Europe's spirit is rooted in antiquity and the name of our continent has been associated with the mythological figure of Europa since ancient times. According to legend, she was a Phoenician king's daughter who lived on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Lebanon. Zeus, father of the gods, fell in love with the beautiful woman and, disguised as a bull, abducted her to Crete. Once there, Zeus and Europa had three children, including Minos, who would henceforth be the ruler of the island, while his mother became the namesake of the entire continent. One of the most important ideas related to the »myth of Europe« that was spread around the world is without question that of democracy. But within the framework of a cultural European identity, the arts, and in this context music in particular, have played a central role since the late Middle Ages. Each year since 2021, the festival has therefore turned the musical spotlight on a neighbouring country under the title »Mythos Europa - Klänge Europas« (Myth of Europe - Sounds of Europe). After Belgium and the Netherlands, this year’s focus is on Italy.
Italy has been the country Germans have yearned for since before Goethe's »Italian Journey«. Like Germany, it only became a nation state in the 1870s. From the 14th century onwards, the five main powers that ruled in what is now Italy were the city-states of Milan, Florence and Venice, as well as the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples. Often enriched by conflicts with external powers, a unique high culture developed in this competitive environment at the turn of the late Renaissance and the Baroque – this was also the case for music! With humanist ideas as a spiritual breeding ground, a fundamentally new understanding of music developed, combined with the emergence of numerous new musical genres and forms. The triumph of Italian composers was unstoppable, especially once the music moved out of the ecclesiastical space and into the secular world of opera, and the courts also emerged as centres of music. The invention modern music printing by Ottaviano Petrucci in Venice in 1501 made a significant contribution to the rapid spread of their works throughout Europe. The leading centres Venice, Rome and Naples exerted such a strong attraction with their musical culture that the greatest desire of many young composers north of the Alps was to go to Italy. Heinrich Schütz, Georg Friedrich Händel, Johann Adolph Hasse, Christoph Willibald Gluck and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are only the most famous examples. At the same time, many Italian composers were lured abroad with lucrative positions. Luigi Boccherini and Domenico Scarlatti went to Madrid, Giovanni Maria Bononcini and Nicola Antonio Porpora to London, Antonio Vivaldi and Antonio Caldara to Vienna and Baldassare Galuppi and Domenico Cimarosa spent a few years at Catherine the Great's court in St Petersburg. The power of music to transcend languages and borders had long been a lived reality throughout Europe by this time!
From Monteverdi to Verdi, from the madrigal to the opera, from the concerto to vespers - many of the concerts at this year's Musikfest are driven by the tension between these close links. And of course, we will also place current ambassadors of the Italian music scene under the spotlight.
Apart from once again leading the »Katharinas Hofmusik« atelier with a team of tutors including conductor of the Concerto Romano Alessandro Quarta, the Roman oboist Alfredo Bernardini will also perform a »Serenata teatrale« dedicated to Mozart with his Ensemble Zefiro.
The organist, harpsichordist and conductor Andrea Marcon, who stems from Treviso, can be experienced in a three-part residency: As a soloist he will trace the Italian influences on the North German organ school at the organ in Hohenkirchen, while with the La Cetra Barockorchester Basel he will first bring a »Musica veneziana« back to life in Rhede and then recreate Vespers as they might have sounded in Venice’s St Mark's Basilica in Ganderkesee. In Osterholz-Scharmbeck, organist Edoardo Bellotti, who was born in Pavia, traces the Italian influences which greatly inspired Handel’s work. Il Giardino Armonico, founded in 1985 and conducted by Giovanni Antonini, have been one of the leading Italian period instrument ensembles for years. In Verden, they add Joseph Haydn's oratorio »The Seasons« to their longstanding exploration of the composer.