Stars you can touch liven up the classic scene

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They are young, open-minded and talented. Festivals want to use them to inspire their audiences for classical music. But how can this be done?

New shooting star at the Rheingau Music Festival: Guido Sant'Anna from Brazil

The Brazilian violinist Guido Sant'Anna will open the Rheingau Music Festival on June 24, 2023. He's still relative unknown. In 2018 he was the first South American to win the renowned Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition. A new discovery for the Hessian festival, which, in addition to well-known music greats, has been focusing on talented young shooting stars for years.

Take the audience with you in a different way

Tony Yun

These include Canadian pianist Tony Yun, winner of the 2019 China International Music Competition and a student at the Juilliard School in New York. Program planner Timo Buckow is enthusiastic: “He shines from within, a natural, authentic and personable young man – and then he plays Brahms' third piano sonata so unbelievably well that I have rarely heard it.” After the concert, Tony Yun consciously tries to get closer to the audience. “Then he's still outside in dialogue with the visitors and allows himself to be asked questions.”

There was hardly anything like that among musicians and conductors of the “old guard”, says Timo Buckow. The classic scene is building the change. “We see that the audience simply has to be taken along differently. Young artists have the talent to break this distance between stage and audience.”

Timo Buckow relies on young talent

Christian Höppner, General Secretary of the German Music Council, is also pleased that the classical music scene is changing. He connects another aspect with it: “Just when you see the hype about female conductors – that's lucky. Conducting has been a male domain for centuries and that's slowly breaking up.” It's the same with the gender distribution in orchestras, some of which are still male-dominated.

Moderated concerts are trendy

In order to reach the audience directly, festivals rely on moderated concerts. This year's Bach Festival in Leipzig has the motto “Bach for future”. In some concerts, Bach's music is presented in a new context, for example in the lecture hall of the Anatomical Institute of Leipzig University.

“The young soprano Julia Sophie Wagner and the conductor Jakob Lehmann have put together a kind of requiem with new texts from cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach on the subject of death,” festival director Michael Maul told DW. “In addition, the head of the institute, Ingo Bechmann, himself a big Bach fan, will present and explain to the audience a plaster cast of Bach's skull.”

Sarah Willis with her horn quartet from the Berlin Philharmonic

Musicians such as the Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta, the Irish-German violinist Daniel Hope, the drummer Max Grubinger or the American-British horn player Sarah Willis already have experience as presenters from TV and radio programs. As the focus artists at the Rheingau Music Festival, they will not only play their instruments: “I can also moderate my concert and create this closeness between the audience and the artists,” says Sarah Willis from the Berlin Philharmonic in a video message. “And my instrument at the same time , feature the horn.”

Christian Höppner wants young people to be interested in classical music from school on

Young stars attract young visitors?

The German Music Council (DMR) is already pursuing the issue of access through official channels alone to facilitate classical concerts. The DMR is the largest national umbrella organization and is committed to strengthening, preserving and developing musical life in Germany. The aim is to bring classical music closer to the younger generation in particular.

For General Secretary Christian Höppner, it's not necessarily the young stars that attract young listeners to the concert halls. Even less communicative musicians could inspire young people with their music alone and create unforgettable concert moments.

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Bach Festival also wants to present the sublime composer in young formats

For Höppner, the beginnings are more in the early music education: “The less musical diversity is conveyed to students at a young age, the more difficult it will be afterwards to interest young people or even growing adults in the entire spectrum of music.” Höppner complains that there is a lack of subject teachers in schools and that music lessons in particular are being cut significantly. “The situation in Germany is dramatic,” he emphasized in an interview with DW.

More young people interested in classical music again

Statistics show that after the Corona pandemic, more people want to visit classical music festivals again. The German Music Information Center (miz) has evaluated a study by the Institute for Demoscopy Allensbach from 2022. Accordingly, every tenth of those surveyed (11.2 percent) is interested in classical music festivals. Interest has also increased slightly among young people between the ages of 14 and 19, at 2.7 percent. However, the value from before the corona pandemic (3.7 percent) has not yet been reached again.

< p>Everyone is welcome free of charge in front of the big market stage at the Leipzig Bach Festival

Christian Höppner would like concert and festival organizers to have offers and forms of presentation for all social classes, which many organizers are already taking to heart. “Even in Bayreuth there are now young formats and reduced prices, but you also have to break through the threshold of the 'high consecration' of some concert venues and convey to people that it is a completely normal place where people meet and have fun of culture.”

Fresh ideas and new concepts for everyone

With this wish, the Music Council is entirely with Steven Walter, Artistic Director of the Beethoven Festival in Bonn. He had put his inaugural festival in 2022 under the motto “All people”. The diversity of the artists and their music was the focus of the festival. Nobody needed to be in awe of the performers or concert venues.

“Alarm-Will-sound” mixed that Audience at the Beethovenfest 2022 on

Walter is also designing a diverse program with young artists and fresh ideas to inspire the audience. For 2023, he and his team have set themselves the goal of communicating even more diversely and addressing the various social groups more specifically. “I think the lack of diversity in communication is one of the main reasons why it's not possible to make classical music universally accessible.”

For Steven Walter, it's not just about communication between musicians and the audience , but also about your own communication. “In 2023 we want to try to reach a wider audience with simple language and various media – so that we can bring our festival into the center of society.”