The festival with best open air amplification to symphony orchestra



I have known that in Ingolstadt, which is located in Germany’s Bavaria and also the homeland of the legendary secret organization Illuminati and luxurious automobile company Audi, a classical music festival is held every summer, organized by Audi, yet only this year I could find the opportunity to attend this festival, even though it was for a short time and occurred a bit unexpectedly. Since Ingolstadt wasn’t in my one week German classical music festivals tour program which I started to go on in last July, this was an unexpected visit for me. When I had to shorten my Munich visit, which was going to be the last stop of my tour, a day, I wanted to visit another festival, preferably near around my last stop Munich. That’s when Audi Summer Concerts (Audi Sommerkonzerte) came to my rescue. The festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, turns this serene Bavarian city Ingolstadt into one of the most important classical music stops in the middle of the summer, by filling the month of July from end to end with its concert series every year.

I was thinking that Audi Summer Concerts, which are organized ever since the year 1995, only consisted of open air concerts, yet I found out that nearly all of the concerts are held in the theatre-opera building of the city - but one or two, which are held at the covered stage, prepared in Klenzepark, one of the biggest green areas of the city. It was a great coincidence that on 22nd July Friday evening, in other words the day I was visiting the festival, I was going to be able to watch one of the two open air concerts within this year's Audi Summer Concerts. In this concert named Klassik Open Air, KlangVerwaltung Orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano, was going to accompany Mari Kodama, who is a good pianist and spouse of Nagano.

A few hours before the concert, which was going to begin at 20.30, I went out from my hotel, walked to the nearest bus stop and got on a bus to go to the city centre. When I looked at the information screen above me to read the names of the stations we were going to stop by, it was very surprising to see that all stops were named after the famous German composers and aligned chronologically! I found this appreciation for the creators of music in Ingolstadt, which cannot be considered as a city that sleeps and wakes up with music as much as Leipzig, Dresden or Munich, very meaningful, took a photo and put it among my notes.

When I looked at the information screen above me to read the names of the stations we were going to stop by, it was very surprising to see that all stops were named after the famous German composers and aligned chronologically!

Being the place where 131.000 people leading their lives in, Ingolstadt is hosting the greatest production station of Audi, with its more than 43 thousand workers. This station, where 566 thousand Audi vehicles were produced in the year 2015, is also the second biggest vehicle production factory of Europe. Ingolstadt is a city that breathes with this luxurious automobile brand, where we can see that the half of the ten vehicles on the road has the four circled Audi logo. It’s possible to observe the welfare that Audi brought to the city, in every corner. In Ingolstadt, I saw some traces of the industrial city Duisburg, of Ruhr region, which I visited a couple of years ago, yet to my eyes, Ingolstadt seemed a much more tasteful and aesthetical city than Duisburg is. One of the similarities between these two dwelling areas is that both cities have an extensive Turkish population.

I got to sightsee Ingolstadt for an hour or two, its old city region has a sympathetic view with its rebuilt and re-painted houses which are the examples of baroque architecture. When I completed my short city sightseeing tour and went closer to Klenzepark that was going to be the host of the open air concert right after sunset, I realized that the liveliness of the people around me increased. It wasn’t hard to find out where the concert area was built, since going to the direction where other people were walking towards with cushions, lawn chairs, picnic baskets in their hands was enough to find it.

I got to sightsee Ingolstadt for an hour or two, its old city region has a sympathetic view with its rebuilt and re-painted houses which are the examples of baroque architecture.

When I reached the field that the concert was going to be held, there was still an hour till the concert, yet people were waiting for the orchestra to get on the stage while sitting on their chairs or laying down on their cushions, eating, drinking and talking. It was possible to see people of every age, among the thousands of people that were spread over the great green area. The families with children, old couples, groups of young people were waiting with excitement for the time to come and the orchestra to appear on the stage. When we consider that Audi Summer Concerts are 25 years old, it can easily be said that attending to this open air concert is now a kind of tradition for the most of these people.

One of the things that make Ingolstadt attractive in my eyes is the presence of the Danube river which flows in the west-east direction through the city.

A ''beach club'' by the Danube under the shadow of the impressive castle.

The security measures at the concert area were striking. The additional measures should be taken naturally, since Munich, which is only one hour away from Ingolstadt, witnessed a bloody terrorist incident just in the morning of that day. Even though these incidents caused an uneasiness in Ingolstadt, this ticket-free open air concert aroused a high interest and the people of Ingolstadt filled the area. I also learned that the actual apprehension was felt by the organization side of the concert. The company officials consulted Kent Nagano about whether cancelling the concert would be the correct response or not, and they decided to continue since the conductor didn’t lean towards cancelling.

Today, Audi company is known especially by giving generous supports to the art events that are organized in Germany and Austria. Music is the primary art among the art fields that Audi focuses on. Started to be an art supporter by founding Audi Philharmonic Wind Orchestra in 1962, and after establishing Audi Summer Concerts Festival in 1990, the company continues to be one of the main supporters of Bayreuth and Salzburg festivals today. One of the outstanding works of the company in the recent period is Audi Youth Choir Academy. Academy member young singers are given the opportunity to go on the stage in a special part of the festival. Being called Vorsprung Festival, this part is led by the American conductor Kent Nagano. Nagano is the art director of this formation, which can be defined as festival inside of a festival, ever since it was started in 2014. The German word “Vorsprung” means “development-advancement” in English. The choice of this word is not a coincidence, since Audi company’s main marketing slogan that has been used since 1980s, “Vorpsrung durch Technik” (Advancement through Technology) has the same word in it.

