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    “The 20th century is much more felt in Bartok” // Markus Hinterhäuser on the Salzburg Festival

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    The Salzburg Festival ends. Its intendant Markus Hinterhäuser told Aleksey Mokrousov about the festival’s main cycle dedicated to Bela Bartok, about Shostakovich’s self-discovery, the mystery of the song and the depth of Aida.

    — Why Bartok, why today? Do you think that the cycle “Time with Bartok” will tell us something?

    — Bartok is devoid of dogmatism, his art is close to everything that happens in the world. He is connected both with the spiritual situation of our time, and with the largest catastrophes of the 20th century – many of his works were created in anticipation of the First World War. The opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle was first performed in 1918, its second edition was created during the war years, and everything that appeared later belongs to the heights of the art of the 20th century. Bartók is a great European composer.

    – Then why is he played less than his contemporaries – Stravinsky or Schoenberg? Is he really a secret treasure, a composer for composers?

    — It is an illusion that he is not in the programs. Bartók is constantly in the repertoire, the same “Bluebeard”, the Concerto for Orchestra, the Third Piano Concerto are part of the musical canon. If you follow your point of view, Stravinsky is not in demand, they also play The Rite of Spring, Petrushka, while his later works – and this is a huge array – are almost never played.

    Hungarian Bartok, for all his connection with national culture, is a European artist. He is extremely open and frank, and at the same time honest as a composer. It’s hard for me to explain this, but what we call the 20th century is much more felt in his music than in the music of, for example, Stravinsky. In a sense, Stravinsky is “art for art’s sake”, fantastically done; there is something in Bartók that is much closer to me, it is unusually sincere music. Shostakovich performed by the Hagen Quartet. Is it worth clarifying to the public the possible branches of the “Time since…” cycle?

    — I don’t want to turn the festival into a cycle of lectures, and it’s clear what it’s about. I am not a teacher, the listener must be left free, although yes, flight and loneliness at our evening with Gurne were an important topic, like Shostakovich’s death, eternal questions about individuality. Concerts with conversations have an impact on the audience, but I’m not sure that they help the perception that much, the music itself has a much greater impact. Here is our evening with Matthias Görne (see “Death and Optimists” in “Kommersant” of August 20), it is quite clear what it is about. The language of Brecht’s poems – he, like Eisler, was forced to emigrate – is very specific in how people feel in exile; melancholy, bitterness, despair – everything is said, there is nothing to explain, the texts do it themselves. And the late Shostakovich knows himself, it just needs to be felt.

    — I have a long-standing attachment to Eisler, not only to songs, but also to the German Symphony and other works, I know them all. Görne and I talked about the fate of the fleeing, forced to leave their native places. Görne has been working on Eisler’s songs for a long time, now we decided to try to make a story out of them. There are many songs; the criterion for selection was the quality of the lyrics. Brecht, Pascal, Eichendorff, Goethe, Lenau – these are all great poems. The task was to combine them with an internal structure into a story.

    — There is much less in common between the lyrics of Brecht and Eichendorff than between Schubert and Eisler.

    — Yes, and still it is great poetry. Schubert wrote 600 songs, there are many unpretentious lyrics, their quality cannot be compared with the quality of music. We started with “Solitude” and “My Beautiful Star” by Schumann, and then we put on “A Room in a Hotel” – no one noticed that it was Eisler, it could well have been Schumann, there at the end of 22 seconds, full of bitterness, reminders of Schumann.

    — Tchaikovsky also wrote good romances to bad poetry—maybe they should be performed without words or replace the text?

    – A song is a song, it can be convincing even with not such first-class lyrics as Eichendorff, Mörike or Goethe. A song is one of the great marvels of music when you only have three or four minutes. If the lyrics are good, great, but if the song itself is really good and well performed, then it does not need to convince the listener through his rationality, logic, there are other ways of perception. So with Schubert and Schumann, so with Eisler. Songs may not convey anything, but they directly affect the listener. I just watched a film on Arte for the 80th anniversary of Paul McCartney – God, what a melodic talent! He wrote a tune that everyone knows, from Indonesia to Alaska, from South America to India, “Yesterday”. What a fantastic song! This is a special talent, and Schubert also had an unimaginable melodic talent. Schumann developed a literary understanding, Schubert – an intuitive one.

    — She returned to the playbill of “Aida” staged by Shirin Neshat, without Netrebko, but the production was conceived for her sake?

    – A repeat with her was not planned, just six years ago, “Aida” did not appear in the form in which we wanted. Neshat is a very interesting artist, her biography and life have much in common with the set of problems of Aida. The setting has changed and may continue to change. Putting “Aida” is difficult because of the number of interpretations, whether it’s the case of “Katya Kabanova” or “Bluebeard”. It contains the main issues of our day: war, power, longing for people and attempts to coerce these people by society. “Aida” is much more than just a comic semi-folk performance, it has a serious content, Neshat in his minimalist aesthetics talks about the fragility of human existence.

    — In “Aida ”sings Erwin Schrott, which recently seemed unthinkable in Salzburg …

    — Why?

    – Because of his break with Netrebko. Will she sing with you next year?

    — It is not planned yet.

    — When will Christoph Marthaler stage something again in Salzburg?

    — Next year. What exactly, until I say.

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