For a long time Kurt Jungwirth, member of the Styrian provincial government competent for cultural affairs, had been trying to persuade Nikolaus Harnoncourt to participate in a music festival in his home town of Graz. In 1985, the "Year of Music", Harnoncourt surprisingly finds a free slot in his time schedule because one of his other projects had to be cancelled. And equally surprisingly, the styriarte Music Festival appears on the music scene - with Wolfgang Schuster, member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as artistic director and Andrea Herberstein as general secretary. Johann Sebastian Bach is in the centre of the first styriarte Festival; the St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, performed by the Concentus Musicus under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt in the Cathedral of Graz, are the highlights of this first styriarte Festival.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1984, Photo: Ali Schafler



The second season of the Styrian classical music festival is dedicated to a passionate Italian: Claudio Monteverdi. Harnoncourt conducts Monteverdi's Vespers ("Vespro della Beata Vergine") in the unique atmosphere of the Cathedral of Graz. However, a semi-opera production performed in the Schauspielhaus Graz (Graz Theatre) leaves the most profound impression: Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" with Roberta Alexander and Thomas Hampson in the title roles and the Concentus Musicus under Harnoncourt in the orchestra pit. In spite of this opera highlight, the Festival also suffered a drawback: budgetary problems led to the resignation of Wolfgang Schuster, the Festival's artistic director.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt in the Graz Cathedral, Photo: Foto Amsuess



Joseph Haydn is the star of the styriarte Festival 1987, and for the first time Nikolaus Harnoncourt directs the young Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Haydn's last six London symphonies are performed in the Stefaniensaal; this event lays the foundation for a brilliant artistic cooperation which will lead to great moments for an innovative orchestra and an unconventional conductor in the years to come. "A Feast for Haydn", performed in Eggenberg Castle (Schloss Eggenberg), turns out to be a unique box-office hit - no other performance in the next few years can live up to the success of this event. For the first time, ticket sale revenues surpass the one million mark with a total of about ATS 1.6 million.

A Feast for Joseph Haydn in Schloss Eggenberg



In the Festival year dedicated to Franz Schubert, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe performs a cyclic production of Schubert’s symphonies directed, of course, by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Until 1988 the Cathedral of Graz and the Mariatroster Kirche, a small pilgrimage church, are the main venues for Harnoncourt's interpretation of sacral music. The demand for tickets rises, the programme becomes more varied, and ticket sale revenues amount to approximately ATS 2.7 million. Nevertheless, Andrea Herberstein resigns after the 1988 Festival and is succeeded by Christopher Widauer as programme director.

Concentus Musicus Wien, Photo: Teldec Bildarchiv



The styriarte Festival 1989 is dedicated to Mozart. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, with his Concentus Musicus and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, take over the Parish Church of Stainz as a venue for Mozart's sacral music. The triad Mozart-Stainz-Harnoncourt does not only succeed in establishing the legendary myth of the styriarte Festival, but also brings about a series of unique CD recordings produced by Teldec. "A Feast for Mozart", with an open-air production of Mozart's "Il Re Pastore" in the vast park of Eggenberg Castle, has all the makings to become one of the styriarte classics - unfortunately heavy rain thwarts this event.

A Feast for Mozart in Schloss Eggenberg



Beethoven's music is the central theme of the styriarte Festival 1990. Harnoncourt launches his legendary cycle of Beethoven symphonies and the Teldec CD recordings sell enormously well and spread the fame of the styriarte Festival all over the world. Gert Jonke's Beethoven theatre sonata "Gentle Rage or the Engineer of the Ears", which was commissioned by the styriarte Festival, is performed in the Schauspielhaus (Graz Theatre); the Orpheum, a concert hall, is chosen as a styriarte venue but is not well received by the styriarte audience. The Festival again has a negative balance and Christopher Widauer resigns.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt studying a score



Harnoncourt's Beethoven cycle is concluded with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. With the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the former specialist for old music now focuses on Mendelssohn who, together with Johann Joseph Fux, is the focus of the styriarte Festival 1991. Edita Gruberova evokes genuine storms of enthusiastic applause from her audience in the Stefaniensaal with her recital of Mozart arias. A Baroque horse ballet is part of the 1991 Festival's scenic production performed in the park of Eggenberg Castle. Since 1991 Mathis Huber has served as programme director of the styriarte Festival. Ticket sales surpass the three million mark with revenues of ATS 3.5 million.

