Belief in Beethoven

Not a place where music passes through, but where it is created: Kronberg Academy celebrates topping out of Casals Forum alongside “Searching for Ludwig” Festival

  • Like the stump of a mighty tree: the emerging Casals Forum unites cutting-edge technology with organically flowing forms / Photo: Stephan Cropp/Kronberg Academy

    Like the stump of a mighty tree: the emerging Casals Forum unites cutting-edge technology with organically flowing forms / Photo: Stephan Cropp/Kronberg Academy

Translation of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article “Ein Bekenntnis zu Beethoven”
Published 23th
September 2019

Belief in Beethoven

Not a place where music passes through, but where it is created: Kronberg Academy celebrates topping out of Casals Forum alongside “Searching for Ludwig” Festival.

As casting was completed on the roof of the new concert hall, tears of joy filled the eyes of Markus Schreiber. After all, “You only build something like this once in your lifetime. It doesn’t happen again – not for the firm, nor for the individual.” Markus Schreiber, a young father and holder of three master craftsman certificates, is the foreman managing the construction site for Kronberg Academy’s Casals Forum. This is to be the first auditorium in the entire Rhine-Main region designed from the outset as a chamber music hall. A hall on which architect Volker Staab and acoustics firm Peutz Consult have worked together right from the planning stages. At the same time, it is set to be the world’s first climate neutral concert hall. No heating system is needed, temperatures are simply regulated via heat exchange with an ice storage tank. This is a hall that is acoustically isolated from the intimate recital hall in the study centre. A hall in organically flowing forms with varying internal and external radii, like the stump of a mighty tree. Everything had to be formed on site and cast in concrete, with ultimate precision up to a height of fifteen meters. This is both technically and logistically complex. But, “Anyone can do easy,” says Markus Schreiber. Two years ago there was still nothing to see here, directly up the hill from Kronberg’s train station. The first groundbreaking ceremony was held on 1 October 2017. A pit measuring twelve metres in depth and covering an area of 8500 square metres was excavated. Rock needed to be milled and water veins enclosed before the base plate could be laid.

Now the shell is complete. The façades of the hotel, “Vienna House mq” (mq stands for music quarter), are already clad with natural stone and nut-brown wood. The glaziers, electricians and plumbers have done a large part of their work. Formwork and casting on the concert hall, which will hold 550 seats, have finished. Operations now continue on the study centre housing the practice rooms, recital hall, violin making workshop and office spaces. Raimund Trenkler, the founder and director of Kronberg Academy, intends to hold a topping out ceremony here on 29 September with guests from across the globe. The wreath is already in preparation. Then, on 3 October, a “Construction Site Open Day” will open the doors to anyone wishing to know what is being built here and how far the works have progressed.

As a music college financed through purely private means, Kronberg Academy is already a training institution for violinists, violists and cellists that ranks among the best of its kind worldwide. However, Trenkler also wishes to make all that goes on here accessible to a sympathetic public. The concert hall being built in this place, which is also set to become the homestead of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as Kronberg’s new orchestra in residence, is not intended to be a “small Alte Oper Frankfurt” amid the urban hustle and bustle, but instead should be “a protected space” in close proximity to the city, yet at a conscious distance from it. A place, says Trenkler, “where music doesn’t merely pass through, but where it is created, a meeting point for artists and audiences, a place of contemplation where we can find calm in a high-speed world, calm that is necessary for players and listeners alike to immerse themselves in the great chamber music works.”

The concert hall will enjoy a view of Kronberg’s Victoria Park with its ponds, trees, meadows and statues of figures such as the cellist Pablo Casals and painter Anton Burger, who founded the Kronberg Artists’ Colony in the nineteenth century. Park and hall blend into one another. The green of the meadows extends into the green roof of the study centre, its inner courtyards and the square between the concert hall and hotel. Raimund Trenkler dreams that this square will one day officially bear the name “Beethovenplatz”. “For me, Beethoven and Casals belong together,” he explains, “as they were both musicians who understood their art as educating the heart towards humanity. This is how I want to see the training we give our students here – not as a drill for a big career where, a few years in, artists find themselves empty and burnt out, and asking: Who am I actually? What is the point of all this?”

Beethoven is also at the centre of this year’s Kronberg Academy Festival, which runs from 25 September to 1 October encompassing the topping out ceremony. Friedemann Eichhorn, who is responsible for the Academy’s study programmes and is himself a violinist, devised the Festival programme. It is called “Searching for Ludwig”. Over seven days and in 21 concerts across Kronberg and Frankfurt am Main, 74 artists will set out on the quest to find Ludwig van Beethoven. All of his violin and cello sonatas will be performed in the process alongside new works from Johannes X Schachtner and Moritz Eggert, which grapple with Beethoven and his impact. Here, students will play in company with masters of their field, greats such as András Schiff, Gidon Kremer and Steven Isserlis. Kremerata Baltica and Ensemble Modern, together with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, will also be heard, Christian Brückner will read from Leo Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata” and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe will give its Kronberg debut.

As with the dream of Beethovenplatz and the hotel restaurant design based on Beethoven’s favourite Viennese eatery, this shows tremendous belief in Beethoven – at a time when, even before the big jubilee year of 2020, a great lassitude, disdain and lack of imagination are emerging around this composer. Above all, however, the Festival is a preview of what is to come after 2021/22, when the Casals Forum is opened. Thanks to this, Kronberg is growing into a continental heavyweight on Europe’s chamber music scene.

Jan Brachmann

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