“We connect certain dates with important historical events without needing to give it much thought: the 9th of November is such a day,” says Cornelius Meister, who since 2018 has been general music director of Staatsoper Stuttgart and Staatsorchester Stuttgart. The Hanover-born conductor, who is working together with the students of the Karajan Academy for the first time this season, has put together a programme that refers to 9 November in a variety of ways.
Most of us associate this date with the fall of the Berlin Wall which is now 30 years ago. At that time, Friedrich Goldmann was one of the leading composers in East Germany, while Hans Werner Henze was one of the outstanding artistic figures in the Federal Republic in the West. In September 1989, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin gave a concert in Frankfurt with works from East and West Germany, during which Goldmann’s Lagebericht and Henze’s Drei Lieder über den Schnee were premiered. According to Meister, nobody dared to hope at the time that German reunification was imminent.
Ernst Toch’s Bunte Suite commemorates another event: what is known as the Kristallnacht of 9 November 1938. During the dictatorship of the National Socialists, Jewish composers such as Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann were murdered in concentration camps. Ernst Toch was lucky to escape the terror. He was able to emigrate to the United States in 1933, where he worked as a film composer in Hollywood.
From a historical distance, 9 November 1848 is also an important date, since it marked the turning point in the March Revolution. Richard Wagner, whose Siegfried Idyll is performed here, was sought by warrant throughout Germany because of his involvement with the Dresden rebellion. Seventy years later to the day, Germany proclaimed itself a republic following its defeat in the First World War. Cornelius Meister wants to remember the so-called November Revolution with Ludwig van Beethoven’s First Symphony, a work that was regarded as subversive when it was written, and for the conductor is a symbol of revolutionary change: “This concert programme gives us the opportunity to connect music, beyond sound and notes, to history and society – more generally: to where we come from and where we currently find ourselves”.