Mozart, Mendelssohn and Mambo

Young Euro Classic returns to the main stage of the Konzerthaus with smaller orchestras in 2021 – offering a broad musical panorama, from classical to modernism


Young Euro Classic 2021 is ready to go. And returns to its original format, presenting a European selection of outstanding youth orchestras at the Konzerthaus Berlin from July 30 to August 15. As a reminder, last year the complete, 18-day youth orchestra festival featuring orchestras from Uzbekistan to Uruguay had to be cancelled in April due to the Covid-19 pandemic; it was replaced by a completely different ten-day programme presenting exquisite chamber music performed by young musicians from Berlin’s music academies as well as members of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany and the European Union Youth Orchestra. It was more than a substitute – the audience listened with the utmost concentration and celebrated the musicians for their extraordinary achievements.

But now, back to the roots. Most of the youth orchestras whose performances had to be cancelled last year immediately agreed to return in 2021. They have also agreed to adapt their programme planning to the Konzerthaus hygiene plan, which has been in effect since October 2020. It stipulates concerts without intermission and up to a maximum duration of 70 minutes. Furthermore, only approximately 60 musicians can be placed on stage at the main auditorium. This has a remarkable effect on the programming selections, for instead of Strauss, Mahler and Stravinsky with their monumental orchestral works, this time we witness a return to classical and romantic dimensions – a welcome chance to offer the audience familiar, unfamiliar and new works ranging from Mozart to Philip Glass.

The opening concert revives the long tradition of bi-national youth orchestras at Young Euro Classic. On July 30, we present a German-French ensemble consisting of members of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany and its French counterpart, the Orchestre Français des Jeunes. On the podium is the Polish conductor Marzena Diakun, who makes her home in France; the featured works by Rameau, Gossec, Mendelssohn and C.P.E. Bach build a sophisticated bridge from Paris to Berlin. Even if France may be “just next door”, German-French friendship and conciliation is an eternal European issue and goal, and Young Euro Classic is proud to make its contribution.

Since travel from other continents is very difficult at the moment, Young Euro Classic is fortunate to count on a broad and outstanding range of European youth orchestras. This time, three ensembles from South and Southeastern Europe, all of them regular and highly esteemed guests of the festival, form a notable focus: the national youth orchestras of Portugal, Spain and Romania. A geographic relative is the Greek Youth Symphony Orchestra, which recalls the anniversary of the Greek revolution in 1821 by performing Beethoven’s “Eroica” for its festival debut.

The German-language region contributes that long-standing festival favourite, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, while the Wiener Jeunesse Orchestra has been a friend of the festival since its beginnings and performs a Viennese-Russian programme. The Chelyabinsk Symphony Orchestra, on the other hand, travels from far-away Ural with star pianist Denis Matsuev. Three further orchestras have an international cast, thus the Moritzburg Festival Orchestra with cellist Jan Vogler, which performs Beethoven’s rarely-heard Triple Concerto this time. A cherished tradition is the appearance of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, the legendary orchestral academy founded by Leonard Bernstein, at Young Euro Classic. The LGT Young Soloists, on the other hand, founded in 2013, make their festival debut led by the brilliant violinist Alexander Gilman – an ensemble of high-carat young string soloists who have caused quite a stir since their founding – high time to introduce them to the Young Euro Classic audience!

The Swedish group O/Modernt is another very special chamber orchestra, whose charismatic leader Hugo Ticciati has designed a programme for 2021 in which heroines of music from Hildegard von Bingen to María de Buenos Aires are celebrated in sophisticated arrangements – including bandoneon and marimba. In addition, excursions into other musical genres round out the programme, as every year. Ballet lovers can look forward to the National Youth Ballet of Germany and its creative choreographies; friends of the big band sound come into their own with the ensemble Jong Metropole, a brainchild of the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands. And the popular series “Classic meets Jazz” also continues, now in female hands: Berlin’s own jazz pianist, singer and composer Clara Haberkamp takes the stage together with her own trio, the vocal ensemble In June and the Pacific Quintet, which made its Young Euro Classic debut in 2020.

Young Euro Classic saves a special treat for its final concert on August 15: an ambitious young orchestra, the Orquesta del Lyceum de la Habana, travels all the way from Cuba to offer European classics and Latin American temperament at the Konzerthaus in Berlin. “Mozart y Mambo” is the motto – and one thing already is obvious: we are unlikely to miss the huge symphonic blockbusters this year!