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Being Music Fun

    To honor the legacy, influence, and inheritance of an extended Austro-German musical tradition, the 18th Beijing Music Festival 2015 has invited an extraordinary and stellar line-up of national and international ensembles, conductors and performers. Long Yu—who simultaneously serves as artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival—Gustav Kuhn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Peter Ruzicka will conduct the China Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tiroler Festspiele Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the WDR Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, respectively. Renowned and internationally acclaimed soloists Kyung-Wha Chung, MischaMaisky, Leticia Moreno, AnssiKartunnen, Gerhard Oppitz, Vera Tsu, Jian Wang Frank Peter Zimmermann, Michaela Kaune, Mihoko Fujimura, Nikolai Schukoff, Peter Galliard and Shen Yang alongside two stunning contemporary operatic production brought to you by the Tyrolian Festival Erl, will complement these exceptional artistic collaborations. And let’s not forget the extraordinary pianist Zhu Xiao Mei, the SymphonischesSchrammelquintett Wien and the magnificent Estonian National Male Choir! Together they will explore and interpret music of the great, unbroken line of master musicians from Johann Sebastian Bach to the young Arnold Schoenberg, alongside contemporary expressions stimulatedand inspired by this magnificent musical tradition.

    This year’s festival places special emphasis on the magnificent and monumental works of Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner, two musical and intellectual giants on opposite ends of the Romantic spectrum. Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) is one of the most widely performed and beloved composers of all time. In the historiography of music, he stands alongside Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one the shining testaments to human inspiration and creativity. In spite of powerfully Romantic characteristics in his music, he imposed a Classical sense of order and everything he musically created took shape according to a thoroughly considered structural plan. Firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters, Brahms uniquely transferred the Classical ideals and Baroque counterpoint into a Romantic idiom. It is hardly surprising that his music exerted a powerful influence on subsequent generations of composers. Yet, right below its meticulous formal construction and its lush and organically grown surface, Brahms’s music has always presented considerable challenges to musicians, scholars and listeners alike. The main stumbling block for contemporary listeners is the fact that his achievements as a composer are not made accessible by detailed knowledge of his biography. Brahms’s abrasive and intensely private character undoubtedly governed his thinking as an artist, expressing itself in often inexplicably intense conflicts. Extraneous events and spiritual encounters did in fact occasionally influence his compositions and his creative genius, but in no way did he write into his work the soul felt emotions of his life as an artist. To grasp the subtle shades of meaning in his music, one has to know as much about music and the world as Brahms did. And since Brahms attempted to forensically understand everything he encountered, this is certainly no easy task.The 18th Beijing Music Festival 2015 is delighted to bring you four concerts entirely dedicated to the music of Johannes Brahms.

    Of equal importance, Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was one of the most important and controversial figures in the history of nineteenth-century music. He single-mindedly pursued his artistic aims with ruthless determination in his public and private life as well as in his many critical and theoretical writings. Receptive to literary, philosophical, political and musical influences, Wagner began as the author and composer of operas in the German Romantic manner. However, he strongly believed in the absolute oneness of drama and music, suggesting that both elements are organically connected expressions of a single dramatic idea. His synthesis of music and drama—essentially an entirely new genre—combined poetry, scenic design, staging, action and music into a “Gesamtkunstwerk,” a total artwork. In his continuous music, the orchestra conveys the inner aspect of the drama, while the sung words articulate the outer aspect, those events and situations that further the action. As such, the orchestral web is the chief factor in the music, and the vocal lines are part of the overall musical texture. Wagner’s music relies on complex chromatic alterations and constantly shifting keys. The blurring of progressions by means of suspensions produces an ambiguous kind of tonality that can only be explained partially in terms of the harmonic system of the previous two centuries. A master of orchestral color, Wagner’s music immediately appealed to a wider public as its monumentality had the power to create an all-embracing sensuous and mystical state of ecstasy that principally stood at the center of all Romantic art.Experience the sunny human comedy Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and the intense emotions of Tristan and Isoldein this year’s festival!

    On one bookend of the Austro-German tradition stands Johann Sebastian Bach. Among the most sophisticated works ever written for keyboard, his Goldberg Variations are sublime and compassionate, graceful, warm and relentlessly intricate. In the hands of the incomparable Zhu Xiao-Mei, Bach’s masterwork comes alive in the 21st century. On the other bookend of this central European tradition stands Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), who simultaneously extended the traditionally opposed German Romantic styles of Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner.In one of the biggest productions at the Beijing Music Festival ever, we proudly bring you Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder as the fitting conclusion to this year’s festival.

    Maestro Long Yu, the artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival, invites us to discover a sparkling kaleidoscope of creative imagination, orchestral luxuriousness, artistic mastery, and breathtaking virtuosity! The musical selections, however, are not limited to the music of Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner! You can also hear the famous Bruch Violin Concert, and since we are celebrating Jean Sibelius’s 150th anniversary of his birth, the festival also brings you the symphonic poem Finlandia, excerpts from his incidental music to Pelleas et Melisande, and his completely original 7th Symphony. And let’s not forget the magnificent Violin Concerto by Magnus Lindberg, and Esa-PekkaSalonen’sMania for Solo Cello and Ensemble, both veritable masterpieces combining tender lyricism with virtuosic display. We also invite you to experience a unique and mesmerizing performance by the Estonian National Male Choir with music ranging from Russian Orthodox chant to settings of the Kalevala, a work of epic poetry from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology.For a somewhat lighter and more popular side of Viennese music, please help us to welcome the “SymphonischesSchrammelquintett Wien” in a program that ingeniously blends folk music elements with art music. As always, the 18th Beijing Music Festival 2015 proudly pays homage to the astonishing talents of contemporary local composers.

    Specifically commissioned for this festival,Jasmine by Zou Ye takes its inspiration from a traditional Chinese melody, and crafts a luxurious theme and variation movement.In addition, Chen Qigang—famously the last student of Olivier Messiaen—brings us Instants d'un Opera de Pekin, a magnificent composition that ingeniously combines the theatrical and musical elements associated with this venerated and much-revered art form!

    The 18th Beijing Music Festival 2015takes us on a magical journey through a fascinating and integrated sonic world that was once dominated by the brilliant artifacts of the Austro-German musical tradition.Embraced or rejected, this cherishedtradition has spawned numerous colorful musical explorations and supported diverse artistic conclusions. Please join us for a festival of the broadest musical scope and the highest possible artistic standards!