Lower Rhine Music Festival

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The Niederrheinische Musikfest was one of the most important music festivals of the 19th and 20th centuries in the field of classical music , which took place 112 times annually from 1818 to 1958 at Whitsun, alternating between several cities in the Rhineland , with some interruptions mostly due to the war .


The music festival goes back to the music directors Johannes Schornstein from the town of Elberfeld, which was still independent before 1929 (since then part of Wuppertal ) and Friedrich August Burgmüller from Düsseldorf , who made the decision to do so in the context of a concert by Elberfeld and Düsseldorf musicians in 1817 To carry out the event on a regular annual basis. Two years after the annexation to the Kingdom of Prussia and in the musical epoch of High Romanticism , there was an immense hunger for culture in the population in the Rhineland, which this concert series should take into account.

On the initiative of Burgmüller, after the initial success in Elberfeld, various Düsseldorf music associations formed the “Verein für Tonkunst” and finally in 1818 the “ Städtische Musikverein e. V. ”under his leadership, from which the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra later developed. At Pentecost of the same year, they organized the official 1st Lower Rhine Music Festival. It was again a resounding success and so the two music directors decided to keep this event every year at Whitsun, alternating between Elberfeld and Düsseldorf. In 1821 the city of Cologne was added, while Elberfeld was eliminated with one last event in 1827, as this city was no longer logistically able to cope with the onslaught of musicians and guests. The city of Aachen stepped in for this in 1825 , taking this music festival as an opportunity to inaugurate its newly built Theater Aachen with the German premiere of the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven . During the revolutionary years of 1848/49 , the music festival was canceled for safety reasons for several years, as it was later during the First World War . During the time of National Socialism , the program did not correspond to the musical ideas of the regime, and so from 1934 it was no longer approved by the rulers and instead replaced by the Reichsmusiktage , which took place in 1938 and 1939. Only after the Second World War was the traditional music festival resumed in Aachen in 1946. On the occasion of the music festival in 1948, however, Cologne left the cycle. Instead, Wuppertal, on the one hand, emerged from Barmen and Elberfeld after 1929 and therefore felt committed to tradition, and on the other hand, Duisburg , which then also organized the final event of the Lower Rhine Music Festival in 1958, as the event was final from that year should be set.

In 1984, initiated and supported by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln (WDR), a new edition of this series of concerts was followed by the "Rheinische Musikfest" and the "Westfälische Musikfest", which also have a rich history in the Prussian times of the Rhineland. From 2006 onwards, both music festivals were combined under the auspices of the WDR as a “ WDR music festival ” with a more extensive and contemporary program.

The Niederrheinische Musikfest initially lasted two days, but due to the great response from 1826 until the end of this concert series in 1958, it was extended to the entire three days of the Whitsun weekend. In the meantime, in 1834, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. For pietistic reasons it is forbidden to hold this festival on the days of Pentecost. Through the mediation of Prince Friedrich of Prussia , who was an art-loving nephew of the king who resided in Düsseldorf and was the protector of the Düsseldorf art, music and theater associations, the event could be held again as usual on the Whitsun holidays from 1836, but with the condition that " That on the morning of the first holiday there was no music rehearsal, on the evening of the first day there was always, as before, an oratorio and on the other day only classical music is performed, but that all disturbances in the church celebration of the holiday are avoided" .


Right from the start, the Niederrheinische Musikfest saw itself as a socially and cultural highlight at a high artistic level. The domestic and foreign guests as well as the present members of the nobility, influential politicians and business people as well as musically experienced citizens were offered everything that played an important role in music at the time. In addition to the local music directors, the great composers, as well as well-known virtuosos, often appeared as festival directors or guest conductors. This event was used again and again as a podium for first performances or new recordings of works by well-known personalities from the music scene, as well as an opportunity to introduce lesser-known composers or soloists. The focus was on the performance of music from the past epochs of the Baroque and Viennese Classics, as well as the current musical styles, especially in the form of large symphonic works . However, the festival management did not refuse to incorporate future-oriented innovations, such as later contemporary music . Another important focus was sacred music in the form of large masses , oratorios , chorales and cantatas, as well as enjoying chamber music in a more private and familiar setting and, from 1833, the matinees .