Horse ballet in front of Schloss Eggenberg



From 1992 on, the styriarte Festival is no longer dedicated to one composer but focuses on a central theme. The theme of the 1992 Festival is a "Summer Night Dream". In the centre of the Festival are Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Nights Dream" and "Walpurgis Night" performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Purcell's "Fairy Queen" performed by the Concentus Musicus - all three music events are conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The styriarte framework programme has the motto "A fantastic nightly journey from medieval times to the present".

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1992

Theme 1992



The central theme of the styriarte Festival 1993, "Sites and Sounds", represents a unique challenge for the Festival. The programme allows visitors to enjoy the magnificent atmosphere of Graz, the capital of the Austrian province of Styria, in the small church Kalvarienbergkirche, the Mausoleum or other magnificent venues which are all perfect settings for these divine sounds. Jordi Savall and his ensemble participate for the first time in the styriarte Festival.

Graz Mausoleum, Photo: Graz Tourismus

Theme 1993



The central theme of the styriarte Festival 1994, "Fractures and Links", weaves a close web of European music ranging from 14th century Ars Nova to the New Music scene of the present; for instance in a surprising encounter between the Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek (Gothic meets Jazz). Nikolaus Harnoncourt directs a production of Fidelio (concert form) with an all-star cast. "The Impresario" by Mozart is the first joint project of Josef Hader and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. In 1994, ticket sale revenues rise to approximately ATS 5.7 million.

Gidon Kremer, 1994

Theme 1994



The eleventh styriarte Festival follows in the "Traces of the Mythical", moving from a small Roman quarry in Wagna, where theatre magician Gigi Tapella attempts to explore the myths revolving around the Roman poet Ovid, to Eggenberg Castle where Thomas Höft presents the legendary myths of the castle in a musical journey. Nikolaus Harnoncourt sets a high standard with his interpretation of Schubert's masses Mass in E flat major and Mass in A flat major. He also finances and thus makes possible a styriarte project for children: The Magic Flute in a circus big top performed by children for children. The 1995 styriarte programme offers more than thirty music events over a span of three weeks and ticket sale revenues exceed the 6 million mark.

styriarte children's orchestra

Theme 1995



The styriarte Festival 1996 presents itself in a new design – well suited for the Festival's central theme of "Simply Classical". The Festival explores the field of classical music which very often serves as an umbrella term for the entire range of European Art Music. Nikolaus Harnoncourt explores new avenues in Graz: he takes up the cudgels for Robert Schumann, the opera composer, and directs Schumann's opera "Genoveva" with an all-star cast. 93% of all styriarte tickets are sold.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt at the Genoveva press conference

Theme 1996



The styriarte Festival continues its focus on classical music and compares fragmentary musical pieces with monumental works. Under the central motto of "... and yet more glorious hopes..." (taken from Grillparzer's funeral oration for Franz Schubert), the realm of classical music is explored by focusing mainly on music by Schubert and Brahms under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The recital of Brahm's entire symphonies by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the performance of Schubert's fragmentary oratorio "Lazarus" are two milestones of the 1997 Festival season. Another highlight is the first performance of Schubert's unfinished opera score "Der Graf von Gleichen" ("The Count of Gleichen") in Richard Dünser's version. For the first time, the styriarte Festival lasts four weeks and presents 35 musical events.

Franz Schubert

Theme 1997



The Festival embarks on a new cycle of themes exploring the elemental desires of mankind and pursuing at the same time the eternal motifs of art. "Paradise Lost?" is the central theme of the Festival allowing visitors to delve into the realm of dreams: the dream of the lost Garden of Eden and the return to Paradise. With Schumann's oratorio "Paradise and the Peri", Nikolaus Harnoncourt places another central piece of Romantic music in the centre of the styriarte Festival and takes up the cudgels for opera composer Joseph Haydn. Starring Cecilia Bartoli in the title role, "Armida" is one of the highlights of the festival.

