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Festival Journal. 'The Kissinger Sommer Festival', 2015. Monday, 22nd June, 2015

Wednesday, 22 July 2015 , ora 8.26
On 19th and 20th June, 2015, I was among the members of the audience attending the concerts which opened the 30th edition of the Kissinger Sommer Festival in Bad Kissingen, a picturesque town in Central Germany, similar to Băile Herculane, except that all the historical buildings in the town of Bad Kissingen are restored, and the town itself has an impressive cultural life. Both cities were visited by famous personalities, such as, "Sissi", Elisabeth, Empress of Austria (the last picture of her was taken by a paparazzo of the time while she was on holiday in the town of Bad Kissinger; I saw the picture myself) and … Gioachino Rossini, who signed a document in 1856, which is being kept in New York today. The family of Henry Kissinger, the famous American diplomat, has its roots in the town of Bad Kissinger, as well.

The Kissinger Sommer Festival is one of the most important summer festivals in Germany, and that is due to the exceptional guests who headline its programme. I must mention the names of Cecilia Bartoli, Sabine Meyer, Midori, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, Lisa Batishvili, Lawrence Foster, Alisa Weilerstein, Grigory Sokolov, Valery Gergiev and Daniil Trifonov, invited to this year's edition. The Festival was founded in 1985 for the purpose of establishing a bridge between the musicians who were living in the Federal Republic of Germany and those who were living in the German Democratic Republic - as a matter of fact, the border which separated the two parts of Germany, the communist and the capitalist one, was between 30 and 40 Km away from the town of Bad Kissingen.

Kari Kahl Wolfsjager, the intendant of the festival: The Festival has a 30-year-old history and it has gradually become more and more important, but the essential guidelines have remained the same: star - soloists, accompanied by internationally acclaimed orchestras, but most importantly for me is to bring the classical music stars of the future on the stage of the festival, to discover these future stars. Our programme also contains contemporary music because I think we should support the composers who write music today; Beethoven, Bach and Mozart do no longer need to be promoted, but today's composers do, because the public doesn't understand them and their music - our times are very different from the times when Beethoven and Mozart composed their music. We have got 6-7 composers who write new lieder each year; and this is very important because the German lied seems to be dying little by little and we have been trying to promote the German lied for the past thirty years.

The Kissinger Klavier Olymp Festival is the little sister of the Kissinger Sommer Festival; it takes place in the middle of October, this year being the 13th edition of the festival. Many pianists, who are internationally acclaimed today, started their careers here: Martin Helmschen, Nikolay Tokarev, Igor Levit and Mischa Lifits.

Day One

Overall, I attended five concerts and recitals during the Kissinger Sommer Festival, which took place in two concert halls: the Gioachino Rossini Concert Hall and the Max Littman Concert Hall (the latter one being considered one of the best concert halls in Europe), between 19th and 20th June.

I listened to the Prelude proposed by Jinghan Hou, a fourteen-years-old Chinese pianist, who has great technical skills, but, naturally, there is still room for improvement in his performance. Probably the nervousness hindered the young pianist from having a better control over the pedals of the piano, thus creating a permanent and unpleasant halo effect, which, for instance, was inadequate for Joseph Haydn's sonata.

The official opening concert was performed by cellist Sol Gabetta and the German Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrey Boreyko - it was a very beautiful evening and Sol Gabetta performed the Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119, by Camille Saint-Saëns. I admired the performance of Sol Gabetta, an Argentinian cellist, who lives in Switzerland, and who was a friend of our late pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa; Sol Gabetta plays with a warm, and very clean sound (I highly appreciate the accuracy of her sound, which is one of the biggest problems that cellists generally face) and has an Olympian attitude, the attitude of a queen, when facing the members of the orchestra without seeming cold or too pretentious towards the public.

Day Two

The 20th of June started with the recital of the pianist Yeol Sum Son, who won the Second Prize at the previous edition of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The programme was very difficult from the technical point of view, but the pianist admirably held it under control, however... on that afternoon, I enjoyed Fazil Say's performance more, which was extremely lively, tumultuous and full of artistry although technically imperfect at times. Fazil Say perfomed Mozart and Beethoven's works, as well as his own - a kind of contemporary music that is very successful among the audience - and this fact was confirmed by the ovations of the 400 people who stood up to applaud him in the Rossini Hall in Bad Kissingen.

On Saturday evening we took a trip to Bad Bruckenau, where King Ludwig I used to spend his summertimes, and we listened to the recital - consisting of a programme of four sonatas - held by the cellist Daniel Muller Schott and the pianist Martin Stadtfeld. The one that I enjoyed the most was the last one composed by Mendelssohn. I highly appreciated the performance of the pianist Martin Stadtfeld for his exceptional sound and his high-class touch.

I believe that Kissinger Sommer is, firstly, an example of the way cultural tourism is made - as fewer people come here for the thermal baths nowadays, the number of visitors increased due to the concerts that take place here. In fact, all the showcases in this small town that belong to the 9th century promote the Kissinger Sommer Festival. You were able to listen to some of the previous performances within the Festival on Radio Romania Music.

Cristina Comandașu
Translated by Izabela-Elvira Vațe and Ioana Săbău
MTTLC, the University of Bucharest