Focus Point – Visionaries

Great individuals bring people together

It is a paradoxical phenomenon that isolation, non-conformity and unruliness of important minds and visionary people can produce great and unifying ideas. This can also be observed in some composers in the history of music.

Johann Sebastian Bach is probably the archetype of the artist who, in addition to immense practical life duties, begins to devote himself to self-chosen major projects at an early age. In these, without concrete economic interests, he deals with very specific compositional issues. What began as a private research project quickly spread to larger circles: The consequences of Bach's "demonstration cycles" for music history, but also for thousands of listeners over the centuries, can hardly be overestimated. No less than three such collective works could be heard at the 2023 Musikfestival. Pianist Fabian Müller took over the first part of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" in his recital. This collection of preludes and fugues in all major and minor keys is a unique combination of instructive and finely typified movements. Bach's famous "Goldberg Variations", which was heard in the festival in a delightful arrangement for strings with the Quatuor Ardeo, also date from his later years. As well as the "Art of the Fugue", Bach's final statement on the art of Baroque counterpoint, which the Cuarteto Casals undertook and performed in one of the most recent and at the same time most exciting concert venue discoveries in Heidelberg: in the parish church of St. Paul on the Boxberg, which surprises with the austere formal language of Brutalism and an amphitheatrical church space.

The two Russians Sergei Rachmaninoff and Dmitri Shostakovich embody markedly contrasting types of artists, and significant works by each were performed. What they have in common is the experience of deep abandonment, fear and isolation and their shaping in sounds. Performers of the highest caliber took on the two composers: On the one hand, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen together with soprano Asmik Grigorian and baritone Matthias Goerne in Shostakovich's 14th "sung" symphony; on the other, Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky with an all-Rachmaninoff evening in his 150th year of birth.

Also in the very best hands was the multifaceted work of György Ligeti, one of the most original and at the same time technically refined composers of the 20th century. With the "Ligeti 100" concerts, the festival dedicated a special focus to him. Ligeti became world famous with the wider public in 1968 when director Stanley Kubrick used his evocative cluster sounds, floating in space as if gaseous, in his film "2001: A Space Odyssey".