The work’s high opus number should not mislead us: Mendelssohn composed his Sextet for piano and five strings when he was only fifteen years old. Here one will not yet find innovative writing of the caliber of what Mendelssohn would soon produce in the Octet or in the Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Louis Spohr and Hummel still hold sway as conventional musical models, but at least the agile Menuetto exudes Mendelssohnian flair, rushing on by with the grace of a fairy. The work was not printed until 1868, twenty-one years after Mendelssohn’s death, and has not circulated widely since then. Mendelssohn biographer Eric Werner described this work as a “miniature chamber concerto for the piano, contrasting the latter with the five other instruments. Along with Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki is regarded as the most outstanding Polish composer of the 20th century.
Starting in the 1980s, Penderecki abandoned all avant-garde tendencies and has been increasingly using the music of the 19th and early 20th centuries as his models. With a generous playing time of 35 minutes, the work presents itself as a reminiscence of great Slavic composers of the 20th century. Here one can easily detect Penderecki’s penchant for Stravinsky, even more so for Bartók and, above all, for Shostakovich. As Penderecki once put it himself: “I am, of course, a Slavic composer who is mainly interested in communicating his emotions through musical expression.”
This impressive building, built in the Art Nouveau style in 1905 and located in the beautiful Eifel region (West Germany), is serving as a spectacular venue for the remarkable chamber music festival "SPANNUNGEN: Music in Heimbach's Hydroelectric plant" since 1998, in June of each year.
This musical event, where musicians of the highest caliber come together for a week of chamber music rehearsals and concerts, bears a title that truly reflects its underlying concept: "Tensions” is not only an allusion to the electric current normally produced in this hydroelectric installation, but also to the underlying musical tensions and contrasts in the festival’s music programs. The artists and their audience embark on a musical journey ranking from the Baroque era to contemporary music: each year we also première a new work. Surprising parallels often emerge in such programs, along with exciting musical contrasts and thrilling interplay between the hydropower station’s architecture, the picturesque surroundings and the music itself. In Heimbach, it is always exciting to adapt to one’s musical partners. Yet the most important thing is to remain fundamentally and constantly open to one’s partners’ musical suggestions and leanings. This excellent working environment is capable of producing concerts and recordings of which all participants can be proud of. It is our wish and our desire that, listening to these CD’s, you will be able to relive the special atmosphere.
Norbert Ely, former music editor at the Deutschlandfunk, once called our undertaking a true "grass roots initiative for chamber music”. In fact, this festival owes its very existence to the selfless dedication of quite a number of music and art lovers who are active members of the Association for the Promotion of the Arts in the County of Düren: from the very beginning, they enthusiastically continue to make this wonderful event possible. Without wide-ranging, varied engagement on the part of our sponsors – particularly on the part of our main sponsor and event partner INNOGY SE (also our host at the Hydroelectric plant), and on the part of our media partner, DEUTSCHLANDFUNK (which has supported this festival since its inception) – a chamber music event such as this one could not even be possible. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported us. Lars Vogt (Artistic Director)