Bach, Wagner, jazz enliven summer scene in Germany

NEW YORK -- Germany comes alive for music lovers in the summer months with a generous calendar of events and festivals, many of them offering concerts in the open air or in venues like churches and castles that are as appealing as the music itself.

Johann Sebastian Bach lived in different German cities, and a number of them offer Bach festivals every year, but in 1999 the city of Leipzig, where he spent 27 years, plans to launch its first major Bach Festival and to repeat the event annually. The organizer of the event, the Leipzig Bach Archives, hopes to establish a reputation as the premier venue for performances of the composer's works.

Folk Dancers in northern GermanyThe festival will include a variety of performances, including orchestral concerts, oratorios, chamber concerts and organ recitals, by performers including the 800-year-old St. Thomas Boys' Choir (which Bach himself directed for many years), the Leipzig Opera and the Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Venues for the performances include St. Thomas Church, the Leipzig Opera House, St. Nikolai Church, the Gewandhaus Concert Hall and even the city's market square.

The 1999 Bach Festival takes place May 12 to 16. The dates for 2000 are July 21 to 30.

Leipzig Bach Archives

Phone: (011) 49-341 964-4167

Fax: (011) 49-341 964-4195

E-mail: [email protected]

Bach enthusiasts who miss the Leipzig festival still have other options. For instance, June 26 to July 4 is Bach Week in the city of Regensburg, in southeastern Germany, with a series of 12 concerts held in halls and churches.

Bach fans might also want to catch the 27th Berlin Bach Festival July 3 to 11, the highlight of the capital city's International Summer Festival of Old Music, or the International Bach Week in Ansbach, just west of Nuremberg, July 28 to Aug. 8; or the July 30 and 31 Bach Festival in Aschaffenburg, east of Frankfurt.

Those travelers who favor other giants of classical music still have plenty of choices in Germany. For devotees of Richard Wagner, the center of the universe is Bayreuth and its 123-year-old Wagner Festspiele.

Bayreuth is about 50 miles northeast of Nuremberg. The dates of the festival this year are July 27 through Aug. 28, when 30 performances of Wagner's works will be presented.

Bayreuther Festspiele

Phone: (011) 49-9217-8780

E-mail: [email protected].

Travelers whose tastes run more to Mozart might consider the 68th annual Mozart Festival, scheduled for May 21 through July 7 in Wurzburg. A program including orchestral and chamber music will be highlighted by evening performances in the illuminated gardens of the city's Royal Palace.

There's also a Handel Festival June 3 to 8 in Halle, northwest of Leipzig; a Schumann Festival June 8 to12 in Zwickau, south of Leipzig, and a Richard Strauss Festival, including a singing competition, in Coburg June 24 to July 3.

Besides composer-specific festivals, many German summer music festivals focus on a particular musical theme or type. A few examples:

  • From June 17 through July 4, the state of Saxony and neighboring Bohemia in the Czech Republic team up to sponsor the Saxon-Bohemian Music Festival, with a series of 50 concerts spread around southern Saxony and northern Bohemia from Dresden to Teplice, held in churches, castles and concert halls.
  • Bonn hosts an open-air rock, pop and jazz festival on June 26, held in the city's Rheinauenpark.
  • From late June through July, Munich offers up the Bell'Arte Summer of Music, a series of open-air concerts in the courtyard of the Royal Palace; and from July 1 through 31, the city is the venue for the Munich Opera Festival, said to be the world's oldest opera event of its kind, with performances by the Bavarian State Opera.
  • From July 9 through Aug. 29, performers from all over the world gather in the northern German cities of Lubeck, Kiel and Hamburg for the 14th Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.
  • On July 7, Stuttgart plays host to its 13th Open-Air Jazz Festival, offering performances in a large city park.
  • From July 23 through Sept. 12, the town of Schwabisch Gmund, east of Stuttgart, sponsors a Festival of European Church Music, with performances of works from the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque eras, appropriately held in churches in the region.
  • During the month of August, the university town of Heidelberg holds the annual Heidelberg Castle Festival, with opera and theater performances in the courtyard of Heidelberg Castle, including a local favorite operetta, "The Student Prince."
  • A more complete listing of summer music festivals can be found on the Web site of the German National Tourist Office, www.germany-tourism.de.

    German National Tourist Office

    New York(212) 661-7200

    Los Angeles at (310) 575-9799.

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