All of this meant that a total of between 400 and sometimes significantly more than 600 orchestra and choir musicians were involved in the respective events , which, including the arriving guests, was a lucrative source of income for the hotel and catering industry, but also a financial and logistical challenge the festival management meant.


The following is a detailed chronology of the Niederrheinische Festspiele, as it emerges from the various sources, although the entries under “Special features” can only represent a rough selection.

Serial No. year place Festival director (s) Special features / first performances / important soloists (selection)
0 1817 Elberfeld Johannes chimney officially not yet part of the cycle, but is considered an initial spark;
1 1818 Dusseldorf Friedrich August Burgmüller Focus on Joseph Haydn : " The Seasons " and " The Creation "
2 1819 Elberfeld Johann chimney
3 1820 Dusseldorf Friedrich August Burgmüller German premiere of the oratorio “ Samson ” by Georg Friedrich Handel ; Soloist: Johannes Schornstein (piano)
4th 1821 Cologne Friedrich August Burgmüller, City of Cologne new as an event location; sponsored by Erich Verkenius, among others
5 1822 Dusseldorf Friedrich August Burgmüller Performance of the oratorio “The Liberated Jerusalem” (original title: “The Liberation of Jerusalem”) by Abbé Maximilian Stadler ; Düsseldorf stepped in for Elberfeld for organizational reasons. For the first time in the knight's hall of the old Düsseldorf Palace .
6th 1823 Elberfeld Johannes chimney
7th 1824 Cologne Friedrich Schneider World premiere "Sündflut" by Friedrich Schneider
8th 1825 Aachen Ferdinand Ries City of Aachen new in the program; German premiere of the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven on the occasion of the opening of the Aachen City Theater
9 1826 Dusseldorf Louis Spohr and Ferdinand Ries Düsseldorf premiere of the oratorio “ The Last Things ” by Louis Spohr (text: Johann Friedrich Rochlitz ) and the Symphony No. 6 in D major op. 146 by F. Ries; Event for the first time over three days
10 1827 Elberfeld Johann Schornstein and Erich Verkenius last participation of the city of Elberfeld;
11 1828 Cologne Bernhard Klein and Ferdinand Ries and Carl Leibl World premiere of the oratorio “Jephtha” by B. Klein and a newly recorded overture to “Don Carlos” by F. Ries
12 1829 Aachen Ferdinand Ries
13 1830 Dusseldorf Ferdinand Ries German premiere of the overture "Bride of Messina" op. 162 and F. Ries, (text: Friedrich Schiller ) as well as the Düsseldorf premiere of the oratorio " Judas Maccabäus " by GF Handel
14th 1832 Cologne Ferdinand Ries
15th 1833 Dusseldorf Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy German premiere of the Italian Symphony and a “Festival Overture” by F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy as well as the oratorio Israel in Egypt in the German original version by GF Handel; new in the program: morning concerts
16 1834 Aachen Ferdinand Ries Soloist: Frédéric Chopin (piano)
17th 1835 Cologne Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Solomon based on original scores and with organ accompaniment by GF Handel; Choir director: Fanny Hensel
18th 1836 Dusseldorf Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy World premiere of the oratorio “ Paulus ” by F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy; Choir director: J. Schornstein
19th 1837 Aachen Ferdinand Ries World premiere of the oratorio “The Kings in Israel” by Ferdinand Ries
20th 1838 Cologne Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
21st 1839 Dusseldorf Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Guest appearance and breakthrough by Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath (composer); World premiere of a concert overture by Julius Rietz ; Choir director: J. Schornstein
22nd 1840 Aachen Louis Spohr
23 1841 Cologne Conradin Kreutzer
24 1842 Dusseldorf Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
25th 1843 Aachen Carl Gottlieb Reissiger
26th 1844 Cologne Heinrich Ludwig Egmont Dorn German premiere of the Missa solemnis in D major op. 123 by L. v. Beethoven
27 1845 Dusseldorf Julius Rietz Düsseldorf premiere of the “ Requiem ” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - a nine-year break to follow ( German Revolution 1848/49 )
