Bartók in Cologne

Since taking up his position, François-Xavier Roth’s concerts have undertaken an intense exploration of the history of the Gürzenich Orchestra and the history of music in the Rhineland. The Gürzenich Orchestra looks back upon almost two hundred years of continuous collaboration with preeminent composers. During past seasons, the focus has been on artist personalities of the 20th century, as well as special attention on Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Hector Berlioz. Especially the turn of the 19th into the 20th century and the early 20th century brought several fascinating encounters between the Gürzenich Orchestra and great creators of the times: Richard Strauss, Max Reger, Gustav Mahler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold – and not least Béla Bartók. The world premiere of his ballet »The Miraculous Mandarin« at the Cologne Opera made music history, not least because of the scandal the performance caused – due to the libretto which was deemed offensive. Béla Bartók’s music is fascinating for various reasons. It unites the artistic exploration of his own roots – in folk music – and advanced composition techniques.

On the quiet, Béla Bartók also spearheads a little “Hungarian” focus during the 2020/21 season: apart from Bartók, we also celebrate the first guest concert of the great Hungarian conductor and composer Peter Eötvös, the 95th birthday of György Kurtág, and we look forward to a world premiere by Marton Illès, one of the most fascinating composers of the younger generation. However, this focus is not about celebrating a national idiom, but the phenomenon of what fascinating new things may emerge from cultural melting pots.

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