In the 17th and 18th centuries, there were ties between Kroměříž and Vienna that we can only dream of today in a seemingly global and international world.
Not only did the vineyards on what is now the Austrian and Moravian side of the border produce the same wine for a Viennese court dinner as for a Kroměříž carnival celebration; not only was asparagus from the Mikulov area also delivered to both Poysdorf and Náměšt’ nad Oslavou; not only were pianos from Vienna played in the château in Žďár nad Sázavou and pianos from Brno in Viennese houses, but the common cultural identity was also reflected in the personalities of artists travelling between our region and Vienna: Mozart gave concerts in Brno, Beethoven went to Kroměříž to teach his only composition student, Schmelzer brought his newly completed violin works to his friend Karl Lichtenstein-Castelcorn at his newly built residence in Kroměříž, and Biber talked the Bishop of Olomouc round to buy expensive violins, violas and cellos from Jacob Stainer in Absam, Tyrol. Ideas such as scordaturas (tuning of violins and gambas deliberately different from normal) travelled throughout the empire, as did lute manuscripts and the specific use of the baroque trumpet (clarino). Beethoven taught the later Archbishop of Olomouc, Archduke Rudolf John, Cardinal of Habsburg-Lorraine, to compose variations in the Viennese style. The Missa solemnis had been heard in Moravia before Beethoven’s, from the pen of Anton Neumann; this year we will enjoy its modern premiére at the Festival! Those who travelled between Moravia and Vienna did not feel that they were going abroad. Three centuries of shared history have created a strong common cultural DNA. The feeling of interconnectedness despite national borders is a great motivation for the Concentus Moraviae festival dramaturgy to repeatedly return to this cultural unity. This year we are already preparing a continuation of the theme for the 2027 festival! We are convinced that our own cultural identity and interconnectedness, which are deeper than political ideologies, create a natural cultural sustainability. This constancy of values, manifested in every concert, does not need to be elaborately invented and enforced, as it exists naturally and is therefore inherently “sustainable” without any other complex ingredients. Culture is a concentrate of our identity, a refined expression of what we believe. It is a cultivated expression of our concept of beauty, which has been consistent in the Vienna-Moravia region. Biber, working in 17th-century Kroměříž, and Beethoven, working in 18th– and early 19th-century Vienna, could not have met, but at the Festival they meet ideologically, as symbols of two periods in which the music of Moravia (and Kroměříž in particular) and the music of Vienna were intrinsically linked.
I mentioned sustainability in the context of the continuation of the same musical DNA between Kroměříž and Vienna. The international music festival Concentus Moraviae cultivates this value not only in the professional-musical level, but also in the ecological level. In the planning of this year’s dramaturgy, we want to reduce mobility, which leaves a strong carbon footprint: when an ensemble or artist comes to us from afar, they usually perform twice. By following this principle, the festival will achieve a significant reduction in the number of kilometres travelled by artists. In addition, guests have the opportunity to make a deeper connection with our region through this slower and therefore more conscious experience (slow culture). Conversely, we, the audience and the festival management, can also get to know the guests much more intensively. The very idea of the festival itself also encourages us to reduce mobility: to bring top culture to all corners of Moravia so that the audience is close to it and does not have to travel to large centres. If we take into account all the aspects of the Concentus Moraviae festival – respect for the genius loci, i.e. the harmony between the programme and the concert venue, esteem for the heritage of our own cultural region with the establishment of relationships where political history had to interrupt it, cooperation between the cities in the region as the basic architecture of the festival – then we come to the conclusion that the festival’s events fulfil exactly what its name promises: It cares about the harmony of Moravia, about what makes Moravia regionally significant and what it radiates to the world. The new philosophical and ecological movements in the world call it trans-local, which is a new stage in the development of globalisation: we have realised that globalisation without limits is neither human nor does it respect the needs of our planet. Concentus Moraviae – the international festival of 13 cities has been visionary in this respect since its inception thanks to its trans-local policy. We offer the best of the region to the world, for example by motivating foreign stars to discover our cultural heritage, but also by encouraging and supporting local musicologists (and here I thank especially the great co-dramaturges Vladimír Maňas and Otto Biba) and artists to discover hidden treasures from our archives.
Sometimes it is enough to look at something familiar in a new context. The Concentus Moraviae festival will combine several tasks at its opening concert: to invite the nearby, famous ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien to perform at the festival with an iconic symphony whose composer has a very interesting connection with the venue, Kroměříž – one of Beethoven’s few pupils of the composition was Archduke Rudolf Jan Habsburg, later as archbishop residing at the château in Kroměříž. The concert takes place in the château’s Assembly Hall, which has undergone a major renovation, and the opening ceremony is therefore also a celebration of this magnificent transformation. It will be a triple premiere: the concert will be the first event taking place in the renovated hall, Concentus Music Wien will perform at the festival for the first time, and for the first time it will collaborate with the conductor Tomáš Netopil, who performs all over the world, but his hometown is – Kroměříž!
Apart from foreign personalities (Benjamin Alard, Protean Quartet, Mélanie Flores, Ensemble Leones, etc.), who will bring to life the unique sound of Moravian Baroque organs or point out traces of the Bach cult in the Classical period, we will present the rich and often unexplored dramaturgical lineage of 17th century Kroměříž and Viennese treasures with a special focus on the works of Vejvanovský, Bertali, Poglietti, Biber, Schmelzer, Döbelius, in short, the works of masters who managed to create a completely new violin language, including the experimental technique of deliberate string re-tuning (scordatura), which allowed string instruments to sound in entirely new sonic colours. The Island of Lutes project and concerts of the vocal ensembles Dionysos Now! and Cappella Mariana will highlight the popularity of Renaissance Italian and Flemish music in Moravia, while the German Ensemble Leones will also invite us to a medieval journey through the regions. Through a series of concerts by professional artists of the younger generation, we support the further development of historical performance practice.
Come discover the world at home with us!
Barbara Maria Willi