KlangForum Heidelberg 25 Years On


The festival “DICTATORSHIPS” is revolving around this sociopolitical issue staging eight new works dedicated to this subject. Today, the effects of totalitarian structures on individuals and society could hardly be more conspicuous, and the subject has inspired seven composers from different countries to produce new works. The intense combination of text-bound vocal and instrumental chamber music will be giving musical expression to the tensions existing between individual destinies and repressive systems. During the festival, which is taking place from 25.10. to 29.10.2017, these new compositions are performed for the first time – followed by concerts in New York, Basel as well as Canada in 2018.

All seven composers have been personally affected by dictatorships and have their own characteristic views on the subject: Dániel Péter Bíro, a cosmopolitan artist born in Budapest, comments on the changes taking place in his native country (“Nulla res singularis”), Italian composer Aureliano Cattaneo engages with the phenomenon of fascism in the 1930s (“Sasso nell’ Oceano”), and as a Spaniard, Alberto Hortigüela takes a searching look at the Franco era, Europe’s last dictatorship (so far) (“Zu Unrecht: Pamphlet”).

In the changing political and culture-revolutionary conditions that his home country has been through in the recent past, Xilin Wang, one of present-day China’s most renowned composers, has repeatedly experienced repression, which he sets to music with his composition “The Fight of Three Heads in a Huge Couldron”. In his work “Censored”, the Turkish composer Mithatcan Öcal investigates the current political problems of his country. Alvaro Carlevaro from Uruguay recalls the days of the dictatorship in his home land with his composition “robbed time/ tiempos robados”.

In a work specially commissioned for the event, German composer Karin Haußmann homes in on the conflicts generated by the individual moral obligation to join the resistance and by the decision to act against systematic wrongdoing on the part of the state. To exemplify the fate of all oppositionists, Haußmann focuses on the historical case of Tübingen student Elisabeth Käsemann, whose social commitment in Argentina as of 1968 put her in touch with opposition groups that after the putsch in March 1977 were forced to operate under ground. In 1977, Elisabeth Käsemann was kidnapped, tortured and ultimately murdered. Germany’s authorities and diplomats ignored the case, one of their motives being to ensure that no friction would disturb the smooth running of the1978 World Cup in Argentina. Haußmann approaches the subject in her work “Fragment for E.K.” intimately, as she sets into music the exchange of letters between the student Käsemann and her parents.

Individual scenes from René Leibowitz' last opera "Todos Caerán", set in a fictitious Latin American environment disfigured by dictatorship and revolt, will be given their first performance in a chamber version specially written for the occasion by Cornelius Schwehr. Ludger Engels, the director of the semi-staged performance, will also be staging contributing a number of scenic events revolving around topics addressed in the project as a whole.

In panel discussions, readings and talks, prominent politicians, jurists and political scientists will be involved in the wide-ranging festival programme, which has been devised in conjunction with PEN (“Writers in Prison”), the German-American Institute Heidelberg, Heidelberg University’s Department of History, and the Elisabeth Käsemann Foundation Stuttgart.

The festival is placed under the patronage of Theresia Bauer, the state of Baden-Württemberg’s minister for science, research and the arts.

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Composition commission sponsored by
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Sasso nell' Oceano"

for solo double bass & eight voices