Cecilia Bartoli and Michael Schade rehearsing Armida

Theme 1998



Under the theme of "Tell me, Love!", taken from a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann, the styriarte Festival 1999 explores the words and the sounds of love - from medieval times to the present. Nikolaus Harnoncourt unexpectedly breaks new ground and brilliantly directs two Wagner operas (Tristan, Tannhäuser), contrasted by a tantalising programme revolving around Brahm's "Love Song Waltzes". Il Giardino Armonico, the famous Italian musical ensemble, also explores new avenues with its first opera programme - a scenic production of Claudio Monteverdi's "Orfeo" in the Schauspielhaus Graz (Graz Theatre). Jordi Savall closes the Monteverdi cycle of the styriarte Festival with Monteverdi's "Madrigals, Book 8". In three different events, the styriarte Festival also presents the oeuvre of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. The 1999 Festival programme includes 42 events and 26,000 tickets are sold.

L'Orfeo in Schauspielhaus Graz

Theme 1999



The myth of the building of the Tower of Babel is the focus of the styriarte Festival 2000, focusing on the origin and evolution of social groups and cultural diversity. Under the central theme of www.babel.vg, the styriarte Festival explains how encounters between different cultures lead to an abundant richness of spirit. Nikolaus Harnoncourt explores the luring appeal of the "Danube Monarchy", Jordi Savall presents the multicultural Andalusia before 1500 and the Jazz Big Band Graz focuses on New York, the famous melting pot of cultures. With Handel's "Agrippina" under the direction of Christian Pöppelreiter, Il Giardino Armonico lives up to its fame as an extra class opera orchestra and abducts styriarte visitors to the Rome of Emperor Nero in a former industrial production hall. Another promising cooperation is initiated in the styriarte Festival 2000: Nikolaus Harnoncourt commences a series of Beethoven piano concertos together with the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who until then was known as an interpreter of New Music.

Agrippina by Handel: Gabriele Sima and Antonio Abete

Theme 2000



The antithesis to Babel, Utopia, is the focus of the styriarte Festival 2001. Under the central theme of "...transported to a better world", the Festival continues its search for the legendary myths of the Tower of Babel and presents the Utopias of mankind in the form of music. Nikolaus Harnoncourt continues his "Danube Monarchy" project (Dvorák, Bartók and Beethoven) and sets a new standard with his first interpretation of the Verdi Requiem. Viktor Ullmann's opera "The Emperor of Atlantis", which was composed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, is performed in a former tramway garage under the direction of Christian Pöppelreiter and the musical direction of Peter Keuschnig; the opera is a touching manifesto of hope in the face of death. The Austrian composer Gösta Neuwirth is in the centre of the styriarte-"Personale" presented by the Klangforum Wien and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir. Several performances of the 2001 styriarte Festival have to be repeated due to the great demand for tickets, for instance, a Beethoven piano concert by the outstanding Graz pianist Markus Schirmer. The styriarte "Landpartie" takes visitors to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Lambrecht where they can indulge in the Utopia of the "theocratic state" of Saint Augustine in an event lasting 20 hours. In 44 musical performances, the Festival attracts about 23,000 visitors; ticket sale revenues rise to approximately ATS 10 million.

