Focus Point – Melting Pots

Places where paths cross

Where different ethnicities, religions, milieus and aesthetics meet, melting pots of music are created. Without any discernible order, influences and inspirations mingle at these melting pots to form something new and completely unexpected.

Vienna, for centuries the seat of government of a multi-ethnic state, is not considered a city of music par excellence for nothing: no other art benefits more directly than the art of sound from the encounter of different languages, tones, temperaments and mentalities. And, of course, of the constant intermingling of classes and milieus, of the popular and the refined – on the short journey from the suburbs to the imperial court and back. The influx of Czechs, Hungarians, Germans, Italians, Poles and Jews never ceased in Vienna. And the more densely the buzz brewed in the melting pot, the more diverse the interaction between the cultural influences, the more attractive the city became for all those who flocked from outside. An illuminating synopsis of Viennese composing at the beginning of the 20th century, the city's second period of musical splendor after the Classical period, was presented by the Belgian ensemble Het Collectief, which juxtaposed key works by Alexander von Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern.

Two festival programs paid a visit to Paris, the other musical metropolis of the fin de siècle. The Vocalensemble Rastatt under the direction of Holger Speck and the pianist Anne le Bozec performed works by Gabriel Fauré and Camille Saint-Saëns as well as rarely heard female composers such as Lili Boulanger or Cécile Cheminade. Also the Rastatt-born Luise Adolpha le Beau (1850-1927) was to be discovered, one of the few women of her time who insisted on not composing miniatures, as her female counterparts were advised to do at the time, but to use the representative formats. Baritone Benjamin Appl and Martynas Levickis on accordion intensified the melting processes in their recital as they demonstrated the ways in which composers and poets from as many world cities test new alloys of the exotic, the entertaining, and the subtle.

The astonishing creativity of English musical life today is also, at least in part, the result of constant immigration. Both the former textile metropolis Manchester, one of the most vital cultural centers in Europe today, and the capital London took in many of the artists expelled by the Nazis and allowed them to develop their ideas with the help of strong institutions like the BBC. The influx of people from the former colonies of the Commonwealth has now produced a decidedly diverse music scene. With the Aurora Orchestra and the Manchester Collective, two particularly innovative groups were guests at the Heidelberger Frühling Musikfestival 2023. The highest artistic quality and an emphatically communicative concept always go hand in hand for both.

But it is not only in the big cities that the intermingling of cultural influences proves productive: Ibrahim Keivo, "the troubadour of multicultural Syria," who came to Heidelberg with the NDR Big Band, is the son of an Armenian family that survived the genocide of 1915; his music combines Syrian, Kurdish and Armenian elements. The evening, put together by cellist Astrig Siranossian, was entirely dedicated to the thousand-year-old Armenian musical tradition. Diversity of cultures here, too: In addition to a piano trio, the poignant sound of the duduk, the Armenian woodwind instrument, was heard, as well as the kanun, an oriental zither.