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DEAG acquires Germany’s Classic Open Air

DEAG has enhanced its presence in the classical and jazz market with the acquisition of classical music festival Classic Open Air.

The German live entertainment group has acquired 85% of the shares in the event, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, via its DEAG Classics AG subsidiary.

Launched in 1992, Classic Open Air has grown under the direction of Gerhard Kämpfe und Mario Hempel to attract around 25,000 to 30,000 visitors each year to the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin. Highlights have included evenings with Till Brönner, Sarah Connor, Katie Melua, José Carreras, Al Jarreau, the Scorpions, Earth Wind & Fire, Montserrat Caballé, Udo Jürgens, Chris de Burgh, Roger Cicero and Joja Wendt.

“We are adding an attractive festival series to our event portfolio, which has already hosted many top national and international stars in recent years,” say DEAG CEO Peter Schwenkow and Jacqueline Zich, divisional board member of DEAG Classics AG. “We are delighted to be able to contribute to the further development of Classic Open Air with our live expertise and outstanding network.”

“DEAG has the potential to make this unique event even more international”

As well as expanding its activities and market position in the classics and jazz segment, DEAG says it expects to achieve synergy effects in the concert business and in the acquisition of artists, among other areas.  The deal will also increase the volume of DEAG’s ticketing business.

Hempel, MD of Media On-Line, the organiser of Classic Open Air, will remain a shareholder and continue to provide long-term support and advice to the company together with DEAG Classics AG.

“I am very pleased to have found the right partner in Peter Schwenkow and DEAG Classics AG for the further development of Classic Open Air at Gendarmenmarkt, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year,” says Hempel. “DEAG has the potential to make this unique event even more international at one of the world’s most beautiful venues and I am very much looking forward to being able to accompany this.”


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Kharkiv Music Fest takes place in bomb shelter

A string quintet performed to hundreds of residents taking shelter in an underground train station to mark what would have been the first day of Kharkiv Music Fest.

Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the organisers of the annual international classical music festival were determined to bring a slice of the festival to Ukraine’s second-largest city.

The five musicians delivered a ‘concert between explosions’ – as it was dubbed on social media – opening with the Ukrainian national anthem, then playing works by Bach and Dvořák, alongside arrangements of Ukrainian folk songs.

The conductor and artistic director of the Kharkiv festival, Vitali Alekseenok, explained that the chosen music was programmed to highlight the connections between Ukrainian and Western European culture.

“Music can unite,” Alekseenok told The Washington Post. “It’s important now for those who stay in Kharkiv to be united.”

“Music can unite”

Music teacher and violinist Olha Pyshchyta said that performing in the subway sparked a range of emotions, after a month of war.

She said she was angry and tired “but at the concert … we felt unity”. “I, like all Ukrainians, are waiting for victory,” Pyshchyta said.

Fellow violinist Stanislav Kucherenko told The Post that the concert was unlike any other he’d played: “There was at no stage the excitement that usually happens when performing for people but I knew that I was where I should be.”

Kucherenko said music can have a “strong influence on the psycho-emotional state of a person and in the conditions of war it can inspire faith and optimism”.

Kharkiv Music Fest would’ve taken place in the grand hall of the Kharkiv Philharmonic on Saturday 26 March.


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German town hosts concerts in swimming pool

A German town is hosting a series of concerts in its municipal swimming pool, which has been closed since the outbreak of coronavirus.

Under the name Kult(ur)-Bad 2020 (“Cult(ure) [in the]-Pool 2020”), authorities in Entringen, in the south-western state of Baden-Wurttemberg, have turned the town’s empty outdoor pool into a makeshift concert venue.

The first performance took place on 19 July, with Bayreuth cellist Jürgen Gerlinger playing a series of Bach suites while seated at a depth of four metres (13’), according to local media.

Future events in the Kult(ur)-Bad 2020 series include a comedy and jazz night on 2 August, a Spanish guitar recital on 9 August and a Latin classical concert on 16 August.

Fans are advised to bring blankets to sit on (no chairs are allowed), as well as headgear when it’s sunny, while face coverings are mandatory.

“The acoustics are great down there”

Speaking to local public broadcaster SWR2, swimmer-turned-concert organiser Martina Riester praises the pool’s suitability as a music venue. “There are [great] acoustics down there,” she says.

The Entringen pool is the latest non-traditional concert venue to be repurposed during the coronavirus pandemic, with fans now seeing shows from their cars, bicycles, rickshaws, balconies and lawns, in addition to virtual events streamed to their homes.


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Hackers target livestreamed IPO fundraiser

The disruption of an Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) virtual concert and fundraising gala last weekend was caused by a cyberattack, the orchestra has confirmed.