Emperor of Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann, scene photo

Theme 2001



"...den Blick nach oben" ("...looking upwards"), the central theme of the styriarte Festival 2002, embraces prayers, pleas and inspirational works of praise musically directed to heaven by the world's greatest composers over the span of a millennium. Nikolaus Harnoncourt sets out on a search for the divine with musical pieces by Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn; with Haydn's "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day", he concludes his six-year musical cycle focusing on the religious fears of the late Haydn in revolutionary times. A former tramway garage again serves as the festival hall for an opera: the next generation of the Harnoncourt family presents J. A. Hasse's "Piramo e Tisbe", an opera for three persons. The work of Austrian composer Florian Geßler can be heard across the city's roofscape when the bells of Graz's Schlossberg swing into action at the premier of his unique composition. The styriarte Festival also sets out on several pilgrimages: with the story-teller Helmut Wittmann, visitors set out on a pilgrimage to the small Slovenian church of Sveti Duh, with Lorenz Duftschmid and his Armonico Tributo, to the Weizberg Church, a Baroque pilgrimage church, and with Jordi Savall, to the monastery church of the Benedictine Abbey of Seckau. In a five-part cycle of concerts named "Night Time at the Minorites Monastery", young composers are searching for the divine at a late hour. Handel is awarded a chance to be heard twice: first with his early piece "La Resurrezione", performed by the Il Giardino Armonico, and as the final event of the styriarte Festival 2002 with his "Messiah", presented by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and the Concerto Köln. Approximately 25,000 visitors bring a plus of 9 per cent and revenues of about 780,000 Euro to the styriarte Festival 2002.

Piramo e Tisbe by Hasse: Silvia Weiss and Elisabeth von Magnus

Theme 2002



The styriarte Festival 2003 celebrates "The Power of Music" with Offenbach's "La Grand-Duchesse de Gérolstein", a brilliant musical theatre production directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and under the stage direction of Jürgen Flimm. Nikolaus Harnoncourt presents five projects in total. With Pierre-Laurent Aimard, he stages the final, missing piano concert in the styriarte cycle of Beethoven concerts, and, with a magnificent production of "Alexander's Feast" by Handel, he conjures up the power of music, the motto of the styriarte
For the first time, the styriarte also invites visitors to a series of fests: on the occasion of "Don Giovanni's Fest", guests are invited to sit down at the seducer's table in Eggenberg Castle (Schloss Eggenberg); two musical fests are dedicated to Hugo Wolf, the oeuvre of whom is presented within the styriarte 2003, and the mythical singer Orpheus; in the Monastery of St. Lambrecht, guests are invited to indulge in heavenly harmonies ("Harmonia Coelestis") in an intensive weekend of musical events; and at the dance festival "Tanzfest", visitors spend the entire night waltzing on the dance floor. Two evenings are dedicated to the composer Gerd Kühr; his compositions are presented by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and the "recreation" orchestra. Jordi Savall directs the final event of the styriarte 2003, Monteverdi's "Vespro della Beata Vergine", in the beautiful setting of the parish church of the village of Pöllau. The new Helmut-List concert hall (Helmut-List-Halle), an internationally lauded building of modern architecture with impressive acoustics, proves to be a splendid venue for a whole series of events. 30,000 visitors and revenues of 1.1 million Euro are strong indicators of the success of the styriarte 2003.

La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein by Offenbach: Marie-Ange Todorovitch in the title role

Theme 2003

For more information read:

