Two new records: international visitors and ticket sales
This year’s Leipzig Bach Festival drew to a close on June 18 with a performance of the Mass in B Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach in St. Thomas’ Church, Leipzig (Germany). Nearly 71,000 visitors attended the 120-plus events that made up the ten-day festival, and turnover from ticket sales achieved a record high. The number of international visitors once again exceeded that of any previous year: coming from 41 nations, they accounted for more than one-third of visitors overall.
Numerous outstanding national and international artists performed concerts reflecting this year’s Reformation anniversary theme in Leipzig’s churches and concert halls. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the President of the Leipzig Bach Archive, played to a sold-out Gewandhaus on two consecutive evenings. Performing with the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Choir, as well as with his own ensembles, the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir, the British conductor and Bach expert delivered outstanding interpretations of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Richard Wagner, placing himself in the role of ambassador for these important Leipzig composers.
The Leipzig Thomanerchor (St. Thomas’s Boys Choir) delighted the audience with its performance of Bach’s St. John Passion in the place principally associated with Bach’s work, St. Thomas’ Church, on June 16. Together with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz presented one of the most highly acclaimed concerts of the Bach Festival. The closing concert of this year’s Bach Festival, featuring the Mass in B Minor, was performed by the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Dresdner Kammerchor under the baton of Herbert Blomstedt and will be released on DVD. Performing works by Johann Rosenmüller on June 12 in St. Nicholas’ Church, Leipzig-based Ensemble 1684 conducted by Gregor Meyer delivered a level of excellence worthy of any international ensemble –thereby adding one more name to a long list of first-rate Leipzig-based ensembles performing at the Leipzig Bach Festival that includes the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Thomanerchor, the MDR Symphony Orchestra and the ensemble amarcord.
The anniversaries of two further Baroque masters were honoured this year: Claudio Monteverdi and Johann Rosenmüller. The concertante performance of Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo by La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations, conducted by Jordi Savall, on June 13 in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus was another festival highlight and received standing ovations from a delighted audience. The following evening, the Marian Vespers, performed by the French ensemble Pygmalion under the baton of Raphaël Pichon, marked yet one more artistic climax.
The open-air concerts on the opening weekend saw some superlative, free, jazz acts: on June 10, great jazz names such as the Finnish jazz pianist Iiro Rantala, who performed with his duo partner Ulf Wakenius and the Finnish choir Cantores Minores, and the highly acclaimed Joshua Redman Trio were guests on Leipzig’s Market square. Thanks to their presence the quality of the popular opening programme, Bach Open Air, was again raised several notches higher.
The Leipzig Bach Festival talk events were attended to 90 percent of their capacity. The pre-concert talks, which for the first time were given simultaneously in English, lectures, workshops, a symposium, an academic seminar and the entertaining Bach-Sprechstunde – a time for talking about Bach – informed international audiences about the latest findings of Bach research in Leipzig. The large number of concert and organ trips into the region around Leipzig, which saw numerous international guests enchanted with Saxony’s cultural landscape, were also almost completely sold out.
The Leipzig Bach Festival was especially popular with independent travellers from the United States (more than 1,400 tickets sold), the Netherlands (more than 700 tickets sold) and Switzerland (over 400 tickets sold). In addition to them, 58 tour operators from eleven countries organised Bach Festival trips for their customers. Four concerts were recorded by MDR Kultur or Deutschlandfunk, while the Finnish national radio broadcast excerpts from the concerts featuring Finnish guest artists and ensembles.
The violinist and conductor Reinhard Goebel was awarded the City of Leipzig Bach Medal at the Bach Festival. Burkhard Jung, Mayor of the City of Leipzig, paid tribute to the musician in an official ceremony on June 17, 2017, in the Banqueting Hall of Leipzig’s Old Town Hall, stating that Reinhard Goebel had »paced out the music of Johann Sebastian Bach« and »turned it into an experience for amateurs and experts, listeners and music-makers«. He further thanked Goebel for having »provided such cogent and diverse proof of historically informed performance with wit, musical sensibility and beauty«.
The 2018 Leipzig Bach Festival will take place from June 8-17, 2018. It will focus on Bach’s cyclical works and will also feature performances of Bach’s compositions as cycles. The monumental 2018 Leipzig Cantata Ring on the opening weekend will give audiences the chance to experience a complete Church year: 30 selected religious cantatas by Bach will be sung in a total of ten concerts in 48 hours in Bach’s churches in Leipzig. The following leading Bach interpreters and their ensembles will be performing: John Eliot Gardiner, Ton Koopman, Hans-Christoph Rademann, Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz, and Masaaki Suzuki. One series of concerts at the 2018 Leipzig Bach Festival will be dedicated specifically to the great composer, Gewandhaus music director and initiator of the Bach revival in Leipzig, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Advance ticket sales will start on November 20, 2017.
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