The Donaueschingen Music Festival

The SWR Symphony Orchestra and Freiburg under Arturo Tamayo.
All i
mages: SWR.de; ARD-Foto


If there is one occasion of contemporary experimental music I would love to be able to attend one of these years, it is the fabled annual Donaueschingen Music Festival — though it doesn’t look likely that I’ll be around Donaueschingen in the middle of the fall anytime soon. Have thus to satisfy myself with reviews of the events and hopefully catch up with some of the music when it eventually comes out on cd. Here is signandsight’s review of this years’s event (and I’m especially sad not to have heard one of my absolutely favorite cvomposer’s, Brian Ferneyhough‘s, new work). The obvious popularity of the event is noteworthy; if held somewhere in this country I doubt that it would attract such audiences. Below the opening paragraphs:

Music with white plaster-buckets

Peter Hagmann reports from this year’s bustling edition of the Donaueschingen Music Festival

The rain came down punctually on Monday morning – after a golden autumn weekend that couldn’t have suited the Donaueschingen Music Festival better. There was no time for gentle ambling, however, because this year’s festival organised by Südwest Rundfunk in the Black Forest was as busy as ever, with no less than 23 premieres in 8 concerts over 48 hours. Just getting a seat was difficult enough, as the events were sold out one and all. Concerts had to be shifted to bigger theatres or performed several times. Such was the scramble to get up to scratch on new music today, something many people consider an old white elephant.

This year’s audiences, incidentally, were again full of young people, like those taking part in one of the “Next Generation” workshops running parallel to the festival. Contrary to popular opinion, concert organisers with dwindling audiences would do well to put new music on their programme.

But the question is: which new music? This autumn’s Donaueschinger Musiktage again illustrated how wide the spectrum has become. Yet the most enduring impressions were made by three composers, all well over 50. One, Brian Ferneyhough, an Englishman living in California, is known for his incredibly dense and convoluted pieces. Even the orchestral work “Plötzlichkeit” (suddenness) bespeaks an intellectual approach that’s hard to get your head round, and a complexity of musical expression that can only be approximated when played. Yet the vast reach of the work is what lends it vitality and so much sensuality that you are drawn in to scrutinise its every detail. Aided ably, it should be said, by SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg under conductor Arturo Tamayo, who give the score everything they’ve got.

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you can read the full article here.

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