Magazine 1 / 2003

Magazine 2 / 2003

Magazine 3 / 2003



In 2004, the styriarte Festival sets off on a melodious journey through a wealth of different musical periods under the motto of "From Time to Time". Nikolaus Harnoncourt pays his tribute to God's heavenly time with Biber's Requiem in f minor in Stainz and his brilliant interpretation of Telemann’s vision of the end of time in "The Day of Judgement". With Beethoven's Triple Concerto, the genius of the styriarte Festival brings his interpretation and recording of the entire set of Beethoven concertos for piano and orchestra to a much acclaimed end, joined by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, one of the most outstanding pianists. With Schubert"s Rosamunde, he takes up the cudgels for the much underrated incidental music of the Age of Romanticism.
Apart from Biber, the styriarte Festival also commemorates two other composers in 2004: Antonín Dvo?ák (Requiem) and Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Jordi Savall, the Catalan director, and his superb ensemble honour Charpentier's "Canticum ad Beatam Virginem Mariam" in the parish church of Pöllau. Jordi Savall also has the pleasant duty of presenting the triumphal final chords of the styriarte 2004: in the Baroque atmosphere of Stift Rein, a Cistercian Abbey near Graz, he presents "Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo" by Emilio de Cavalieri, the first Christian liturgical opera, which was originally performed in 1600, in a very clear and touching production.
Between these events, some of the well loved and splendid styriarte fests entice the audience: "À la recherche du temps" with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as clever programme coordinator and brilliant performer, a two-day organ fest and a culinary-musical fest, which lauds the pleasures of Renaissance palace life. The styriarte also offers an overwhelming wealth of Baroque orchestras and exceptional projects, for instance, an evening of rock music with Luca Pianca, Steve Reich's "Different Trains" and the outstanding musicians of the Kronos Quartet, or the start of a retrospective of the symphonies of the largely unknown and unjustly ignored Siberian composer Alexander Lokshin.
The facts that more tickets were sold than in 2003 and that nearly all of the performances (90%) were sold out are strong indicators for the unfaltering success of the festival.

Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo by Cavalieri: Jordi Savall and friends

Theme 2004

For more information read:

Magazine 1 / 2004

Magazine 2 / 2004



Under the motto "Sensual", the styriarte 2005 sets off with an internationally acclaimed opera production: Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Andrea Breth present Bizet's Carmen in the Helmut-List concert hall. Nora Gubisch and Kurt Streit in the leading roles cause as much sensation as the soloists in Harnoncourt's second opera production of the styriarte 2005: Patricia Petibon, Werner Güra, Michael Schade and Christian Gerhaher are superbly accompanied by the Concentus Musicus Wien in Haydn's orchestra version of Orlando Paladino. Nikolaus Harnoncourt also presents two more enigmatic male characters: Egmont in Beethoven's great piece of incidental music and the penitent David in Mozart's Cantata Davidde penitente.
A major focus of the styriarte 2005 are sensual Mediterranean panoramas in which the Savall family, for instance, traces the Spanish Folias, or Il Giardino Armonico and La Venexiana present music by Vivaldi and Monteverdi.
"Sensual" also is to be understood in its most literal sense – the audience of the styriarte 2005 loves to celebrate, to indulge in culinary delights, to enjoy fests with Handel and Rossini, and to join Bach in the coffee house and Orlando di Lasso in the wine cellars – including a wine tasting in the Renaissance castle of Gleinstätten in the south of Styria.
Jordi Savall once again presents the brilliant final chords of the festival with Bach's Mass in b minor in the Baroque parish church of Pöllau.
Between these events, a wealth of other concerts allow the audience to adventure onto the paths of sensuality from Medieval to present times – led by styriarte "regulars" like Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Markus Schirmer, Armonico Tributo Austria, and many others.
33,000 tickets were issued for the 38 productions of the styriarte 2005, which were presented in 52 performances. More than 30,000 tickets were sold, which adds up to a sales rate of more than 90% (ticket sales revenues: 1,300,000 EURO).

Carmen by Bizet: Nora Gubisch in the title role

Theme 2005

For more information read:

