The 2018 Festival
under the thematic heading "Conflicts"
2018 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War; a good reason for us to consider that eternal pair, ‘war and peace’.
There is no denying it; conflicts are an elemental component of history and of many a story. The Varus Battle (or as it is sometimes called the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest), that took place in the year 9 AD, is part of Germany’s founding mythology. Accounts concerning the chieftain of the Cherusci form the background to Handel’s Arminio, the last-but-one of Handel’s operas that had yet to be performed in the Göttingen International Handel Festival. The Festival opera was staged in Göttingen’s Deutsches Theater by internationally renowned director Erich Sidler, Intendant in Göttingen. The conflict between Jews and Seleucids as recounted in the First Book of Maccabees was the theme of the Festival oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, with a prominent cast starring Kenneth Tarver in the title role. Handel’s Alexander Balus deals with this same conflict. And in the church of St. Nicolai in Herzberg, you could hear prizewinners of the 2016 and 2017 Handel Singing Competition.
Not only conflicts of war but also victorious battles and the long roads to peace treaties have again and again provided inspiration for great works. The Utrecht Jubilate, the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, which can also be understood as a token of gratitude for the Peace of Utrecht, and the Dettingen Te Deum in the Gala Concert were key works on the programme dealing with the theme of war and peace. Likewise in the Gala Concert, the mythical hero in The Choice of Hercules, sung by Diana Moore, had to confront conflicts of a more personal nature, when facing the choice between virtue and pleasure.
In the göttingen händel competition, eight young ensembles entered into entirely peaceful musical combat as they contended for the prize of the Göttinger Händel-Gesellschaft e. V.
The symposium led by Prof. Dr. Laurenz Lütteken and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Sandberger was concerned less with conflicts of war than with those of a musical, aesthetic and political kind. This year, it was being held under the title of ‘Metropolis London – Conflicts and Identities of a Musical Centre’. We were delighted that the Director of the German Historical Institute in London, Professor Dr. Andreas Gestrich, has agreed to deliver the Festival Lecture.
With all the conflicts that the 2018 Festival programme was engaged with, the soul needed some harmony as a counterbalance. We defused the wars and struggles on stage with long-lasting friendships and the togetherness of musical performance.
Midori Seiler and Christian Rieger, and Giovanni Antonini and Ottavio Dantone, were among those making music together. Our Artistic Director Laurence Cummings had not only gathered the FestspielOrchester Göttingen around him, but had also invited the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, which was a strong presence in his days at Oxford University, and whose director Stephen Darlington, Laurence Cummings’ former tutor, retires at the end of 2018. In a ‘Soirée’ event, Laurence Cummings himself took his leave of the London Handel Players after the many years he has been performing with them. The Landesjugendchor Niedersachsen and the European Union Baroque Orchestra generated longstanding friendships.
We know from your accounts that our Festival has also brought about longstanding friendships. These stories are of great interest to us. Looking ahead to the centenary celebrations in 2020, we would be delighted if you were to tell us about them.