Berlioz, Lalo and Poulenc at the opening of the Rheingau Music Festival 2023

Rheingau Music Festival 2023: Opening concert in the basilica at Eberbach Monastery/ Chief conductor Alain Altinoglu and the hr Symphony Orchestra © Ansgar-Klostermann / Rheingau Musik Festival

With Hector Berlioz’s Ouverture ‘ Le Carnaval romain’, Edouard Lalo’s `Symphonie espagnole` and Francis Poulenc’s `Stabat Mater’, the Rheingau Music Festival started its 2023 season in the basilica of Eberbach Monastery in the Rheingau.

The hr-Sinfonieorchester, conducted by Alain Altinoglu, the MDR Rundfunkchor under the direction of Philipp Ahmann, the brilliant debut of the only 17-year-old Brazilian violin soloist Guido Sant’Anna and the powerful-voiced soprano Vannina Santoni delivered a true pleasure package for all senses.

The opening concert began with Hector Berlioz’s popular overture “Le carnaval romain.” In this lively concert piece, which lasted about ten minutes, Berlioz used themes from his opéra-comique “Benvenuto Cellini.” Fancy rhythms correspond here with motifs of the carnival and cheerfully dancing people. Different tempi and dynamics convey many moods.

Virtuoso energetic playing in a red silk shirt

Édouard Lalo’s “Symphonie espagnole (op. 21, D minor),” which lasted about half an hour, conveyed special intensity. The 17-year-old Brazilian Guido Sant’Anna, who won the renowned International Fritz Kreisler Violin Competition in Vienna in September 2022, was engaged as solo violinist. This year he received a scholarship to study at the Kronberg Academy. With his virtuosic and energetic playing, wearing a striking red silk shirt, he immediately captured the audience completely. The climax was the fourth movement: the initial brass notes were followed by an almost intimate playing of the solo violin.

Chief conductor Alain Altinoglu ensured a successful dialogue between the hr-Sinfonieorchester and Guido Sant’Anna during the “Symphonie espagnole”. The audience, extremly clapped for a solo encore: the second movement “Dance roustique” from the Sonata No. 5 in G major (“The Dawn”) by the Belgian violinist, composer and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe.

Intensity and power of a beautiful voice

After the intermission, Francis Poulenc’s “Stabat Mater” was played, a religious work that fits perfectly into the basilica of Eberbach Monastery. The intercessory prayer is about the mother of Jesus in her pain for the crucified Jesus. There are numerous settings of the medieval poem, for example by Charpentier, Haydn, Rossini, Schubert, Verdi or Vivaldi.  In the work, which is divided into twelve sequences, the choir takes center stage. The MDR Rundfunkchor, conducted by Philipp Ahmann, conveyed the prayer with high intensity.

The French soprano Vannina Santoni convinced with her special charisma and the intensity and power of her beautiful voice.

The French soprano Vannina Santoni convinced in the sequences “Vidit suum dulcem Natum”, “Fac, ut portem Christi mortem” and the final “Quando corpus morietur” with her special charisma and the intensity and power of her beautiful voice.

Former German President Joachim Gauck asked in his ceremonial address. “Are we allowed to rejoice in times like these? His answer: “Of course, what faith enables me to do, music also enables me to do. ” But the power and beauty of music is not an act of escaping the world. Art cannot undo human abysses, but it has the power to transform, to bring about changes and unexpected things.

Johanna Wenninger-Muhr

The hr Symphony Orchestra and the MDR Radio Choir
Founded in 1929, the hr-Sinfonieorchester is famous for its dynamic playing culture and musical excellence. Since 2021, it has been led by 48-year-old Paris-born principal conductor Alain Altinoglu. The MDR Rundfunkchor, since January 2020 conducted by Philipp Ahmann, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in the 2023/24 season, is the largest radio choir of the public broadcaster.