December 9, 2016 / by AFF


Presentation of the Salzburg Festival 2017

The programme of the Salzburg festival 2017, the most famous musical and theatrical showcase, was presented at the residence of the Austrian ambassador in Moscow. The presenters were the president of the festival Helga Rabl-Stadler, the festival’s new artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser, who has been preparing for the new season for two years, and the conductor Teodor Currentzis. Aksenov Family Foundation took an active part in organising the event, since it curates the work of the Society of the Russian Friends of the Salzburg Festival, presided over by Dmitry Aksenov. The Society is modelled upon the original society which was organised 60 years ago, and others across the world – in the USA, Germany, and Switzerland. It nurtures the community of lovers of contemporary classical music and theatre, organises special programmes for the festival donors and contributes to the development of the national art scene in Salzburg.

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President of the Salzburg Festival Helga Rabl-Stadler, Teodor Currentzis, Dmitry Aksenov
© Alexander Murashkin

In the coming year of 2017, for the first time in the hundred-year long history of the festival, a Russian ensemble will open it: the MusicAeterna Orchestra and Choir of the Perm Theatre of Opera and Ballet, led by Teodor Currentzis. This is a source of great pride and joy for the Society of Russian Friends. ‘Russian participation in the festival is a great cause of pride for the whole country. The scale of this event in the world of music is akin to the Russian team making it into the World Cup finals. We are present at a true historic event, and I am delighted that I found like-minded people in Russia willing to support us,’ said Dmitry Aksenov, referring not only to the members of the Society of Russian Friends, but also Novatek, a company that became MusicAeterna’s partner at the Salzburg Festival.

“In Salzburg I visited Mozart’s house, and when I saw in person the tiny flat with quite small rooms, where Mozart, perpetually sick, created his great eternal masterpieces, I sensed a painful truth: this is the place where you embrace the mortality of man and the eternity of spirit.”

Teodor Currentzis, who recently released a recording of Don Giovanni on the Sony Classical label – the third of the so called Mozart/Da Ponte cycle – keeps engaging with the work of the genius composer, who remains, in Currentzis’s opinion, ever relevant. Currentzis and his collective will be premiering La clemenza di Tito, which will set the tone for the entire opera programme of the festival, engaging with themes of power and its manifestations. Petr Pospelov, writing for Vedomosti, notes that the new artistic director of the festival Markus Hinterhäuser’s declaration that ‘art is in dialogue with the political situation’ is very much in the spirit of Gerard Mortier.’

Both the conductor and the festival are aware of what a great honour it is to hand this music, born in Salzburg and associated almost exclusively with Austrian culture, into the hands of a Russian conductor and musicians. Currentzis, however, notes that that Mozart’s scores belong more to eternity than to a single place and time, and recollects his feelings from visiting the composer’s home: ‘In Salzburg I visited Mozart’s house, and when I saw in person the tiny flat with quite small rooms, where Mozart, perpetually sick, created his great eternal masterpieces, I sensed a painful truth: this is the place where you embrace the mortality of man and the eternity of spirit.’

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Markus Hinterhäuser, who by his own admission is a great lover of the Russian piano school and Russian culture as a whole, is constructing his first Salzburg programme with a distinct Russian focus. There are to be two equally significant lines in the programme. One is the line of Gérard Grisey, a French composer, and the other – of Dmitri Shostakovich. The latter will be a real journey through the second half of the 20th century, through musical motifs closely intertwined with political ones. Along with a new production of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, conducted by Mariss Jansons, the festival is organising solo concerts by Grigory Sokolov and Evgeny Kissin, and Igor Levit and Daniil Trofonov, brilliant musicians from Nizhniy Novgorod, on their first visit to Salzburg.

Hinterhäuser shared one of the main things that he learned from Gerard Mortier (under whom he curated the project Zeitfluss, dedicated to contemporary composers, for the Salzburg Festival) is to look at music in broader context of other forms of art. That is why in the new year he is involving not only opera and theatre stars, like Peter Sellars, who directs La clemenza di Tito, but also the South African artist William Kentridge and the Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski, who will show their interpretation of Alban Berg and Georg Büchner’s Wozzeck, and the Iranian photo- and video-artist Shirin Neshat, who is working on Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, with Anna Netrebko in the lead role. In an interview given to the newspaper Kommersant, Hinterhäuser tells of awe at the drawings of Louise Bourgeois, especially Insomnia Drawings, which led the festival to use them in the print designs.

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Helga Rabl-Stadler, in agreement with all the speakers, noted that we live in very difficult times, and there are very few things that unite us. She believes that Markus Hinterhäuser’s programme is excellent specifically due to the fact that, while raising global issues of humankind to the surface and confronting the audience with them, talking about concepts of power, mercy and forgiveness, of death, it does not deepen existing conflicts, but instead unites the audience that has gathered together on the shared ground of love for music and contemporary culture.