The Rheingau Music Festival 2021 has started

2nd opening concert of the Rheingau Music Festival 2021 on June 27, 2021/Photo: Ansgar Klostermann


Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s concert overture “The Hebrides”, his Reformation Symphony No. 5, and Jean Sibelius Concerto for Violin and Orchestra were on the program of the two opening concerts of the Rheingau Music Festival 2021. At the first sounds of the concert overture “The Hebrides”, my thoughts wander quite spontaneously to the Scottish, green-brown, romantic, melancholy island landscape of the Hebrides. It is June 27, 2021, but the place of action is the Rheingau, the medieval basilica of Eberbach Abbey near Eltville on the Rhine, which Bernard of Clairvaux founded almost 900 years ago.

After months of the Corona pandemic, there is a sense of optimism. Despite current Corona regulations, which are strictly adhered to by the organizers, despite the obligation to wear a mask during the entire concert (which is absolutely bearable), the enthusiasm is perceptible that it is finally possible again, this unique Rheingau Music Festival! Due to hygiene regulations, only 650 listeners were allowed to take their seats in the Basilica – half as many as usual.

In the two opening concerts of the Rheingau Music Festival, which are also Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s last concerts during his time as chief conductor of the Frankfurt hr- Symphony Orchestra, the focus is on Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s self-affirmation, also known as the “Reformation Symphony,” which became music after he came from a Jewish family but converted to Christianity at a young age. In addition, the German-American violinist Augustin Hadelich is a guest in the Basilica with the famous violin concerto by Jean Sibelius.

At the beginning, Mendelssohn’s concert overture “The Hebrides” is heard. Especially the elements of water and wind are impressively captured in sound by the composer and impressively rendered by the hr-Sinfonie Orchester.

The depth of Finnish lakes and the tranquility of forest

This is followed by the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor op 47 by the Finn Jean Sibelius. “From nowhere, the depth of Finnish lakes or tranquility of the forest around the concert venue Kloster Eberbach” the delicate string figures would open this violin concerto. This is what Ulrich Schardt writes in the article “Romanticism awakens from silence” in the program booklet. The associations with nature would not have to be conjured up, they would arise from the picturesque sound character of this peculiar romantic music, which is unparalleled. Augustin Hadelich, born in Italy in 1984 to German parents, who is currently establishing himself as a great violinist of his generation, impressed again this evening with his technique and the persuasiveness of his interpretation. He is currently an Associate Artist with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in Hamburg for three seasons, which guarantees young up-and-coming musicians performances with the orchestra for three seasons to help them get started in the concert business.

Hadelich’s encore, a rousing Louisana medley on the violin – he’s got that, too – would have been followed in normal times by an intermission, strolling through the cloisters of the monastery with a glass of wine. I miss that very much.

I was reconciled again by the following “Reformation Symphony” No. 5 by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The symphony centers on the last movement, in which the composer incorporates a chorale arrangement of Luther’s hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.” The solo flute intones the final movement, to the confession of faith in the wind section. The two together form an ingenious parenthesis. Especially in Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, the so-called “Reformation Symphony,” Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts with full body and grand gestures. “When this symphony by Mendelssohn begins with a chorale and ends with a chorale, this beautiful German timbre and culture is really very strong to hear,” the conductor finds. In a space like that, you have a strong celebratory feeling, and that’s very special.” This was the last time he stood in front of the hr Symphony Orchestra in his role as chief conductor. Starting in September, Orozco-Estrada will move to the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

In any case, the Rheingau Music Festival has succeeded very well with the “new start culture” – which is so urgently needed – in the summer of 2021 with the two opening concerts and the program offer of this summer.

The Rheingau Music Festival offers concerts of classical music, jazz, but also world music and pop until September 5.

Johanna Wenninger-Muhr

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