A Field Trip to Heidelberg with Pekka Kuusisto

23 August 2018

One violinist, one festival, and one orchestra. What do these three have in common?

When it comes to the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Heidelberger Frühling and Pekka Kuusisto, the answer is: a lot! Not only do all three possess a vivid sense of curiosity and open-mindedness, as well as a willingness to experiment and take risks; they also have a strong desire to transcend boundaries, in music and beyond. Above all, they are ready to raise – and tackle – questions relevant to today’s world and the future.  

It is no wonder, then, that strong partnerships bring these three protagonists together: the Mahler Chamber Orchestra has been orchestra-in-residence at Heidelberger Frühling since 2018, and Pekka Kuusisto – one of the MCO’s Artistic Partners – is set to appear with the MCO in Heidelberg in the festival’s 2020 edition.

Heidelberger Frühling’s main concert venue, the Kongresshaus Stadthalle, will be closed for renovations in 2020 and 2021. How will the festival deal with the creative challenge of looking beyond the Stadthalle for its concerts? Where can it go? How can it integrate the different aspects of the festival into the city, in effect turning the city into a concert hall? And how can the strengths of the MCO’s partnership with Pekka Kuusisto come into play?

These questions called for a field trip to Heidelberg by Pekka Kuusisto and the MCO’s Maggie Coe (Director of Artistic Planning) and Daniela Pasdzierny (Planning Manager). In the beginning of August, they met with Heidelberger Frühling’s Michael Gassmann (Head of Artistic Planning) and Bianca Weid (Concert Management) to visit different venues in Heidelberg, among them churches, university lecture halls, a punk/rock club, a centre for dance projects, an old wine cellar, and a former swimming pool. Each one offers its own unique possibilities to present Heidelberger Frühling in new ways throughout the city.
Throughout the day, the implications of moving between places – an intrinsic component of the MCO’s nomadic identity – were present in everyone’s minds as the group went from one venue to the next. In many ways, the activities on this day closely mirrored the nature of the MCO’s work since the orchestra’s beginnings: moving agilely between different cultures, musical genres, and geographical terrain ranging from venues, to cities, and to continents. The members of the group were repeatedly inspired by the possibilities offered by each venue, not just acoustically but also historically, that could be woven into the fabric of the concerts in 2020 and the orchestra’s residency.

After a day of inspiration by the possibilities hidden all over Heidelberg, it was clear that this would only be the beginning. In the upcoming months, ideas will continue to be gathered and developed. Stay tuned!

Photos: Daniela Pasdzierny / studio visuell