A festival dedicated to Franz Schubert, granting him his due place alongside Mozart and Beethoven, was the idea behind the Schubertiade, which first took place on the initiative of Hermann Prey in 1976 in the small town of Hohenems in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg. It provided an annual meeting place for music lovers from all over the world who relish exceptional performances in an atmosphere characterized not only by the beauty of Western Austria's scenery but also by the festival's personal and sincere spirit. The Schubertiade soon evolved into one of the most renowned forums for chamber music and lieder-singing. Its clearly-defined aims and a programme composed in accordance with an endless commitment to Schubert's work have helped to shape the festival's distinctive profile.
Today, the Schubertiade is considered the most important and distinguished Schubert festival in the world, presenting about eighty events and registering an average of 35,000 visitors per annum. No other festival is able to offer so many outstanding song recitals in such a short period of time, while also focussing on first class chamber concerts and piano recitals. Orchestra concerts, lectures, exhibitions and masterclasses given by the best singers and instrumentalists of our time add to the programme's versatility.
Consciously avoiding 'festival hype', a key aim of the Schubertiade is to maintain its intimacy and focus on high standard performances. Although the list of artists who have performed at the Schubertiade reads like a Who's Who of the international lieder and chamber music scene, managing director Gerd Nachbauer also strives constantly to advance the careers of young musicians by introducing them to an audience which is equally knowledgeable and supportive.
Discovering new venues plays an important role in the Schubertiade's eventful history, and has taken the festival to various locations in the federal state of Vorarlberg and around Lake Constance during the last four decades.
In 1991, when the Schubertiade's first venue, Hohenems Palace, was being renovated, the festival moved to the neighbouring town of Feldkirch, which had already hosted events in previous years. From 1994, the Feldkirch concerts were complemented by Landpartien, outings inspired by Franz Schubert's travels, taking the audience to beautifully situated venues like the Propstei St Gerold, a provost's residence in the Walsertal, and to Achberg Castle, Lindau Island in Germany, and Schwarzenberg, a picturesque village in the Bregenzerwald region.
In 2001, Schwarzenberg became the Schubertiade's exclusive venue thanks to the extension and thorough renovation of Angelika Kauffmann Hall. Four years later, the festival returned to Hohenems, its point of origin, with a small number of concerts adding to the Schwarzenberg programme. Again, this decision was closely connected with the availability of a suitable venue, to be found in the form of the Markus Sittikus Hall, a former gymnasium, which, according to Heinrich Schiff, the Schubertiade turned into a 'dreamlike chamber music venue'.
Franz Schubert, great classical music artists and the rich cultural history of Hohenems are the main topics of the Schubertiade's museums, located in six historically significant buildings and comprising forty rooms. A walking tour of the neighbourhood leads past other buildings which played a key role in the Schubertiade's history: Hohenems Palace was the setting for the first Schubertiade concert on 8 May 1976, and, one year later, the Parish Church St Karl provided the stage for an appearance of Karl Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
At the same time, an exhibition revolving around the world-famous orchestra's cellist Josef Sulzer (1850-1926) was staged at the villa which today houses the Jewish Museum. In the course of the second Schubertiade's opening, a memorial tablet was uncovered by Hermann Prey at the birthplace of Josef Sulzer's father, Salomon Sulzer (1804-1890). He served as a cantor in Vienna, where he was also acknowledged as a fine lieder singer, and commissioned Schubert with a psalm setting.
The 2019 Schubertiade consists of two full weeks of concerts in Schwarzenberg (22-30 June and 24 August-1 September) and concerts in Hohenems between 27 April and 25 May, a weekend in July (Saturday 13 and Sunday 14) and between 20 September and 9 October. Full details can be found at www.schubertiade.at