Festival Musica Antiqua Bingen

A new music festival at the historical sphere of activities of Hildegard von Bingen

In an incipient millennium full of political upheavals, global social transformations, human life affecting rapidly evolving technologies and moved by a redefinition of gender roles, a forward-looking thinking, wise negotiation and diplomatic consensus are more important than ever to ensure peace between nations, harmony between cultures and conflict avoidant coexistence between religions.

Even also 1000 years ago, this has been important: Moors of islamic faith have been living peacefully together with Christian Spaniards influencing each other’s cultures; despite wars and power struggles, Europe always attempt diplomacy − and a Christian nun gained amazing importance in the Roman-German Empire: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), saint and church teacher of the Catholic Church. Nowadays she is one of the most famous women of the Middle Ages. And she has been a pioneer in sustainability and good governance already in her time − Hildegard has had the courage to show to the world’s most powerful the global impact of their actions and to appeal to their sense of responsibility:

For example, she exhorted the German Emperor to rule “with the scepter of mercy.” Hildegard let also know the English king, he has to part from bad counselors, “due your attitude is benevolent, so that you would like to do good.” But to the archbishop of Cologne Hildegard writes: “Shake off the rude morality of greed!”; “Why are you not ashamed to aspire to ever additional heights, althought you would have to lie in the mud?” she asks the archbishop of the city of Mainz. And Hildegard advices the Pope to turn away from all tyrants, “to avoid a great mockery, as they might be identified as to be your allies .”

But also in other fields Hildegard von Bingen has achieved incomparable. She wrote theological works, as a naturalist she gave her name to a whole medical field, and furthermore she has been a monastery manager and public relation expert. But above all she has been a successful composer: By no other music creator of that time such an extensive work is conserved, nobody else has characterized such an unmistakable individual style back then − and no other representative of early occidental music history is as popular throughout the world as Hildegard von Bingen. Also in her music reveals Hildegard’s holistic view of the world, which she has elevated as the standard of her advice to the princes, bishops and kings of her time: she was convinced that the whole cosmos was permeated by a sounding order, so that everything is connected with everything in a − for the people mostly inaudible − harmony of spheres.

In Australia, Japan, Europe and America, the name of the city, in which Hildegard von Bingen has been living and creating her unique work, therefore has a very special sound among music lovers. In the town of Bingen am Rhein − at the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Middle Rhine Valley with the famous Loreley rock, its numerous medieval castles, monasteries and villages − by an initiative of the harp designer Rainer M. Thurau and Lord Mayor Thomas Feser a new festival for high medieval music has been founded, a festival which lets the time of Hildegard be experienced with all senses.

At the center is the music epoch of the 11th to 14th centuries, for which Hildegard’s work has been so formative. But not only the spiritual music tradition, but also the minstrel music, instrumental and court music, which even then enjoyed many a spiritual ear, thereby comes to its right. To exclusively top-class ensembles from all over Europe, the “Festival Musica Antiqua Bingen” offers a stage at special and authentic Hildegard-places. So the thousand-year-old Basilica of St. Martin (UNESCO World Heritage), in whose crypt Hildegard herself might have prayed, will become a concert hall… just as also the historic Rochuskapelle − revered by J.W. Goethe − the central place of the Hildegard adoration since the 19th century.

Finally also the neo-Romanesque parish church of St. Hildegard − the direct succession to the disappeared Hildegard Monastery on Rupertsberg − will resound. Visitors of the festival can also enjoy the extensive exhibition on the life and work of the great prophetess at the Historic Museum am Strom at Bingen as well as a special exhibition “Soundworlds of the Middle Ages − Music between Praise of God and devilish pleasure”, which has been prepared specially for this festival by the director of the museum Dr. Matthias Schmandt.

Hence the city of Bingen am Rhein, with its medieval surroundings and its “Festival Musica Antiqua Bingen”, provides unique opportunities for impressive encounters with the great prophetess − considered today as to be possibly the most important female composer in music history − in connection with 400 years of living music history in the context with the lifetime of Hildegard von Bingen. Consequently she is the symbolic patroness of the festival.

Rainer M. Thurau / Matthias Schmandt

Festival: 3 − 6 October 2019
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In context with the exeptional historical music event Festival Musica Antiqua Bingen (Germany) in October 2019, the artist Ulrike Bolenz was commissioned by the festival’s director to create a large-format contemporary painting of the historical figure Hildegard von Bingen. This artistic work will present Hildegard von Bingen as a symbolic patroness of the festival and will be exhibited at all concert venues during the festival. Following it will pass as a permanent exhibit to the “Museum am Strom” of the City of Bingen.