For the last time this summer Nagano leaded Vorsprung Festival that he undertook two years ago. The five concerts that were given between 16-24th of July, within Audi Summer Concerts being held between 1-27th of July this year, were brought together under Vorsprung Festival’s roof. With the accompaniment of Concerto Köln conducted by Nagano, Audi Youth Choir Academy (Audi Jugendchorakademie), which got on the stage at the opening concert of the festival within festival being held at the theatre building on the 16th, participated in the performance of four little pieces that are composed for choir, soloists and the orchestra by four young composers whom also include award-winning Turkish origin German composer Sinem Altan. At another concert that drew attention with its eclectic content, Italian violinist Giuliano Carmignola performed Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and Concerto Köln performed Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.

One day later, Audi Youth Choir Academy participated in Mozart’s opera Idomeneo which was staged at the same theatre again. The uncommonness of the name of Ingolstadt Georgian Chamber Orchestra (GCO) that got on the stage at the 20th of the month, may have caught your attention. So have mine. According to what I have learned, like many musicians that belonged to the old Soviet republics had come to Turkey for work after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, the members of GCO, which was founded in Tbilisi, 1964, had also come to Ingolstadt from Georgia. Ingolstadt GCO, also referred as the Orchestra in Exile, turned into a recognized and appreciated community over time in the city that they came in 1990, thanks to their concert series that they started in 2001. GCO, protecting their Georgian character, continue to live on nicely today by the help of generous supports they receive from the state and city administrations, as well as private companies. The fourth and last concert of Vorsprung Festival that is comprised of four concerts, was given by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano, Audi Youth Choir Academy and the soloists on the 24th of the month. As I emphasized at the beginning, the intention of organizing Vorsprung Festival is to help the young singers in Audi’s choir academy to gain stage experience.

Finally, I will bring up the open air concert a little, called Klassik Open Air given in Klenzepark, which coincided perfectly with my trip to Ingolstadt. The program of the concert of KlangVerwaltung Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano, on the evening of 22nd of July at 20.30, was also organized in an eclectic manner. That evening on the stage, we were going to watch both a symphony orchestra and a team of percussionists separately. The evening that started with the moving work of Minuro Miki (1930-2011) for the percussion instruments called Marimba spiritual continued with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.

The percussion musicians that got on the stage once more after the interlude performed the work of the American minimalist composer Steve Reich called Music for Pieces of Wood. The renowned German percussionist Peter Sadlo who was leading the percussion group, and whom I was happy to meet with after the concert, sadly died due to a complication that occurred after a surgery he had exactly one week after the concert. 

KlangVerwaltung Orchestra, which I know well and appreciate from the concerts that they give every summer at Herrenchiemsee Festival founded by Enoch zu Guttenberg, performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 as the last piece. The grandiose orchestra work called Wellington’s Victory was announced to be the last piece of the program, however the grief caused by the terrorist incident that happened in Munich, in the morning of that day, led to the cancellation of both the performance of this work as the last piece and the fireworks show that was planned for the end of the concert.

The performances of Mari Kodama in the concerto and the orchestra conducted by Nagano in the symphony were really smooth; they had nothing missing in terms of enthusiasm, dynamism and lyricism. After an open air concert where the sound is increased by amplification and transmitted to our ears through professional speakers, how do you suppose that I have come to such a certain judgement regarding the performance? It is because the amplification was done so masterfully.

The performances of Mari Kodama in the concerto and the orchestra conducted by Nagano in the symphony were really smooth; they had nothing missing in terms of enthusiasm, dynamism and lyricism.

The biggest problem at the symphony orchestra concerts in an open air environment is to be able to find a solution for delivering the refined works with high artistic values that we are used to listening in closed concert hall environment to the ears of the audience in the best possible conditions, where microphones are used and there is no natural acoustics; and achieving this is not at all easy. At Klenzepark concert that I watched within Audi Summer Concerts Festival, I experienced with surprise that the sound of the orchestra was coming to our ears without any deterioration, and no kind of artificial listening environment occurred due to metallic nature of the sound. In this aspect, KlangVerwaltung Orchestra concert was a more satisfying experience sonic wise than Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s traditional summer concert that I attended 4 years ago in the garden of Schönbrunn Palace.

I shared with the conductor Kent Nagano after the concert that how much I was impressed with the sound setup and its role in delivering the music on the stage to our ears in an open environment. When Nagano told that he has been working with the team who created this sound setup for 20 years, I wasn’t much surprised knowing the conductor’s meticulousness. I thought that one of the things that makes my very short visit to Ingolstadt a candidate for the most unforgettable thing in my mind must have been the fact that I experienced this sound setup. In fact when I returned to my country, I shared my Ingolstadt impressions with Banu Tunçağ, who is the director of D-Marin Classical Music Festival that I take part in its art advisory committee, and I inculcated her that using an amplification system with this quality in the next year’s open air evening concerts in our festival would increase the listening pleasure of the audience. I hope it will be taken into consideration and implemented…
Serhan Bali
Ingoldstadt, Germany



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