The fact that the fanfare, which at the Rheingau Music Festival in Eberbach Monastery has for many years always sounded as a loudspeaker signal at the beginning of the concert and at the end of the intermission, was now played live in its original form in the basilica at the opening of the festival, had a certain symbolic value.

Because the melody that Mendelssohn placed like a sign at the beginning of his Symphony No. 2 in B flat major ("Lobgesang"), which was designed half as a cantata, and to which the choir later sings the psalm verse "Everything that breathes, praise the Lord", is combined with joy, hope, praise of God and the romantic-art-religious belief in the intrinsic power of music.

Guido Holze

Editor in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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This was conveyed so emotionally at the start in the monastery church, which had long since become profane, which as "A solid castle" encompassed Mendelssohn's world of ideas with appropriate Romanesque force and amplifying reverberation, with the MDR radio choir and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of its chief conductor Alain Altinoglu how meaningful.

The fact that the path in Mendelssohn's symphonic cantata leads through darkness to light also fits into the picture, as the founding director Michael Herrmann remarked in his welcome.

The state of Hesse's aid programs "saved the festival's life," he said, thanking the recently resigned Prime Minister Volker Bouffier, who, like his predecessor Roland Koch, watched over the privately financed festival as a quasi-official patron.

Now he has passed this task on to his successor Boris Rhein.

The ticket buyers who waived refunds in 2020 after the festival was completely canceled, the sponsors who paid money without getting a concert for it and the members of the association also ensured the festival's continued existence.

In the previous year, for example, it was able to take place again on a large scale, but under Corona conditions.

Such a strong musical experience needs closeness

To experience such a powerful choral symphonic work for the first time again with a full cast without any gaps, to feel the sound pressure waves at the first choral entry on one's pimples and, ideally, also to feel the intellectual participation of those sitting next to you, was something uplifting.

It made it clear what was missing in the past two years: Such a strong musical experience needs closeness.

For musical and atmospheric reasons, this applies to both the performers and the audience.

Alain Altinoglu, who has been chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra since this season and has had a few, but not so many, opportunities to introduce himself as such, gave the intellectual roadmap directly.

The 46-year-old Frenchman of Armenian descent, who shows himself to be stylistically adept in his new position and brings even more emotional energy than his predecessor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, took the said core motif remarkably quickly, simply in expression and so initially almost antipathetically.

As in the symphony part, chorale themes shine through, but take on different characters depending on the context, he emphasized it strikingly with changing phrasing.

This is how the typical German sound structure in the best sense of the word came into being,

Striding through the night with the frequently repeated anxious question of the oratorio-practised and clearly articulating tenor Matthew Swensen "Guardian, is the night soon over?" came insistently, especially in the reduction, the connection with the loud choral jubilation and the romantic sentiment of A cappella chorals "Now thank you all God" plausible.

The final return to the fanfare motif with combined forces, which harmoniously included Katharina Konradi and Miriam Albano as soloists, had to be as unreserved as it was afterwards.

Promising start

This was preceded by Antonín Dvořák's symphonic poem “The Golden Spinning Wheel” with equally skilful dramaturgical guidance.

The dispute between good and evil, which grew out of the fairy tale about the Bohemian Cinderella Dornička, was given a great deal of plasticity with the images of nature, the heroic and darkly malicious sounds.

When the hr symphony orchestra continues to develop under Altinoglu, a lot can be expected.

For the festival, which is now offering more than 130 concerts at 25 venues in the Rheingau and neighboring regions until September 3rd, this was a promising and fitting start, as this summer there is a special focus on choral music.

In particular, there is a focus on boys' choirs.

Almost everything that has status and reputation in Germany is a guest.

The Thomanerchor Leipzig, the Dresdner Kreuzchor, the Windsbacher Knabenchor and the Regensburger Domspatzen perform in quick succession in July.

The Windsbachers also make an important contribution to the Mendelssohn focus with “Elias”.

“Paulus”, the other major oratorio by the composer, who died 175 years ago, can be heard with the Audi Youth Choir Academy and, oddly enough, with the Academy for Early Music Berlin.

One of the three main venues of the festival, in addition to the Eberbach monastery and the Kurhaus Wiesbaden, is once again Schloss Johannisberg, where the Fürst von Metternich concert cube, which was built in no time at all last year, will be used again this year in the Cuvéehof, primarily for chamber concerts.

The mobile hall, built primarily of steel and wood, which is quite large with a total of 1000 seats for chamber music, but proved to be acoustically suitable, was built for only one million euros, including a special ventilation system, for concerts with half occupancy under Corona Conditions.

Since many visitors also liked the short concert format without a break with an early start and end, the festival continues in this way.

After all, the Rheingau also attracts gastronomy and wine lovers: they get to the restaurant early.