The attack – the first outage of a major livestreamed show since the format took off amid the coronavirus pandemic – crashed the websites of the IPO and its broadcast partner,, during the stream on Sunday 28 June.

More than 13,000 people had registered to view the hour-long event, hosted by Dame Helen Mirren, which aimed to help the orchestra overcome financial losses as a result of Covid-19.

No group has claimed responsibility for hacking the stream.

“Hackers were determined to silence our message and stamp out our voice, but they will not succeed”

“We were thrilled that so many had registered to join us for this event, giving us the opportunity to bring the healing power of music to people who need it at this difficult time,” comments Tali Gottlieb, executive director of the IPO Foundation.

“Our organisation had high hopes that this event would help us raise emergency funds to support the members of the Israel Philharmonic in the face of an unprecedented financial crisis.”

Danielle Ames Spivak, executive director of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which helped organise the event, adds: “Hackers were determined to silence our message and stamp out our voice, but they will not succeed. More than ever, we are determined to spread the Israel Philharmonic’s message of hope, peace, and beauty around the world.”


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Barcelona venue to reopen…with concert for plants

The Liceu Grand Theatre, the historic 2,292-seat concert hall on la Rambla in Barcelona, will reopen its doors next week – but not to humans.

Although venues in Spain have been allowed to hold events at a third their usual capacity since 8 June, the Liceu is taking a different tack when it holds its first post-lockdown event on Monday (22 June), eschewing an audience of homo sapiens in favour of one comprised of simpler lifeforms.

For Concierto para el Bioceno (Concert for the Biocene), which takes place at 5pm local time, all seats in the Liceu are reserved for plant life, for which the UceLi Quartet will perform Puccini’s ‘Crisantemi’ (‘Chrysanthemums’).

With “the participation of the vegetable kingdom”, the concert will see man become “a spectator of their own social chronicle”, explains Víctor García de Gomar, the Liceu’s artistic director. After the concert, the plants will be donated to 2,292 healthcare staff.

While no humans (other than the orchestra) will be physically present, those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be members of the vegetable kingdom will be able to watch the performance live on YouTube.


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FIM outlines recommendations for return to work

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM), an umbrella body comprising around 70 musicians’ unions worldwide, has issued a series of recommendations to enable artists to return to work in the safest possible way amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

The guidelines – targeted at classical musicians but relevant for all touring artists – say while “there is a common desire of musicians, employers and audiences” to reopen music venues “as soon as possible”, this must be accompanied by the “adoption, implementation and enforcement of adequate safety measures in order to protect musicians against the risks arising from possible exposure to the Sars-Cov‑2 [coronavirus] as they return to work.”

Among the FIM’s recommendations are that musicians with one or more symptoms of Covid-19 infected should be “exempted” from performing or rehearsing; that distance is kept between musicians on stage, as well as between artists and performers; widespread access to hand-washing facilities or sanitiser; and one-way paths inside venues, and separate entrances and exits to enclosed spaces such as dressing or green rooms, to avoid unnecessary social contact.

The guidance also expresses a preference for open-air events; where that is not possible, everyone attending an indoor concert should wear face coverings, it adds.

The FIM document follows the updated WHO mass-gathering guidelines, put out earlier this month, as well as other previously released guides to safe venue reopening, available from IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre.

Download the federations’s recommendations in full in PDF format here.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Sex toy causes classical concert terror scare

Police were called to the Vienna Konzerthaus after a concealed sex toy sparked a terror alert.

Staff at the concert hall called in explosive experts to report a bag that was “shaking suspiciously” in the cloakroom. It was later discovered that the suspect movement was prompted by a vibrator in a concertgoer’s bag.

The incident did not disturb the Viennese Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Richard Wagner works Siegfried Idyll and The Valkyrie.

“The owners of the bag were informed of the incident and the officers wished them a nice evening”

“The bag had fallen on its side. Officers were able to quickly identify the cause of vibration and therefore it was not necessary to disturb the performance and the show went on,” says police spokesperson Patrick Maierhofer.

“After the performance had finished, the suitcase was handed over to its owner and his lady friend. They were informed of the incident and the officers wished them a nice evening.”

Opening in 1913, Vienna’s Konzerthaus regularly hosts concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Vienna Singakademie choir. The venue houses three rooms: the great hall (1,840 seats), the Mozart hall (704 seats) and the Schubert hall (336 seats).


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Legendary jazz promoter Walter Homburger passes

Walter Homburger, the German-born promoter whose International Artists Concert Agency (IACA) brought jazz and classical music greats including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Luciano Pavarotti to Canada, has died aged 95.

