Paradise | 8 August – 10 September 2023
Beyond Eden. Ever since God kicked our primal ancestors Adam and Eve out of Paradise for eating an apple from the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge, humans have had to rely on their own devices. To be sure, we have been permitted to inhabit and populate this beautiful Earth, but we ourselves are responsible for preserving Creation, ensuring peace, and living together harmoniously. And none of this seems to be easy.
The longing for a return to Paradise drives humanity — all the more so in times of war and climate change, of famine and epidemics. But what does Paradise actually mean? Where do we find it? The word is ancient: it already existed in ancient Persian and Hebrew, found its way into Greek mythology as Elysium, and became equated with the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, in both Christianity and Islam. All traditions share the idea that it involves a protected, tranquil space where no one has to worry and bliss rules.
Gustav Mahler and Life after Death
When Lucerne Festival addresses the idea of Paradise in the summer of 2023, a range of widely different responses will result. Gustav Mahler, who is represented by no fewer than four symphonies, persistently wanted to know what happens after death. In his Third, to be heard on the Opening Concert, he outlined a design of the universe with love positioned as the highest, most paradise-like form of existence. The Second, on the other hand, which closes the Festival, promises resurrection and thus a continuation of life beyond our earthly existence. In the Fourth, Mahler even has us pay a visit to Paradise itself. And in the Seventh, he presents such an ostentatiously jubilant finale that we are almost tempted to start doubting again …
Anton Bruckner, the God-fearing Mystic
Such doubts about the omnipotence of God and entrance into the kingdom of heaven were alien to Anton Bruckner: faith dominated and ordered the everyday life of this deeply religious Catholic. His symphonies likewise contain religious moments — not only because Bruckner often treats the orchestra like an organ or is fond of choralelike melodies. At the climax of the second movement of his Seventh Symphony, he quotes his setting of “Non confundar” from the Te Deum: “Let me never be confounded.” In the Fourth, he represents divine creation in music. And in the Eighth, he builds veritable ladders to heaven, with arpeggios on the harp, the instrument of the angels, that seem to lead us into the midst of Paradise.
The Paradise of Nature …
Composers of all centuries have proven that music can depict nature in a moving way and reflect the happiness of communing with nature. Take Joseph Haydn, for example, who illustrates an idyllic panorama of the ideal world in his oratorio The Seasons. Richard Strauss set the mountain world to sound in a particularly impressive way with his Alpine Symphony. But Johannes Brahms also created a sonic symbol for the celestial world of the high mountains with an imaginary alphorn in the finale of his First Symphony. Antonín Dvořák intgrated bird calls into his Eighth Symphony, Leoš Janáček evoked the magic of the forest in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Bedřich Smetana paid homage to the beauties of Bohemia by tracing the course of the Vltava River.
… and the Fall of Humanity
But what happens when humans transgress against divine creation? Richard Wagner was far ahead of his time with Das Rheingold in depicting the exploitation of nature, from which natural resources are looted, ultimately dooming the existing world order to ruin. But the expulsion from Paradise does not refer to despoliation of nature and climate change alone. The apocalypse of World War I inspired Maurice Ravel to write La Valse, in which the splendor and glory of the old European monarchies are symbolized by the Viennese waltz, which Ravel pushes to a boiling point until it finally implodes.
Intoxication and Ecstasy as Artificial Paradises
Can’t we create our own Paradise? Some have posed this question before, seeking escape from the world: Richard Strauss, for example, who takes his leave for this reason at the end of his tone poem Ein Heldenleben. Intoxication seems to be another proven means: Alexander Scriabin dedicated his Poème de l’extase to this idea. And in his Seventh Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven stimulates such ecstatic states that some contemporaries believed that music like this could have been conceived only in a state of drunkenness.
Paradise as a Social Utopia
The composers selected for our Contemporary programming each take a look at what a better world might be manifested: gender and racial distinctions balance each other out so that equal rights and parity become the focus. The young Swiss composer Jessie Cox is writing a new work for the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO) on the theme of “Paradise”. In addition, varied LFCO ensembles will present works by Clara Iannotta, Tania León, Lei Liang, and Jalalu-Kalavert Nelson, whose music addresses racism and discrimination and shows us how distant we remain in our everyday lives from a social paradise on earth.
A Rendezvous with Adam and Eve
Finally, even Adam and Eve, to whom we owe the trauma of Paradise Lost, will show up in person at the Summer Festival. Henry Purcell dedicated the fifth act of his music theater work The Fairy Queen to them and allows us to enter the Garden of Eden after all — this haven of joy and beauty where love blossoms. And all will be well again.
Lucerne Festival is more than just the evening's symphony concert: the popular public viewing at Inseli Park, the exciting open-air performances of "In the Streets,” master classes, lectures, and panel discussions, and of course the brief concerts comprising the 40min series together create a festival atmosphere throughout the city.
Four-and-a-half weeks of world class music: experience the legedary conductors, the solo virtuosos, and of course the matchless "parade" of top international orchestras.
Every summer, Academy Director Wolfgang Rihm conducts togehter with Dieter Ammann a two-week Composer Seminar. During the first week, participants discuss their works with Rihm, Ammann and other guests in plenary sessions and in one-on-one discussions. They then go on to study and rehearse their scores with with the accomplished young musicians of the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA) and present them in moderated closing concerts.
Through our special concert offers for children and young people, for families and schools, we show that classical music is not just for grown-ups.