28 1846 Aachen Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Soloist and discovery of the "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind (soprano)
29 1847 Cologne Heinrich Dorn, Gaspare Spontini and George Onslow German premiere of the 4th Symphony in G major op. 71 by G. Onslow
30th 1851 Aachen Peter Joseph from Lindpaintner
31 1853 Dusseldorf Robert Schumann , Ferdinand Hiller and Julius Tausch Soloists: Clara Schumann (piano) and Joseph Joachim (violin); World premiere of the 4th Symphony in D minor, Op. 120 and the Festive Overture, Op. 123 by R. Schumann
32 1854 Aachen Peter Joseph von Lindpaitner
33 1855 Dusseldorf Ferdinand Hiller Special performance of the oratorio " Das Paradies und die Peri " by R. Schumann at the special request of the soloist Jenny Lind (soprano)
34 1856 Dusseldorf Julius Rietz Düsseldorf stepped in at short notice because the " Gürzenich " was being restored and rebuilt in Cologne
35 1857 Aachen Franz Liszt
36 1858 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller World premiere of the oratorio "Saul" by Ferdinand Hiller
37 1860 Dusseldorf Ferdinand Hiller Soloist: Joseph Joachim (violin)
38 1861 Aachen Franz Lachner Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano)
39 1862 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
40 1863 Dusseldorf Otto Goldschmidt and Julius Tausch Soloist: Jenny Lind (soprano)
41 1864 Aachen Julius Rietz and Franz Wüllner for the first time in the new Redoute, the ballroom of the old Kurhaus; Use of a new organ from Ibach Orgelbau
42 1865 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller Soloist: Friedrich Nietzsche as a singer
43 1866 Dusseldorf Otto Goldschmidt and Julius Tausch Soloists: Clara Schumann (piano), Joseph Joachim (violin) and Jenny Lind (soprano); Inauguration of the new Tonhalle Düsseldorf
44 1867 Aachen Julius Rietz and Ferdinand Breunung
45 1868 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller Performance of the Violin Concerto in G minor, op. 26 , by Max Bruch under the direction of Hiller with Joseph Joachim as soloist
46 1869 Dusseldorf Julius Rietz and Julius Tausch Soloist: Joseph Joachim (violin)
47 1870 Aachen Franz Lachner and Ferdinand Breunung last appearance by Jenny Lind with the soprano solo of the oratorio "Ruth" by Otto Goldschmidt
48 1871 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
49 1872 Dusseldorf Anton Grigorjewitsch Rubinstein and Julius Tausch World premiere of the sacred opera “Der Turm zu Babel” by A. Rubinstein
50 1873 Aachen Julius Rietz and Ferdinand Breunung Soloists: Marie Wilt (soprano), Johann Christoph Lauterbach (violin) and Clara Schumann (piano)
51 1874 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
52 1875 Dusseldorf Joseph Joachim and Julius Tausch Düsseldorf premiere of Beethoven's Missa solemnis
53 1876 Aachen Ferdinand Breunung Georg Stahlhuth's new organ is inaugurated; Soloist and artistic breakthrough of Adolf Wallnöfer (tenor)
54 1877 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller Guest appearance as conductor of Giuseppe Verdi with his Messa da Requiem
55 1878 Dusseldorf Joseph Joachim and Julius Tausch World premiere of the choral work “Germanenzug” by Julius Tausch; Breakthrough of the 2nd symphony by Johannes Brahms ; Düsseldorf premiere of “Scenes from Goethe's Faust” by R. Schumann; Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano)
56 1879 Aachen Ferdinand Breunung and Max Bruch
57 1880 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano)
58 1881 Dusseldorf Niels Wilhelm Gade and Julius Tausch Soloist: Eugen Gura (baritone)
59 1882 Aachen Franz Wüllner
60 1883 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
61 1884 Dusseldorf Johannes Brahms and Julius Tausch Soloist: Eugen d'Albert (piano)
62 1885 Aachen Julius Kniese and Carl Reinecke
63 1886 Cologne Franz Wüllner
64 1887 Dusseldorf Hans Richter and Julius Tausch Soloist: Eugen d'Albert (piano)
65 1888 Aachen Hans Richter and Eberhard Schwickerath
66 1889 Cologne Franz Wüllner
67 1890 Dusseldorf Hans Richter and Julius Buths Soloist: Bernhard Stavenhagen (piano)
68 1891 Aachen Ernst von Schuch and Eberhard Schwickerath
69 1892 Cologne Franz Wüllner
70 1893 Dusseldorf Julius Buths