Magazine 1 / 2005

Magazine 2 / 2005



In the Mozart Year the "finally happy" styriarte focused also on another great composer: Robert Schumann. Nikolaus Harnoncourt interpreted in conjunction with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe Schumann's monumentally splendid "Faust-Scenes" with an "exquisite balance of tension between a tender idyll and dramatic art" (Ernst Naredi-Rainer, Kleine Zeitung), a "finely tuned exhibition of shimmering colours" (Martin Gasser, Kronen Zeitung).
A stroke of luck was the cast of Faust, sung by the baritone Christian Gerhaher who exemplified his role with "stupendous articulation and voice" (Peter Stalder, Der Standard).
In his second project, held in the parish church of Stainz, Harnoncourt devoted himself to typifying the pursuit of happiness in the hereafter, depicted in two cantatas of J.S. Bach. Played by the Concentus Musicus Wien, the cantatas were portrayed with "fascinatingly subtle nuances and soloists who performed with overwhelming virtuosity" (Ernst Naredi-Rainer, Kleine Zeitung).
The styriarte also followed the tracks of composers on their pursuit of happiness: Mozart to Prague, Chopin on Majorca, Haydn to London and Schubert to the wine region of western Styria. "Fortuna", the Goddess of Happiness, also featured in the programme: Elisabeth von Magnus brought life to songs by Gershwin, Berlin and Potter and Eszther Haffner characterised Mozart as The Gambler.
The festival celebrated happiness – Mazel tow! – at a Jewish wedding (with the David Orlowsky's Klezmorim) and at a Habsburg wedding in Eggenberg Castle performed by Lorenz Duftschmid.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard rendered the even tangible happiness of children with poetry, humour and sensitivity and continued his discovery tours of Mozart: as conductor and soloist with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, he thrilled the audience with two of Mozart’s breathtakingly beautiful piano concertos.
The styriarte also dedicated a concert to the Austro-Hungarian composer Ivan Eröd on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
The festival ended with three superbly differing concertos, given by Jordi Savall: Cervantes' "Don Quijote", the "Knight of the sad Countenance" but who is nevertheless happy, the "St. Jacob's Way", performing prayers and songs of pilgrims along their way, and finally Haydn's oratorio "The Seasons". Despite having to rival with the FIFA World Championship and the Mozart Year, the styriarte concerts enjoyed a total of an 86 % capacity – a notable outcome.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Theme 2006

For more information read:

Magazine 2006



The styriarte festival 2007 set out on a quest for the continent of Europe and European identities within four weeks. And its audience followed enthusiastically! We are especially happy that both artists and audience asked questions about, reflected, and discussed history, identity and future of a common European culture with such an interest and curiosity - no sign of Europe-fatigue!
Of course the styriarte had strong advocates for the musical positions of Europe: Nikolaus Harnoncourt's performances were magical moments - his interpretation of Beethoven’s single oratorio "Christus am Ölberge" and Haydn's oratorio "The Seasons" set new standards.
And Beethoven's Mass in C major and Symphony No. 5 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as styriarte opening turned out as sensational culmination of Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Beethoven interpretation. This concert – it was the opening concert of this year's festival – was transmitted live to the Hauptplatz (main square) in Graz where about 1.000 visitors could experience the concert for free, and via Radio to many other public places in Styria.
The styriarte 2007 – four weeks in June and July – presented 34 productions in 40 performances. More than 26,000 visitors came to experience those performances which added up to a sales rate of more than 93 %. Fifteen productions of the festival, among which were all Harnonocurt projects, were recorded by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and were and will be transmitted by numerous radio stations worldwide.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Beethoven in Helmut-List-Halle Graz

Theme 2007

For more information read:

