The Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra
The Schleswig Holstein Orchestral Academy came into being in 1987 on the initiative of the great American conductor Leonard Bernstein, who became its first Artistic Director. A training centre for young orchestra musicians on the very highest level, it was based on the model of the American Tanglewood Festival. It forms the centerpiece of the educational work performed by one of Europe´s most important classical music festivals, held in the north of Germany.
The Orchestral Academy of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival found a home at the State Cultural Centre in Salzau Castle, one hundred kilometers to the north of Hamburg. The 19th century building is located in the midst of an expansive park complex in Schleswig-Holstein's most beautiful holiday region, and offers ideal conditions for both intensive work and diverse recreational activities. A large barn, which was refitted as a rehearsal and concert hall, is the centre of all activity.
The Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra is formed anew each year by the Orchestral Academy. This entails an international youth orchestra, made up musicians who audition in thirty cities in North and South America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Only after the last audition does the jury make its decision on the admission of approximately one hundred young musicians (all under the age of twenty-six) to the Orchestral Academy. Only the best musicians from all over the world, handpicked from over one thousand two hundred prospective candidates, are asked to join. Musicians who are selected enjoy truly extraordinary backing – a scholarship to cover travel, bed and board and tuition expenses from the Foundation of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
These musicians are given the opportunity of studying and performing great works from the orchestral repertoire with famous conductors. Rehearsals proceed in two stages. First there are orchestral groups under the guidance of experienced teachers invited from the Berlin Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic and the NDR Symphony Orchestra, and then works are studied intensively with the conductor. Orchestral music forms the main focus of the Academy, but chamber music is a further centerpiece of its work. The Academy also offers lectures and working seminars as well as a variety of exhibitions.
In Salzau, young people from around the world not only grow together as an orchestra, but they also form a social community. The experience of mutual understanding, the basic attitudes of respect and tolerance and the awareness that the world has become smaller in more ways than simply in terms of music – all this lies close to the heart of the Orchestral Academy.
Over the years, the ensemble has worked with such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Semyon Bychkov, Georg Solti, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yehudi Menuhin, Dmitry Kitayenko, Lorin Maazel, Krzysztof Penderecki, Leonard Slatkin, Vladimir Spivakov, Kurt Sanderling, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Masur, Kent Nagano, Christoph von Dohnànyi and Mikhail Pletnev. Soloists who have appeared with the Orchestra in recent years include Sharon Kam, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Waltraud Meier, Midori, Viktoria Mullova, Tabea Zimmermann, Yuri Bashmet, Matthias Goerne, Thomas Hampson, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy, Yevgeny Kissin, Gidon Kremer, Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Vadim Repin, Mstislav Rostropovich and Frank Peter Zimmermann.
The Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chorus Academy was established in 2000 by Rolf Beck, who was appointed its Director. Ever since, singers from throughout Europe have come to the Schleswig-Holstein Festival every year to present the wider public with new programmes prepared by the Academy. Together with the Orchestral Academy founded by Leonard Bernstein at Salzau Castle and at international master classes at the Musikhochschule in Lübeck, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chorus Academy aims to make a new mark on music education today. Under renowned conductors and together with famed orchestras, students of the Academy work not just on choral pieces from the classical repertoire, music a cappella, but also on music by contemporary composers.
Thanks to the generous support of the Lübeck Foundation, many former students of the Academy regularly travel to the Schleswig-Holstein Festival to teach at the Academy. Under the artistic direction of Rolf Beck, the Chorus has toured to Spain and France, and in 2005 undertook a tour of Japan that lasted several days. In 2008, following an invitation from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Chorus made an appearance in the Asian metropolis. In autumn 2008 the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chorus and the Hamburg baroque orchestra Elbipolis took part in a concert tour, performing Bach´s Mass in B Minor. In 2009, the Year of Handel, the Chorus will be performing renowned choral works by the composer at the Handel Festival in Halle, as well as at the Rheingau Music Festival and the Lake Constance Festival.