71 1894 Aachen Ernst von Schuch and Eberhard Schwickerath
72 1895 Cologne Franz Wüllner
73 1896 Dusseldorf Johannes Brahms, Julius Buths and Richard Strauss J. Brahms' last appearance in the Rhineland; Soloists: Pablo de Sarasate (violin) and Ferruccio Busoni (piano)
74 1897 Aachen Hans Richter and Eberhard Schwickerath
75 1898 Cologne Franz Wüllner
76 1899 Dusseldorf Richard Strauss and Julius Buths
77 1900 Aachen Richard Strauss and Eberhardt Schwickerath
78 1901 Cologne Karl Wolff and Erich Urban
79 1902 Dusseldorf Richard Strauss and Julius Buths Event was integrated as part of the Düsseldorf trade exhibition; second German and Düsseldorf performance and breakthrough of the oratorio “ The Dream of Gerontius ” by Edward Elgar .
80 1903 Aachen Felix Weingartner and Eberhard Schwickerath Soloist: George Enescu (violin)
81 1904 Cologne Fritz Steinbach
82 1905 Dusseldorf Julius Buths Soloists: Ernst von Dohnanyi (piano), Irene Abendroth (soprano)
83 1906 Aachen Felix Weingärtner and Eberhard Schwickerath
84 1907 Cologne Fritz Steinbach
85 1909 Aachen Max von Schillings , Eberhard Schwickerath and Richard Strauss
86 1910 Cologne Fritz Steinbach
87 1911 Dusseldorf Karl Panzner Soloist: Eugène Ysaÿe (violin)
88 1912 Aachen Karl Muck and Eberhard Schwickerath
89 1913 Cologne Fritz Steinbach First performance in Cologne of the 8th Symphony by Gustav Mahler
90 1914 Dusseldorf Karl Panzner Soloists: Elly Ney (piano), Bronisław Huberman (violin)
91 1920 Aachen Karl Muck and Eberhard Schwickerath
92 1922 Cologne Hermann Abendroth Cologne premiere of the romantic cantata Von deutscher Seele by Hans Pfitzner
93 1924 Aachen Peter Raabe and Walter Braunfels
94 1925 Cologne Hermann Abendroth and Richard Strauss integrated as part of the "Millennium of the Rhineland"
95 1926 Dusseldorf Hans Weisbach German premiere of the dramatic symphonic psalm "King David" by Arthur Honegger ; Soloists: Ludwig Wüllner (recitative), Edwin Fischer (piano)
96 1927 Aachen Peter Raabe and Walter Braunfels
97 1928 Cologne
98 1929 Dusseldorf Hans Weisbach World premiere of the “Marian Antiphons” by Wolfgang Fortner as well as the Chamber Concerto op. 43 a by Adolf Busch and the sonata for flutes, 2 viols and basso continuo based on a manuscript from the Hessian state library by Georg Philipp Telemann
99 1930 Aachen Peter Raabe and Paul Pella Highlight: Wozzeck from Alban Berg
100 1933 Aachen Gottlob Karl Springsfeld, needle manufacturer from Aachen and sponsor of the music festivals, dies
101 1946 Aachen Theodor Bernhard Rehmann , Heinrich Hollreiser , Günther Wand , Wilhelm Pitz and Felix Raabe New edition after the war-related break; The focus was on English (Edward Elgar and Vaughan Williams ) and French works ( César Franck and Maurice Ravel )
102 1947 Dusseldorf Heinrich Hollreiser German premiere of the Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber by Paul Hindemith
103 1948 Cologne
104 1949 Aachen Felix Raabe, Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Hans Weisbach, Michael Sittard World premiere of the symphonic cantata "Between Time and Eternity" op. 65 by Franz Philipp and the "Variations for Orchestra" by Ernst Pepping
105 1950 Wuppertal
106 1951 Dusseldorf Heinrich Hollreiser First performance in Düsseldorf of “The Incessant” by Paul Hindemith
107 1952 Aachen Felix Raabe, Heinrich Hollreiser, Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Günther Wand and Hans Weisbach World premiere of the symphonic interludes from the lyrical drama Boulevard Solitude by Hans Werner Henze
108 1954 Duisburg Georg Ludwig Jochum World premiere of the choral work “Lullaby of the Mother of God” by HW Henze, text: Lope de Vega
109 1955 Wuppertal Paul Hindemith World premiere of the cantata "Ite angeli veloces" by P. Hindemith, text: Paul Claudel
110 1956 Dusseldorf Hermann Scherchen World premiere of the choral work “Tedeum” by Ernst Pepping and the concerto for piano and orchestra by Hans Vogt
111 1957 Aachen Wolfgang Sawallisch , Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Rudolf Pohl , Wilhelm Pitz, Leo Nießen and Karl Venth World premiere of the 2nd piano concerto by Wolfgang Meyer-Tormin , soloist: Rudolf Dohm
112 1958 Duisburg Georg Ludwig Jochum last event of the Niederrheinischen Musikfest

