News from around the world

The Usedom Music Festival

A German music festival features three concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra


The Usedom Music Festival (Usedomer Musik Festival) - with the generous support of the German Federal State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania - will present The New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jaap van Zweden, in three concerts on 20, 21 and 22 May 2022, in Peenemünde to commemorate two decades of concerts in the erstwhile Nazi power plant.

Peenemünde, formerly the development site of ballistic missiles and V1 and V2 rockets, was built in 1936 in order to help Hitler in his quest to control the world. Peenemünde: a dreaded place where thousands of people were enslaved and murdered under the orders of future chief of booster development at NASA Wernher von Braun, and military advisor General Walter Dornberger. At the end of World War II, both von Braun and Dornberger surrendered to the Americans. Former SS officer Wernher von Braun lent his expertise to the space race and eventual first landing of a man on the moon.

Today the enormous complex houses a concert hall seating well over 1,200, exhibition spaces, a museum and information center that hosts almost a million visitors annually.

Peenemünde 2002: The Usedom Music Festival presented Mstislav Rostropovich conducting mammoth forces in an inspiring performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem marking the beginnings of a twenty year series of musical collaborations serving as an initiative for world peace. James Oestreich wrote in The New York Times: 'A strangely timed musical memorial in a former Nazi compound touches the heart'.

Since then, many world-class conductors have come on-board, traveling thousands of miles to take part in Usedom Music Festival's large scale music productions. Kurt Masur, honorary patron of the Usedom Music Festival, conducted three of his last concerts in Peenemünde, and also gave two international master classes for young conductors. Among the many participating artists are Krzysztof Penderecki, Christoph von Dohnányi, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alan Gilbert, Andris Nelsons, Christoph Eschenbach, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi and Kristjan Järvi, to name a few. Further notable celebrity guests have included Lech Walesa, Queen Silvia of Sweden and Mikhail Gorbachev, among countless other famous personalities. Some of these include Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer with Kremerata Baltica, German chanteuse Ute Lemper, opera singers Ewa Podles from Poland and Anja Silja from Germany, Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say, as well as jazz musicians Jan Gabarek and Esbjörn Svenson. 'Literature Days', the academic division of the Usedom Music Festival, has hosted authors such as the esteemed crime writer Donna Leon, and Nobel Prize winners Herta Müller, Olga Tokarczuk and Svetlana Alexievich.

Additional Usedom Music Festival presentations include The Baltic Sea Philharmonic, Jewish and International Music Week, Literary Programs, as well as a music education outreach program.

Always striving to improve the quality of the Usedom Music Festival, director Thomas Hummel sought and won the support of Kurt Masur who, then the Gewandhauskapellmeister in Leipzig and also chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, became the first patron of the Usedom Music Festival, which led to the Philharmonic's involvement with the Festival.

Online publicity for 2022 Usedom Music Festival events
Online publicity for 2022 Usedom Music Festival events

Celebrated German Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will perform Anne-Sophie, the violin concerto composed for her by André Previn. (Previn was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1938.)

Anne-Sophie Mutter wrote: 'Performing his violin concerto in Peenemünde with an American orchestra and a Dutch conductor is an outstanding and unforgettable moment in my career. Most importantly, this concert sends a strong message regarding German-American understanding.'

Polish Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki will play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor), and American baritone Thomas Hampson will sing selections from Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

These concerts will be filmed by Bernhard Fleischer, whose credits include many films of productions of international opera, ballet, concerts and recitals, and from the Salzburg Festival and New York Metropolitan Opera, as well as influential documentaries about famous musicians. Select New York Philharmonic Peenemünde concerts will be shown on the European television channel ARTE, as well as on Deutschlandradio, Kultur, and world-wide via Deutsche Welle. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will be offering international radio broadcasts.

For three weeks from 17 September until 8 October 2022, the Usedom Music Festival presents leading musicians and cultural treasures from ten states around the Baltic Sea - Norway Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Finland. The upcoming Usedom Music Festival Season will focus on Estonia.

The concept of presenting a different country every year allows each of the Baltic Sea countries to showcase their leading artists and musical riches, demonstrating the cultural heritage and diversity of Northern Europe. The Usedom Music Festival brings to life the special atmosphere of a cosmopolitan two-country island in the Baltic Sea region utilizing distinctive concert venues consisting of quaint churches, picturesque castles, the magnificent buildings of the imperial baths and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's industrial shrine in Peenemünde.

Festival director Thomas Hummel claims 'The three-week program of the Usedom Music Festival is one of the largest theme-based music festivals in the world. Theme-based festivals usually last only four to seven days, and long-term festivals usually don't commit themselves to any focus on content. The Usedom Music Festival, which is at home in both Poland and Germany, is a rarity in this respect'.

Throughout its twenty-nine year history, the Usedom Music Festival has received many awards for its commitment to uniting people through the arts, music and culture. In 2006 the Usedom Music Festival received the Tryton Cultural Prize from the Polish city of Swinoujscie; In 2012 the multi-national Baltic Sea Philharmonic orchestra was honored with 'Excellent Place – In the Land of Ideas'; in 2015 the orchestra received the European Cultural Award as ambassador of the Baltic Sea region; and in the years 2015 to 2018, the Usedom Music Festival carried the EFFE seal of approval of the European Union for its 'artistic and social commitment with an international and global perspective'.

Located in the German Federal State Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the resort island of Usedom, known once to the elite of Berlin as the German Riviera — has been restored to its former natural elegance and flair since the reunification of Germany in 1990. With nearly a hundred miles of sandy white beaches, five star hotels and restaurants, manicured promenades and turn of the century villas, Usedom offers visitors all the comforts and activities required for a first-class vacation, including health spas, shopping and sightseeing, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, biking, sailing, fishing, boating and water skiing. The picturesque island villages of Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck and Bansin were made famous by Kaiser Wilhelm II, which he had built into his personal Imperial Baths in the 1860s, and have welcomed such prominent guests as the Brothers Mann, Maxim Gorki, Leo Tolstoi and Johann Strauss. The late American artist Lyonel Feininger, a frequent visitor to the island, published a book with many sketches of Usedom.

Angela Merkel: 'The Usedom Music Festival not only brings the island to life, but an entire region to life. In fact, the cultural island of Usedom is part of a large family that is not separated by the Baltic Sea.'

Posted 27 March 2022 by Helene Kamioner






 << Home              More news >>