The Festival

Already entering its fifth year, the Hamburg International Music Festival once again serves as an illustrious showcase for a musical city. Over four weeks, the great Hamburg orchestras and concert organisers are at their best, presenting a programme of national appeal. This season's motto is »Belief«.

The Programme

High-ranking guests such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner's English Baroque Soloists, Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, many other international soloists and the four big Hamburg orchestras perform important confessional works from all eras of music history as well as compositions outside the confines of the »Belief« motto. As the centrepiece of the festival, Kent Nagano conducts the Hamburg State Opera in three performances of Olivier Messiaen's sole opera, »St. François d’Assise«, and Daniel Harding leads two performances of Mahler's 8th Symphony - the Symphony of a Thousand. There are six concerts exploring the work of the deeply religious Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, who lives close to Hamburg. The two opening concerts feature the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under its chief conductor Alan Gilbert. Conducting doyen Herbert Blomstedt directs three concerts featuring his reading of Mozart's Great C minor Mass, while a trio led by tenor Benedikt Kristjánsson presents an unusual version of Bach's St John Passion. The Swedish Radio Choir, generally regarded as one of the world's best choirs, performs sacred works by Pärt and the Concerto for Choir by Alfred Schnittke. Claude Vivier's »Musik für das Ende« provides the setting for an exciting musical experience put on by the Canadian Ensemble Soundstreams. »The Lichtenberg Figures« is the title of an exciting chamber music recital with the Ictus Ensemble, the contemporary music specialists from Belgium.

Sofia Gubaidulina

This season the International Music Festival devotes its composer spotlight to Sofia Gubaidulina (*1931), the internationally celebrated, deeply religious Russian composer who settled in Appen close to Hamburg in 1992. The festival's opening concert with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under its chief conductor Alan Gilbert presents »Der Reiter auf dem weißen Pferd« for large orchestra and organ, a highly dramatic work by Gubaidulina that condenses into the space of ten minutes God's descent to earth and His incarnation, followed by the transfiguration and ascension of Christ. A few days later, Ensemble Resonanz performs her piano concerto entitled »Introitus« together with the Meditation on the Bach chorale »Vor deinen Thron tret' ich hiermit«. The sonic.art saxophone quartet, which gave the first performance of Gubaidulina's »Verwandlung« in Hamburg eleven years ago, is joined by additional soloists in the Elbphilharmonie Recital Hall. The Symphony Orchestra of the Hochschule für Musik und Theater places Gubaidulina's Violin Concerto No. 2 »in tempus präsens« at the centre of its matinee concert. In her »Sonnengesang« the composer makes explicit reference to St Francis of Assisi. The work is performed by the NDR Chor in the St. Katharinen Church. The climax and at the same time the final work of the Gubaidulina spotlight is the oratorio »Über Liebe und Hass«, which was given its premiere just a few years ago. The work is performed here by the Symphoniker Hamburg, the Europa Chor Akademie Görlitz and a quartet of soloists under the baton of Peter Tilling.

Jazz & World Music

Many people persist in the belief that the Elbphilharmonie is just a temple of the Muses where classical music is performed. The Hamburg International Music Festival offers five different opportunities to learn otherwise in the Recital Hall.

Singer-songwriter Blick Bassy from Cameroon recalls in his programme »1958« the freedom fighter Ruben Um Nyobé, who was shot by French colonial troops in that year, and reflects at the same time on Cameroon as it is today. He is accompanied by three musicians playing the trumpet, the trombone, the cello and keyboards.

In a solo performance, the charismatic Italian jazz pianist Stefano Bollani owns up to a guilty pleasure, namely his love of Andrew Lloyd Webber's seventies musical »Jesus Christ Superstar«. The audience can certainly look forward to an extremely entertaining confession, performed with virtuosity.

The next day, five top American jazzers pay the Recital Hall a visit: Dave Liebman (tenor and soprano sax) and Randy Brecker (trumpet) have known each other since forever, and both have influenced the development of jazz, each in his own way, since the 1970s. In their quintet together with Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (percussion), these masters show jazz fans what amazingly fast improvisations they are still capable of.

After her outstanding November 2018 debut in the Laeiszhalle's »Jazz Piano« series, American pianist Myra Melford returns to Hamburg with her band Snowy Egret. Her quintet includes the fantastic cornet player Ron Miles, who elicited thunderous applause from the Grand Hall audience as part of the Joshua Redman Quartet last summer.

Kindly supported by the Kühne Foundation, the Stiftung Elbphilharmonie as well as the Förderkreis Internationales Musikfest Hamburg.

The Festival Brochure (German only)