Thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein, any person of sensibility will shudder at the idea of hills alive with the sound of music, but those words do come to mind at the exhilarating Schubertiade at Schwarzenberg and Hohenems. This festival in Vorarlberg, the province at the very western end of Austria gazing across the upper Rhine at Switzerland, is a long journey from Schubert’s Vienna, but he is the presiding genius, and lends his name (a Schubertiade was what his friends called a musical evening at his apartment).
When the baritone Hermann Prey began this new Schubertiade in 1976 the center was the castle at Hohenems. There were unforgettable recitals in the little Rittersaal there, with Lucia Popp still a resonant memory, but after some murky episode twenty years ago music was removed thence. Now it alternates between one new concert hall across the road and another in the pretty village of Schwarzenberg high in the hills above, the Angelika-Kauffmann-Saal, named for Schwarzenberg’s favourite daughter who was not so much the most as the only famous woman painter of the eighteenth century.
This is the place for those whose aural palates are jaded by commercialized opera, and who find the human voice at its most beautiful in art song. Schwarzenberg comes in two chunks this summer, June 14-23, and again from August 27 to September 8, with another Hohenems gig in October. The singers in June include Christoph Prégardien, Carolina Ullrich, Werner Güra, and Andreas Schmidt, and among the pianists who can be heard over the course of the summer are Paul Lewis, András Schiff, Till Felner—and Alfred Brendel, though nowadays talking rather than playing.
For more information, please visit schubertiade.at.