Established in 1921, the Donaueschingen Music Festival is the oldest festival of New Music in the world and the most highly acclaimed of its kind in Germany. Many famous composers of the 20th and 21st century have presented world premieres of their works at the event. Staged every year in October, the festival presents a broad overview of the musical avant-garde.
New Music has always mirrored the spirit of the times – and this year is no different. In 22 world premieres, four sound installations and two ensemble debuts in Donaueschingen, this year’s festival not only addresses the newest developments in music, but also those of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite formal restrictions, festival organisers have prepared a multifaceted and technically innovative programme.
The virus as co-curator
The measures aimed to slow down the pandemic’s spread not only impact visitor routes and ticket sales, but also the programme itself. Both the size of the orchestral complements and the length of the pieces are restricted. Nonetheless, visitors can look forward to the experimental sounds of the Donaueschingen Music Festival – from Wojtek Blecharz’s world premiere of the interactive sound sculpture “Symphony No.3” featuring 200 portable loudspeakers to the virtual final concert performed by the SWR Experimentalstudio and the SWR Symphonieorchester, directed by its principal conductor Teodor Currentzis.
Innovation with tradition
One of the highlights of the programme is a new performance of Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 1 which saw its world premiere in Donaueschingen in 1922 and now rings in the 100th anniversary of the Donaueschingen Music Festival in 2021. Under the direction of conductor Titus Engel, the SWR Symphony Orchestra will perform the opening concert featuring five orchestral miniatures by Oliver Schneller, Lula Romero, Michael Wertmüller, Klaus Lang and Cathy Milliken.
For the first time, the festival has invited the Polish ensemble Kwadrofonik to perform four works with daring instrumental arrangements featuring piano, percussion, soprano vocals and electronics. In another Donaueschingen debut, the group MAM.manufaktur für aktuelle musik will present a project by the Jamaican-British singer Elaine Mitchener, which was inspired by the feminist writer Sylvia Wynter and which, together with choreographer Dam Van Huynh, has commissioned pieces of New Music and jazz from various composers. In the NOWJazz Session the pianist and synthesiser player Marcus Schmickler will produce illuminating moments with electronic music. The performance will be accompanied by a presentation on artificial intelligence by the singer and musician Holly Herndon (currently a fellowship holder in the project #bebeethoven).
The immersive power of music
A further highlight of the programme is a new orchestral piece by the prizewinning English film music composer Mica Levi, who has composed scores for such films as “Under the Skin” and “Jackie”. In their installation in the Old Court Library and the Donaueschingen Fischhaus, the artists Mike Cooper and Christian Skjødt explore the topic of water and its patterns of motion.
The theme of this year’s poster by Shilpa Gupta visually evokes the sound of the roaring ocean and – like music itself – completely enfolds the viewer. The Indian artist, however, offers a different interpretation of the wave motif: “It’s also [...] about the rotation of the Earth, and the people and thoughts which – especially most recently – have been changing Europe and the world.”
Artistic director: Björn Gottstein
17 October, 2020 : Broadcast: Performances Ensemble Musikfabrik and MAM.manufaktur für aktuelle Musik
2pm on SWR2 | In collaboration with Elaine Mitchener
16 October, 2020 : Broadcast: Rehearsal of the Opening Concert
8pm on SWR2, video stream available 18 October 12 pm at www.SWRClassic.de
15 October, 2020 to 18 October, 2020: CANCELLED: Festival for New Music
Various locations, Donaueschingen
Amt für Kultur, Tourismus und Marketing Donaueschingen
www.swr.de/swr-classic/donaueschinger-musiktage (external link, opens in a new window)