Merano and music? They always go together well. In the city of gardens and thermal baths, where an Alpine mountain world meets Mediterranean flair, musicians and composers have been seeking rest and relaxation for more than a century. Edvard Grieg (1893), Béla Bartók (1901), Max Reger (1914), Paul Hindemith (1921), Giacomo Puccini (1923,) and Arnold Schönberg (1930) all gladly traveled to Merano. In 1922, within the framework of the first “Meran Music Festival” in the Municipal Theater, Richard Strauss accompanied soprano Lotte Schöne in a programme of his own lieder. In 1923, Bruno Walter conducted the Merano Spa Orchestra at the second edition of this festival – and thus it is only logically consistent that in 1986, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the “health resort city”, the newly founded „Merano Music Festival“ picked up this heritage.
Merano Music Festival - südtirol classic festival
Music and concerts in the town of Merano
The tranquil health resort city as a feel-good oasis during the grind of concert tours – that also lies behind the success of this premium festival. Added to this are concert stages such as the splendid Kursaal, the art nouveau building of the Municipal Theater, the Gothic churches of Merano, the Hall of Knights in Tirol Castle, Schenna Castle, the Parish Church of Lana with its Schnatterpeck altar that is among the most significant art treasures of the late Gothic in South Tyrol, or, across from the Kurpromenade that is planted with subtropical vegetation, the chic Thermal Baths Place.
Merano Festival – world music since 1986
This music festival attracts not only fans of classical music. Today, the festival calendar encompasses four programmatically differentiated concert series: symphonic music (classic), baroque music (barocco), chamber music (matinée classique), crossover projects (colours of music), chamber music (matinée classique) and a cappella music (vox humana). Then there are the night concerts with world stars such as Ute Lemper, Giora Feidman, Friedrich Gulda, Nigel Kennedy, Michael Nyman, Noa, or Bobby McFerrin. To put it briefly, anyone who stops in Merano from late August to late September can hear top interpreters of a whole variety of stylistic directions several times per week without having to leave the city to do so – and in Merano/Meran, the main focus is not on “mass”, but rather on “class”, meaning the highest quality.
And it was no different in the first years of the festival, when cellist Heinrich Schiff and the legendary founder of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields of London, Sir Neville Marriner, supported artistic director Andreas Cappello in planning the programme. Daniel Hope also participated in the concert planning here. In 2013 as Artist in Residence, the violinist was responsible for six concerts and was on stage on four days. There is a tradition of setting these priorities: in 2010 Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say, also as Artist in Residence, developed an exclusive project for Merano.
Writing music history
Thirty years of Merano Music Festival – these include stories or anecdotes written by life, and above all else by music. For example, cellist Mischa Maisky got to know his future wife during a guest appearance. In August 2001, Sir John Eliot Gardiner informed the amazed members of the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique in the rotunda of the Kurhaus that he would be marrying his manager and companion Isabella De Sabata. After the musicians toasted the marital bliss of their chief conductor, they opened the 16th Merano Music Festival. The romance between the orchestral conductor and the health resort city had begun a year before. Within the framework of his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, Gardiner was a guest along with the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Chor in the Municipal Parish Church and recorded three Bach Cantatas there for the archive label of Deutschen Grammophon. The music director had actually booked three days in the city on Passiria/Passer River. But Gardiner was so taken by Merano that his stay was “spontaneously” extended by a whole week.
And that is typical for Merano: in 2007, after her Music Festival concert with the respected Russian National Orchestra under Charles Dutoit, Martha Argerich actually wanted to spend just one night in Merano – but she then stayed on for several more days in order to be able to practice undisturbed in the splendid Pavillon des Fleurs of the Kurhaus. Baritone Thomas Quasthoff and world music singer Maria João gave their only joint concert in the Kursaal, which had previously been arranged in the Birdland jazz club in Vienna. The fact that Birdland founder Joe Zawinul, who passed away in 2007 after having written jazz history with the fusion band Weather Report, had also appeared in Merano practically goes without saying.