Misteria Paschalia Festival 2020
Monday, April 6, 2020 - Monday, April 13, 2020
ICE Kraków Congress Centre
ul. Konopnickiej 17
A modern venue hosting concerts, theatrical performances, exhibitions, congresses, conferences,...
Misteria Paschalia 2020 – Himmelsfreude!, or Bach and the fathers of German music from Praetorius to Mendelssohn
"Foreigners imagined that it would be enough to learn masterpieces of our art to understand the German thought. But it is only thanks to the history of the religious reform proclaimed by Luther that we can learn how philosophy and other arts have developed in our country. To reveal the German thought, we must first talk about religion."
When thinking about the Misteria Paschalia Festival 2020, I have immediately imagined a chronological tale of the meaning of the Protestant religion in the development of German music. By condensing it to fit into eight subsequent days, I would like to show the diversity, volume and fervour of this music, following the greatest composers of the German school. The festival's programme is thus an extensive fresco – beginning and ending with Bach – which in ten concerts tells the story of Martin Luther irrigating like a river the German music, from the original music of Hieronymus and Michael Praetorius to the Lobgesang Symphony by Mendelssohn.
All invited ensembles are eager to go beyond the limits of a traditional concert, offering truly sensual and mental impressions to enable the audience to enjoy an extraordinary experience. They all have numerous advantages, each of them having its own artistic personality – which promises a palette with a thousand colours. My intention was to alternate large ensembles and chamber formations to offer the most diverse repertoire possible. We are celebrating the human voice because it is the main instrument at the disposal of a man who wants to praise the Lord. In Luther's earliest writings, singing is of great importance so that the faithful can turn to divinity. The then Church's community used to meet in prayer singing chorales – chorales that will soon be taken over by the most famous composers and the echoes of which will be found in most of the pieces performed during the festival.
Our journey to German music begins with Pygmalion, the ensemble of which I am the artistic director. The programme of the first festival concert centred on Hieronymus and Michael Praetorius was constructed like a vespers service. The music of these two composers shines thanks to the masterly synthesis that takes place between the Protestant music and the development of the polychoral style inherited directly from Venice. Like a huge bouquet of fireworks, the inaugural concert will introduce countless colours and will largely spread around the audience so that the listener is surrounded by a cloud of stunning sound.
The next day, Compagnie La Tempête will offer us a great lesson of humanism in a programme combining works by Schütz and Schein. During the Thirty Years' War, the confrontation between Protestants and Catholics was tearing European nations apart. The two humanists – Schütz and Schein – composed in 1623 two works of great power that reflect the political situation of that period. This concert promises to be an unprecedented experience also thanks to the conductor Simon-Pierre Bestion who created a new drama, introducing a dialogue between these scores and Byzantine chants.
Buxtehude and his Membra Jesu nostri are the next stage of our journey. The Correspondances ensemble will let us listen to this original work, which within seven stages brings us a little closer to Christus dolens. Each cantata describes one of the wounds of Christ with extraordinary humanity. This piece, composed for the St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, known for the long Abendmusik tradition, appeals to the devotion of the worshippers and once again shows us the central place of music in Lutheran worship.
The next day, Capella Cracoviensis led by Jan Tomasz Adamus will let us listen to the famous motets of Bach that shall reconcile us with imminent death, praising the happiness of eternal life.
On Good Friday, we have another masterpiece of the Leipzig Cantor: St. John Passion performed by Pygmalion. We will see an expressive presentation of this extraordinary score, relating the story of the capture and crucifixion of Jesus, while Bertrand Couderc will propose his magical luminous creation, conducive to concentration and intimacy.
To exemplify a constant cultural exchange between Italy and Germany, Capriccio Stravagante and Olivier Fortin will present a contrafactum of the famous Pergolesi's work Stabat Mater written by Bach. The text of Psalm 51 allowed Bach to adapt Pergolesi's score to the Protestant liturgy, with some cleansing of vocal lines to emphasise the piety of the text. The dark and warm voice of Lucile Richardot will wonderfully combine with the crystal timbre of Maïlys de Villoutreys.
At the closing of the festival, we will again meet with Pygmalion – cooperating this time with the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra – to end with the beautiful, joyful Mendelssohn's Symphony No 2 “Lobgesang”. By rediscovering Bach in the 19th century, Mendelssohn continued the great history of Lutheran music. This work, following the model set by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony, conducts a dialogue between a temperamental orchestra, a large choir and three soloists: nothing is great enough to praise the Lord!
These concerts will be accompanied by the pure moments of late-night poetry. The short format concerts will take place in the intimate interiors of the Church of the Holy Cross to resemble the conversations at the table (Tischreden) that Luther fervently practiced and which encouraged the disputants to meditate on man's place in the universe. We will listen to the violinist Sophie Gent playing Bach's sonatas and partitas, musicians from the Ensemble Masques who will let us discover music from before the life of the Leipzig Cantor (Biber, Muffat, Schmelzer, etc.), as well as Skip Sempé, who will propose a set of transcriptions of the works of Bach and his contemporaries for harpsichord, being an unprecedented testimony to the plasticity of these pieces.
2 series of concerts
# Series 1 – PATRES: 7 large concerts that follow chronologically the history of Protestant music.
# Series 2 – DA CAMERA: 3 concerts in a more intimate atmosphere during the meditative vigil at 10 pm.
6 guest ensembles and 2 soloists:
Pygmalion (3 concerts), Compagnie La Tempête (1), Ensemble Correspondances (1), Capella Cracoviensis (1), Capriccio Stravagante (1), Ensemble Masques (1), Sophie Gent (1), Skip Sempé (1).
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