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'Human Harmony' Is Theme of Summer Festival

July 12, 1987|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

LUEBECK, West Germany — It's the newest and most innovative summer music festival in Europe, with 150 concerts scheduled across a historic region rich in scenic splendor.

This summer, the second annual Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival will feature world-famous conductors, performers, orchestras and opera and ballet groups in Gothic cathedrals, medieval castles, village churches and a raftered 16th-Century barn.

Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Sergiu Celibidache will be among the conductors and performers who will appear during the two months of programs continuing through the last week of August. They will also help to create a student orchestra of 120 musicians invited from many nations.

Contemporary composers as well as the music of Mahler, Bartok, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and other masters will be presented. The event is named for the two northern German duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, a single state since they were united in 1490 by Christian I, King of the Danes.

'Human Harmony'

Seaside resorts, the spas of inland lakes and Little Switzerland help to form the setting for this music festival. So does Kiel, site of the 1936 and 1972 Olympic yachting competitions.

The goal of the festival is to use great music to promote "human harmony" by bringing together artists from the East and West.

German pianist Justus Frantz, founder and director of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, is a longtime friend of Leonard Bernstein, who has been associated with the internationally known Tanglewood Music Festival near Boston for 45 years. Franz has often visited Tanglewood and was thereby inspired to launch the festival here last summer.

But he chose the entire region instead of a single site so that it would be different. So successful were the performances in 15 locations last summer that they have been expanded to 26. Attendance is expected to grow from 100,000 to 150,000. Television crews from the United States, Great Britain, Japan and the Netherlands are covering festival events.

Frantz's goal has been to make every concert "affordable to all music lovers." Tickets start at 10 marks (about $6 U.S.).

However, the biggest bargain for many travelers will be to combine festival events with getting to know one of the most rewarding destinations in Europe. By driving little more than an hour between the most widely separated sites, visitors will be able to explore cities, towns, villages, seashores and countrysides from Luebeck to Kiel and Hamburg.

The festival began June 28 here in Luebeck, storybook Queen City of the medieval Hanseatic states. My wife and I were fortunate to be among more than 1,200 people, including many state and national leaders, to attend the opening-night concert in the cathedral, for which Henry the Lion laid the cornerstone in 1173.

Gustav Mahler's "Resurrection Symphony" was performed by a symphony orchestra and choir that brought together outstanding talents from Berlin, Hamburg and much of Schleswig-Holstein. Standing ovations kept the musicians under the cathedral dome for what would have been nearly a dozen curtain calls in a theater.

e Entrance to this city of soaring spires and stepped gable houses is past the towers of the Holstentor, a gate built in 1464 beside the River Trave.

Thomas Mann was born in Luebeck. The Buddenbrook house here, bearing the name of one of his most famous novels, contains exhibits of his life and work, and also of his brother Heinrich, who likewise won literary fame.

Dietrich Buxtehude, tutor of Bach and Handel, was once the organist at Luebeck's St. James Church, the world's largest Gothic brick church. In contrast to the soaring spires, the city still has narrow, tunnel-like byways called gaenge, so low that you often have to bow your head to walk through them into clusters of centuries-old houses.

Famous Marzipan

Luebeck's famous marzipan, believed to have originated in Oriental harems, is a candy-lover's delight.

We stayed in a graciously furnished room overlooking a bend in the River Trave at the Hotel Lysia Moevenpick, affiliated with the Radisson Hotels in the United States. The nightly rate for our double room, including a lavish breakfast buffet, was about $90.

The nearby seaside resort of Travemuende, which Luebeck calls its "lovely daughter," is another discovery for visitors to the area. The resort is celebrating its 800th birthday this summer.

The festival concerts will be in varied settings around the city, with the closing symphony in the cathedral on Aug. 23.

For a complete list of the summer concerts, ask for a copy of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Program '87 from the German National Tourist Office, 444 S. Flower St., Suite 2230, Los Angeles 90071, phone (213) 688-7332.

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