Magazine 2007



"Everything flows" - and at the end of the styriarte festival 2008 it is clear that in fact lots of people got carried away by the power of music, by the idea and by the performances of the festival. This year's festival about the theme "water" set new standards - programmatic and qualitative standards.
First of all that is due to the "event of the century" (Frankfurter Rundschau), Nikolaus Harnoncourt's scenic production of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo". The opera is so important for the maestro that he not only conducted but also directed it! Who had the chance to hear and see the outcome, the uncomparable sound of the Concentus Musicus Wien, the outstanding soloists, the wonderful Arnold Schoenberg Chor, and the indispensable Zurich ballet company of Heinz Spoerli, cannot think of "Idomeneo" as an opera of second rank.
This year it was possible again to make public a concert conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt: The new "Klangwolke" of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF transmitted Mozart's Coronation Mass from Stainz live to the Hauptplatz (main square) in Graz where about 1.000 visitors could experience the concert for free, and via Radio to many other public places in Styria.
The styriarte offered other concerts for free, too: the opening concert at the Hauptplatz in Graz with recreation - GROSSES ORCHESTER GRAZ playing grand sea music pieces, and the final festival concert with the first performance of Christian F. Schiller's musical action "flussleere" along the river Mur were heard and seen by hundreds of visitors.
An important point of the styriarte 2008 was the broadening of the musical horizon through literature. The pick of German-speaking actors - Maximilian Schell, Tobias Moretti, Robert Stadlober, Fritz Muliar, and others - met in Graz to explore the literary depths of the oceans. And many "conventional" concerts offered additional texts to expand the understanding: the tragic stories of Lady Hamilton or of the doom of the Titanic, Donna Leon's Venice mysteries or the voyages of the Chinese admiral Zheng He, and others.
The styriarte festival wants to surprise its visitors, wants to make possible unconventional views at our lives, and it wants to entertain at the highest stage. So in the second half of the festival the ship "S.M.S. styriarte" was built in the Helmut-List-Halle and had not only regular styriarte guests like the ensemble Sarband under Vladimir Ivanoff and Jordi Savall with his Hespérion XXI on board.
The styriarte festival 2008 had more than 30,000 visitors which added up to a sales rate of more than 90 % - as usual. With a gross ticket income of EUR 1.310.000 the festival had its highest ticket earnings ever since its foundation.
Fifteen productions of the festival, among which were both Harnonocurt projects, were recorded by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF and were and will be transmitted by numerous radio stations worldwide. Additionally the ORF produced a documentation of the "Klangwolke" and a rehearsal documentation of the "Idomeneo" production.

Saimir Pirgu als Idomeneo (c) Werner Kmetitsch

Theme 2008

For more information read:

Magazine 1 / 2008

Magazine 2 / 2008



Friedrich Schiller liked to reach for the stars. And he was never afraid to remind us of the great truths of life in a serene and composed way. He demanded much of his contemporaries, like many idealists do. And when he pondered over the responsibilities of artists, he at once made them responsible for upholding the dignity of all mankind. Was that too idealistic? Yet if you see the world with open eyes, no other issue appears to be more pressing than the question of what has become of the dignity of mankind and who indeed stands up for it.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt has never been one to be content with singular solutions: in his music, he has always striven to grasp the entire picture. And now, in the year of his 80th birthday, he allows one of his lifelong dreams to come true, both to himself and the styriarte audience. What could be a more fitting theme than the exploration of human dignity, not only based on Schiller but from a more essential viewpoint. Nikolaus Harnoncourt presents a piece of music which, like almost no other, is apt to honour those who are looked down upon with contempt, through artistic means: George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess". In 1935, it was unthinkable and a musical milestone at the same time to make a physically handicapped Afro-American, who was as poor as a beggar, the hero of an opera. This also proves how powerful music can be: even to date, hits from "Porgy and Bess" like "Summertime" are still unforgettable, and the opera itself may be viewed as the victory of emancipation.

People should be honoured for their worth – and it is music, which can live up to that challenge. This does not necessarily mean that all music needs to be serious, on the contrary. One of the roots of musical in particular, popular music, sends out pure cheerfulness. Spiritual music, at the other end, is full of holiness; in her "Ordo virtutum" Hildegard of Bingen lets entire hosts of angel-like virtues praise the uniqueness of the human soul.

The greatest composers often created their most beautiful pieces when they sought to better the world or help their fellow man. Georg Friedrich Handel, for instance, collected money for an orphanage with his oratorios. He is one of the four masters who will be in the centre of the 2009 styriarte festival. All four of them were, in one way or the other, concerned with the dignity of mankind. Henry Purcell composed a musical piece against war in times of epidemics and religious dispute: in the centre of this work was the mythical King Arthur whose cheerfulness never fails to amaze listeners even today. Georg Friedrich Handel placed the personal responsibility of every human being in the centre of his musical work and celebrated the amazing beauty of life. Joseph Haydn found wit and irony in the most ordinary, simple aspects of life. And the oeuvre of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, one of the greatest geniuses of music, was prohibited and reviled for racist motives. All of these works may serve as examples for how human dignity and music have always been interwoven.