Born in Karlsruhe in 1924, Homburger, a Jew, emigrated to Canada in 1940 and became a citizen (British subject) two years later. After a spell working on a pig farm in Aurora, Ontario, Homburger made his first foray into concert promotion, which, according to FYIMusicNews’s Nick Krewen, was “a disaster”.

“He borrowed money to guarantee soprano Lotte Lehman a $3,750 haul for three German leider recitals at Toronto’s Eaton Auditorium in 1947, and lost $1k,” Krewen writes. “But his backers felt he had a future and covered his deficit. Their trust was rewarded when three months later Homburger recouped his losses with a sell-out by Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz.”

In addition to working as a promoter, Homburger was a successful manager, guiding Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould to global success.

In 1957, Gould became the first Western artist to play the USSR after the second world war. Homburger told Gould biographer Colin Eatock: “I felt it would give Glenn some good publicity. […] But it was the McCarthy era, and I was very concerned about Glenn not being able to get into the United States after visiting Russia. So I had some correspondence with the Canadian government – with [future PM] Lester Pearson, who was at that time our external affairs minister.

“This is a huge loss for … all those fortunate enough to have worked with him”

“The government was behind the idea, and they helped me with contacts in Russia. I asked them to please let their colleagues in the USA know that they are in favour of Glenn going to Russia so that he wouldn’t be banned from the United States.”

Gould performed in Moscow and St Petersburg (then Leningrad), and also gave lectures during the tour, which made him a household name in Russia.

As Homburger’s relationship with Gould ended, in 1962 he became managing director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position he would keep until his retirement in 1987. When he retired, the orchestra held a benefit concert, the Great Gathering, which made more than C$2.3m for the orchestra’s charitable foundation.

For his work with the Toronto Symphony, Homburger was made a member of the order of Canada. He was also awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.

“Walter represented a rare mix in one man: He was a brilliant impresario, a strategic leader and a kind inspiration to all who knew him,” says Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) CEO Matthew Loden. “This is a huge loss for the TSO family and for all those fortunate enough to have worked with him, but we are comforted in knowing Walter’s legacy survives in our collective memories and in the music we make every day.”

Homburger is survived by Emmy, his wife of 58 years, his son Michael, daughter Lisa and four grandchildren.


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‘World-class’ concert venue planned for Wimbledon

Renowned architect Frank Gehry has begun drawing up plans for the Wimbledon Concert Hall, a 1,250-seat classical concert venue envisioned for the south-west London suburb.

Early designs have been prepared by Gehry – whose previous designs include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles – on behalf of Anthony Wilkinson, director of Wimbledon International Festival, according to the Times.

Patrons of the project include Dame Darcey Bussell, who will advance on dance, and Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. The proposed site for the venue, for which backers hope to raise £100 million, is a supermarket car park in Wimbledon, an area of London best known as the home of tennis.

“To have a Frank Gehry-designed concert hall in Wimbledon would be a total transformation of London”

“To have a Frank Gehry-designed concert hall in Wimbledon would be a total transformation of London concert life,” says Salonen. “It would have a global effect. With these buildings the influence goes way beyond the art form.”

The Wimbledon Concert Hall announcement follows that of the proposed Centre for Music at the Barbican, for which the City of London has pledged £2.5m, with both venues hoping to fill a gap for a new classical concert hall in the UK capital.

Both existing major London concert halls, Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall, are considered ill-equipped by many in the classical music community, with conductor Simon Rattle famously once commenting: “After rehearsing for half an hour in the Royal Festival Hall, you lose the will to live.”


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DEAG wholly acquires the Classical Company

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has become the sole owner of Swiss classical music promoter the Classical Company, after acquiring all remaining shares in the company (50%) from Zurich-based media group Ringier.

The Classical Company is now a fully owned subsidiary of DEAG Classics – itself 100% owned by DEAG since June, when it bought out Sony Music’s 49% stake – although Ringier will remain a media partner until 2020.

The Classical Company deal is the latest step in DEAG’s strategy to eliminate its minority holdings and joint ventures, following DEAG Classics and, in July, MyTicket (formerly an equal partnership with Starwatch Entertainment).

Founded in 2010, the Classical Company is one of the leading promoters of classical music concerts in Switzerland. Past successes include Lang Lang, David Garrett, Vittorio Grigolo, Nigel Kennedy and Simone Kermes, while future shows include Anna Netrebko’s highly anticipated performance in Lucerne in February 2019.

In addition to various investments in TV, radio and ecommerce, Ringier is the owner of the Moon and Stars festival in Locarno and leading ticket agency Ticketcorner, the latter co-owned with CTS Eventim.


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