picture of Mozart, of course. Each of the programmes drawn up in Würzburg has aimed at exploring Mozart under an ever-changing range of aspects, at reappraising his music through its very essence. Any artistic engagement with it will invariably also be an intellectual one. You cannot separate the two.
The 2021 anniversary season celebrates 100 years of the Mozartfest while simultaneously holding a mirror up to it with its wide-ranging, multi-facetted programme. We are addressing milestones and turning points in the century, juxtaposing them with facets from the present day. Just as they were during the first few years of the Mozartfest, the disciplines of music, architecture, literature, the performing and the visual arts are seen as complementary. The intention is to let this interaction unfold: a festival that connects people and the arts alike.
Even before the first concert conjures up its aural delights, an exhibition will open in the Martin von Wagner Museum: IMAGINE MOZART | MOZART BILDER will be showing 60 prestigious paintings by artists like Chagall, Delacroix, Klee, Kokoschka, Schinkel and Slevogt. Another work created on the occasion of the anniversary will likewise be published in the run-up to the Mozartfest: it is a book entitled »Mozart interpretieren« (Interpreting Mozart), which uses essays and interviews to explore Mozart’s music in its sound and sheet music forms. It gives artists, who have appeared at the Mozartfest, including Alfred Brendel, Brigitte Fassbaender, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Tabea Zimmermann, a chance to express their views.
Our extensive programme ranges from premieres right through to the Night Music in the Hofgarten, from ambitious themed evenings to the Jupiter Night, which will this time be revelling in the swing of the Roaring Twenties. The »100 for 100« ideas competition is a chance for all Würzburg’s Mozart lovers to join in the celebrations and give free rein to their imagination. Also new is the M Pop-up, a Room for Mozart which we will be setting up right in the heart of the city: a room offering scope for spontaneity and experimentation that will become the organisation team’s workplace and invite all those interested to exchange news and views, to discover something new and catch up on information. This room will move the Mozartfest, which sees its role as a festival by and for the citizens, right into the centre of everyday urban life.
Instruments once belonging to Mozart will be played at the inaugural concert in the Kaisersaal. The first opera that delighted the audience at the Mozartfest was »Idomeneo« performed in 1931. Now this early masterpiece is being developed by Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques and a top-notch ensemble of young voices in their own unique way exclusively for Würzburg. Following his debut in 2017, René Jacobs will be returning to the Mozartfest: almost 200 years to the very day after the premiere he will conduct the »Freischütz« by Carl Maria von Weber for the first time and thus start his tour of Europe.
»How much Mozart do people need?« In a special format of the MozartLabor, we offer a series of lectures examining the value of high culture – and how to handle it responsibly. Eminent representatives from the academic, business, political and artistic communities give their perspectives on Europe’s musical heritage: what are we supporting when we support culture? A concurrent scholarship programme offers young people an opportunity to gain hands-on aesthetic experience by attending concerts and exhibitions in the context of a critical discourse on our social value system.
Moreover, the Mozartfest will embark on a journey – in the footsteps of the great composer himself. We will send our artistes étoiles of recent years to the cultural centres of Europe that were important to Mozart: Paris and Prague, Milan and London, Vienna and Brussels. Afterwards they will return to Würzburg with their programmes, which will be performed in the Kaisersaal. What’s more, a CD edition produced exclusively for the anniversary provides a compilation of the Mozartfest’s magical moments of musical splendour since 1954.
At the time of publishing the programme, there is still some uncertainty hovering over our planning due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet we are keenly anticipating a German-American dance project that a lot of contributors have been working on for months with great passion. The St. Thomas Boys’ Choir Leipzig and the Alabama Ballet will be premiering a danced interpretation of Mozart’s »Requiem« choreographed by Anna Vita, thus creating an interdisciplinary image of Mozart.
Speaking of the coronavirus: the powerful impact music can have in times of crises was demonstrated most recently in the Mozartfest’s 99th season. Despite enormous restrictions and while public life was still frozen in a state of shock, 43 concerts were held, the vast majority of them actually in front of a live audience. We brought music to people in a wide variety of ways, thus returning a bit of normality and joie de vivre to their lives. The inaugural concert in the empty premises of the Würzburg Residenz attracted 104,000 viewers on the day it was livestreamed – four times as many as otherwise in a whole season.
The Mozartfest sees itself today as part of the discourse on human creativity, taking quite a hands-on approach: together with partners like Würzburg University, the University of Applied Sciences, the technical college and digitalisation and AI experts from the freelance community, we have initiated a two-year project exploring the interface between music and artificial intelligence. In our anniversary programme, the author Ulla Hahn clearly has her finger firmly on the pulse of our time when, in a work commissioned by the Mozartfest, she addresses the subject of artificial intelligence in regard to Mozart.
Needless to say, we will remain true to our long-standing tradition: intimacy, the joint experiencing of music as a vital resource both for our emotions and our intellect – this is what the Mozartfest has always epitomised. It is just that we have to repeatedly redefine the specific contents – and address them. Just as Alfred Einstein says in his great book on Mozart, written in American exile: »Every generation would be infinitely poorer without him.«
You are most welcome to the Mozartfest 2021!
The Würzburg Residenz, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, churches, monasteries, wineries, palace gardens or industrial monuments are the stages for a multi-faceted cornucopia of events in which the focus is on shared appreciation and exploring aural sublimities.