The 2009 styriarte festival wanders the tracks of these masters. It brings together resounding messengers of humanity. It shows how over the centuries artists have always tried to stop aberrations of man or lead them towards new avenues – new avenues into a better world. This may sound idealistic, but who, if not artists, are able to live up to the challenge which Schiller imposes on them in his poem "The Artists"?

For more information read:

Magazin 1 / 2009

Magazin 2 / 2009




For more information read:

Magazin 1 / 2010

Magazin 2 / 2010



“That which is easy is difficult,” wrote court conductor (Hofkapellmeister) Johann Joseph Fux almost 300 years ago, “but it is in this difficult lightness that the exquisiteness of good taste and its zest lie.“ Thus, music which is so entertaining, so popular that it seems weightless is by no means easy to create. The more natural music seems, the greater the skill behind its creation. Finding the right balance between the creator’s own standards and the audience’s preference was the continual challenge.

styriarte 2011 told a story of this challenging “light entertainment”. The story begins in France, in the châteaux of the Loire Valley, where composers employed all the art of the Renaissance to express thrilling eroticism in musical tones, nothing more and nothing less. “A happy medium between too heavy and too light” is what Mozart wanted to achieve for his piano concertos, yet even he overdid it sometimes. As he was composing Idomeneo, Mozart's father warned him, “Do not forget that which is popular, which tickles long ears.” Mozart answered him, “Do not trouble yourself over what is popular; my opera shall have music which appeals to all kinds of people, except to those with long ears.”

Bedřich Smetana also succeeded in achieving this balance which obviously came so easily to Mozart. Smetana’s melody-rich opera The Bartered Bride has enjoyed worldwide success up till the present day. Kurt Hornolka says of the opera: “Everyone can understand it and, at the same time, it satisfies even the most musically demanding listener – a truly Mozartian Smetana effect. The difficult art of creating complete perfection in the seemingly simple comes together in this score.” Smetana’s Bride finds herself reposing on Nikolas Harnoncourt’s music stand for the first time ever, where he presented her in a semi-staged production and, naturally, in a very special setting. It was a festival of voices wading in the light rhythms of Bohemia, or is there more to it than that? Does the lightness of this pastoral comedy in fact comprise ambiguity, gravity? As Eduard Hanslick sums it up, “Smetana does not let anything raw or trivial slip into his music. It is always natural, popular and melodious, never vulgar, which is a highly seldom occurrence in this genre and one of Smetana’s greatest merits.”

Nikolaus Harnoncourt has proven in Graz time and again that Joseph Haydn was much more than a master of cheerful banter. In this same spirit, Harnoncourt took on the elder Haydn’s most frequent gimmick, the kettledrum stroke, in the Surprise Symphony for styriarte 2011. He also directed listeners’ attention to works Haydn composed as a younger man. Though the thirty-year-old court conductor (Kapellmeister) found composing his Le matin symphonies in Eisenstadt easy, he struggled while composing his Cecilian Mass.

Bach, too, completed his Mass in B Minor little by little and for Jordi Savall, it proved a touchstone for the “easy difficult”. Savall turned this motto around as he transformed Bach’s complicated fugues into light-footed Baroque dances. In his other styriarte 2011 performances, the Barcelona maestro concentrated on the lightness of being, which he invoked in English viola da gamba music as well as in Creole music of Latin America.

Is then “that which is popular” first and foremost a question of dance rhythms and folk melodies, music that is first felt in the legs before it reaches the ear? The answer is surely not that simple. Vivaldi’s undying Four Seasons, Bach’s Air and Schubert’s string quartet Death and the Maiden were anything but common street songs. What is it then about them that is so fascinating? Why did these particular pieces become so popular? And what happens to Schoenberg and Stravinksy when they indulge the light entertainment? What happens when Beethoven creates a variation of a well-known popular melody? Of course Johann Joseph Fux, who was so skilled in creating popular music, must also be present at this year’s event. The well of “difficult easy” seems inexhaustible as all this and more was presented audiences at the 2011 styriarte festival.

Bedřich Smetana: „Die Verkaufte Braut“

For more information read:

Magazin 1 / 2011

Magazin 2 / 2011