Literature (selection)

  • Bibliography of the Rheinische Musikfest in the library of the Beethovenhaus Bonn
  • Wilhelm Hauchecorne, Sheets of Memory of the Fifty Years of the Lower Rhine Music Festival , Cologne 1868 (digitized version)
  • Programs of all (Niederrheinischer) music festivals held in Aachen (from 1825–1879) , in: Aachener Calender for the year 1880 , pp. 107–119; also in: Music, Theater and Art in 1878/79 . Pp. 97-101
  • Julius Alf, History and Significance of the Niederrheinische Musikfest in the first half of the 19th century. In: Düsseldorfer Jahrbuch , vol. 42 (1940) and vol. 43 (1941) - reprint Düsseldorf, 1987
  • Rudolf Dohm, Aachen's contribution to music history ; in: 105th Niederrheinisches Musikfest 1950 in Wuppertal, pp. 31–45
  • Willibald Gurlitt , Robert Schumann and the romanticism in music, 106th Niederrheinisches Musikfest in Düsseldorf , yearbook 1951, pp. 13–52. - Reprinted in 1966
  • Julius Alf, The Lower Rhine Music Festival in Wuppertal. “Modern Music” in the past and present ; in: Contributions to Rhenish Music History , Cologne / Krefeld 005, 1952
  • Klaus Wolfgang Niemöller , Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and the Niederrheinische Musikfest 1835 in Cologne ; in: Contributions to the history of music in the Rhineland , Cologne / Krefeld 0625, 1952
  • Ursula Eckart-Bäcker, Friedrich Nietzsche as singers in Cologne. Reports on the 42nd Niederrheinische Musikfest 1865 ; in: Contributions to the Rhenish Music History , Cologne / Krefeld 062, 1952
  • Reinhold Sietz, The 35th Rheinische Musikfest 1857 under the conductor Franz Liszt ; In: Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsverein , 69. 1957. pp. 79–110
  • Reinhold Sietz, The Lower Rhine Music Festival 1834 in Aachen ; in: ZAGV. 70. 1958. pp. 167-191
  • Reinhold Sietz, The Lower Rhine Music Festival in Aachen in the first half of the 19th century ; in: ZAGV. 72, 1960. pp. 109-164
  • Julius Alf, The Niederrheinische Musikfest after 1945. The end of a century tradition , in: Düsseldorfer Jahrbuch , vol. 57/58 (1980), pp. 472–497
  • Rainer Großimlinghaus, For the love of music - two centuries of musical life in Düsseldorf , Städtischer Musikverein zu Düsseldorf eV, 1989

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