For three weeks from September to October, the Usedom Music Festival presents the stars and treasures of music from the Baltic Sea region. Annually changing country focuses then show the whole musical diversity of Northern Europe. At the special concert venues on the island of Usedom, the Usedom Music Festival lets The incomparable atmosphere of a cosmopolitan two-country island facing the states of the Baltic Sea region can be experienced. The musical riches of the countries and regions, which the sea connects, sets the traditional event series for it in atmospheric churches, picturesquely situated castles, the magnificent buildings of the imperial spas or in Mecklenburg-Vorpommerns largest industrial monument in Peenemünde in scene. “The Usedom Music Festival brings not only the island, but a whole region to the sound. In fact, the cultural island of Usedom is part of a large family, which the Baltic Sea just does not separate, but connects“, said the German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel on the occasion of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the festival.
The history of the event series began in 1994. The goal at that time was to show guests how beautiful the island can be even in September, after the end of the school holiday season. The artistic director of the Usedom Music Festival, Thomas Hummel, won Kurt Masur, Gewandhauskapellmeister in Leipzig and also chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic, as patron right at the beginning. At the same time, he established a connection with the Young Concert Artists Foundation in New York. From there, prize winners of the international competition of the same name came to the beach of the Pomeranian Bay. A small transatlantic bridge that still stands today.
Since 1999, the Usedom Music Festival has established itself as the “Podium of the Baltic Sea“: every year, one country of the Baltic Sea region is now the exclusive focus of the program for the duration of one season – with its music and its musicians. Ten countries belong to the Baltic Sea Region: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Finland. There are big and small countries, countries with famous musicians, countries that were rather in the shadow of other celebrities. At the Usedom Music Festival, each of these countries gets the same space, the same attention.
This international commitment has already been recognized by numerous awards: in 2006 with the Tryton Cultural Prize of the City of Swinoujscie, in 2012 received the by Usedom Music Festival and the initiated multinational orchestra Baltic Sea Philharmonic the honor “Distinguished Place – In the Land of Ideas“, in 2015 the orchestra received the European Culture Award as an ambassador of the Baltic Sea region and in the years 2015 to 2018 the Usedom Music Festival bore the EFFE seal of approval of the European Union for its “artistic and social commitment with an international and global perspective“.
With three weeks of programming, the Usedom Music Festival is one of the largest themed music festivals in the world, says festival director Thomas Hummel: “Themed festivals typically last only four to seven days, and long-term festivals typically do not commit to a content focus. The Usedom Music Festival, which is at home in both Poland and Germany, is a rarity in this respect.“
The Peenemünde concerts are also unique in the German festival landscape. Together with the Historisch-Technisches Museum and the Norddeutscher Rundfunk, the Usedom Music Festival put the turbine hall of the Peenemünde power plant into operation as a concert hall in 2002. Where rockets were once developed and tested, applause now roars. During the “Third Reich“, work on the development of “secret weapons” was carried out at the then Peenemünde Army and Air Force experimental stations – including Aggregat 4 (“V2”), the world’s first large rocket. It brought death to many thousands of people, but it also marked the first successful launch into space. Today Peenemünde is a place of international encounters and peace education with the museum in the power plant, cultural events, special exhibitions, project days, workshops and work camps.
Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” was performed in the turbine hall of the former power plant under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich and with more than 250 participating musicians. Since then, world-class conductors have been engaged. Kurt Masur, appointed honorary patron of the Usedom Music Festival in 2012, gave three of his last concerts and two international master classes for young conductors here. Krzysztof Penderecki, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alan Gilbert, Andris Nelsons, Christoph Eschenbach, Jan Lisiecki, Gidon Kremer, Kurt Masur † and Neeme Järvi, Paavo J ärvi and Kristjan Järvi and many more fortified the high musical standards of the Peenemünde concerts.
Since 2006, a jewel of the island enriches the festival: the castle of the count’s family von Schwerin in Stolpe, located in the very south on the Szczecin Lagoon. Together with the Stolper Schlossverein, the Norddeutscher Rundfunk and the Tonkünstlerverband Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Usedom Music Festival has created the Baltic Sea Music Forum. Lithuanian-born cellist David Geringas gathers highly talented master students around him year after year and presents the results of their joint work in a concert.
In 2008, the Usedom Music Festival took a big step into the wider world: it founded the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. The Estonian-born conductor Kristjan Järvi gathered excellent young musicians from all ten Baltic Sea countries and, with his energy, musicality and enthusiasm for the culture around “the Mediterranean of the North“, formed a new innovative orchestra whose trademark is concerts played entirely from memory. From Peenemünde, the orchestra has since conquered all of Europe and has become an ambassador for Usedom in concert halls around the world.
In addition to the three-week regular festival in September and October, the Usedom Music Festival also includes the Usedom Literature Days in the spring and the nationwide International Days of Jewish Music.
In the meantime, the Usedom Music Festival attracts up to fourteen thousand guests per year from Germany and abroad and radiates far into the world – also through the radio broadcasts of its concerts.