Lucerne seduces music lovers

The earliest temptation. Lucerne Festival

Musical pieces inspired by temptresses such as Scheherazade and Salome are at the heart of this year's Lucerne Festival whose theme is seduction.

This content was published on September 3, 2002 - 09:28

The tantalising programme features music inspired by the Orient as well as contemporary works, played by the cream of the world's orchestras.

"These days, seduction is everywhere - it's not just about the erotic connotations of the word, but we are also seduced more passively by things such as products and adverts," the festival's director, Michael Haefliger, told swissinfo.

"So this year, we wanted our audience to think about seduction and also allow themselves to be seduced by some of the more unusual music on offer at the festival."

Some of the "seduction" highlights include Richard Wagner's Parsifal, Richard Strauss' opera about the Old Testament femme fatale, Salome, and Mozart's Il Seraglio, inspired by tales and music from harems in the Ottoman Empire.

"The Orient has been present in our culture for centuries and it's always held a fascination for us - the Turks were at the gates of Vienna during Mozart's time and, later, Scheherazade and her 1001 stories inspired both Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel," says Haefliger.

In keeping with the theme, the festival also showcases works by composers from the United Arab Emirates and Central Asian countries during its Oriental Nights.


The festival aims to tempt audiences with top names from the world of classical music, and many are likely to head to Lucerne just to hear this year's "artiste étoile", Alfred Brendel, weaving his magic on the piano.

"It's a huge honour to have him here," says Haefliger. "The great thing is that he's not just giving recitals but he'll also be lecturing and even giving poetry readings, so he's really a part of the festival."

While Brendel's repertoire traditionally centres on Mozart and Schubert, Haefliger has catered for fans of contemporary music with works by the two composers in residence, the French musician, Pierre Boulez, and the Austrian newcomer, Olga Neuwirth.

"Boulez is really one of the strongest exponents of contemporary music today while Neuwirth represents the new generation," Haefliger says. "One of the questions we wanted to raise with the theme of seduction is: can we seduce people with contemporary music?"

Works by both composers will be played along with those of other contemporary heavyweights, such as Hans Werner Henze, who will premiere his Symphony No.10, conducted by Simon Rattle.

Keeping it fresh

Haefliger, a former violinist who's been involved with the festival for four years, says one of the greatest challenges is to improve Lucerne's international ranking among the world's other music festivals.

"We have to really give the impression that's something's happening here that shouldn't be missed. I think in recent years this has improved and there's a lot more international press coverage," Haefliger explains.

"Then, we also need to improve the thematic planning and we need to get closer to the artists," he adds.

Evidently, Haefliger has achieved his goal of luring top names: this summer, there are five "orchestras in residence", each presenting three programmes, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphonic Orchestra and the Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam.

Last year, the Festival attracted 84,000 visitors and, for the first time, raised over SFr10 million from ticket sales.

swissinfo, Vanessa Mock

lucerne key facts

The festival boasts 32 symphony concerts, played by 15 orchestras.
There are five internationally renowned orchestras in residence.
The star attraction is piano virtuoso, Alfred Brendel.
Some 130 works from the 20th and 21st centuries are on the programme.

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