The Easter Festival lasts ten days and always puts on a stunning opera production and several concerts. Although it originates from the Salzburg Festival – sort of as an extension – it is independent and has its own profile.
Herbert von Karajan – Salzburg’s great conductor
The Easter Festival owes its existence to just one person from Salzburg – Herbert von Karajan. He was born at today’s Makarsteg where you will now find a life-size statue posing like a conductor. After studying at the Mozarteum and in Vienna, he was 20 years old when he conducted the Mozarteum orchestra for the first time. After his first performance it was obvious that he was going to have a very successful career. He was a permanent fixture of the Salzburg Festival from 1960 onwards. When he founded the Easter Festival seven years later, and where he was the artistic director for his entire life, he not only made a name for himself but also for the music scene in Salzburg.
Karajan’s explicit wish and expectations was to only have the best on stage. It had been a conscious decision to keep the Easter festival smaller than the Salzburg Festival as this was the only way they could guarantee unique performances from world-class musicians. Karajan was renowned and respected for his perfectionism. He took the opportunity to use “his” Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and his many contacts around the world to get only the best musicians and singers.
The artistic directors of the Easter Festival
The high quality of the Easter Festival continued even after Karajan was no longer there. One of the main reasons were the chief conductors of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, who were also automatically responsible for the artistic direction:
- Herbert von Karajan: 1967 (founding) until 1989 (Karajan’s death)
- Sir Georg Solti: Solti assumed the artistic direction in 1989 after Karajan died, shortly before the festival, and then worked at the Salzburg Festival. In 1992/93 he took over the artistic direction of the Easter Festival.
- Claudio Abbado: Abbado became the artistic director in 1994 and expanded his first Festival with the series “counterpoints” (“Kontrapunkte”): chamber orchestras with members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra collaborating with first-class soloists.
- Sir Simon Rattle: The curly-haired Brit took over in 2003. After ten seasons, his time and the time of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra came to an end.
- Christian Thielmann: The Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden came to Salzburg after the change.
Easter Festival programme in 2017
The 50th anniversary of the Easter Festival is just around the corner, with a true highlight. Christian Thielemann and Vera Nemirova will be reviving Karajan’s production of “The Valkyrie” by Richard Wagner that he performed at the very first Easter Festival.