The Rheingau Musik Festival (RMF) is an international summer music festival in Germany, founded in 1987. It is mostly for classical music but includes other genres. Concerts take place at culturally important locations such as Eberbach Abbey or Schloss Johannisberg in the wine-growing region Rheingau between Wiesbaden and Lorch.
The festival was the initiative of Michael Herrmann who has served as its Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer. Like the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival founded in 1986, the Rheingau festival was intended to add life to a region rich in musical heritage. The gothic church of Kiedrich houses the oldest playable organ in Germany and has its own "dialect" of Gregorian chant that dates back to 1383. In more recent times the Rheingau has inspired composers such as Johannes Brahms who composed his Symphony No. 3 in Wiesbaden and frequently stayed in Rüdesheim, and Richard Wagner who worked on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in Wiesbaden-Biebrich.
To test the festival idea, two concerts took place in Kloster Eberbach in the summer of 1987. In November 1987 the Rheingau Musik Festival e. V. was founded, an association that organized the festival from the first season in 1988 which included 19 concerts until 1992. It has continued to support the festival since. The RMF receives significant financial help from sponsors who choose to fund their own concerts. The Rheingau Musik Festival is under the patronage of the minister-president of Hesse. Michael Herrmann was awarded the Goethe-Plakette of Hesse in 2002.
The RMF has grown to be one of Germany's important festivals presenting around 140 events every summer with international orchestras, ensembles and soloists.
The concerts of the first season took place at Kloster Eberbach, in the hall and church of Schloss Johannisberg, at St. Martin in Lorch (part of the Rhine Gorge World Heritage Site), at the "Rheingau Cathedral" in Geisenheim, and at the Marktkirche and the Kurhaus in Wiesbaden.
Important locations have included Schloss Vollrads, the Abbey St. Hildegard in Eibingen, St. Valentinus in Kiedrich, the romanesque Basilika St. Aegidius of Mittelheim, St. Georg und Katharina in Wiesbaden-Frauenstein, the Parkhotel of the spa Schlangenbad, and the Alte Oper in Frankfurt am Main. Concerts have been staged in churches, castles and former presshouses (Kelterhalle). An annual "Sommerfest" is held at Schloss Johannisburg while other open air concerts have taken place in wineries and vineyards, on river boats, in the cloisters of Eberbach, the courts of Vollrads and the Kurpark Wiesbaden.
Every year composers' anniversaries are celebrated. In 2009 six concerts were given each of music by Handel, including Israel in Egypt with the Monteverdi Choir under John Eliot Gardiner, Haydn, including The Creation conducted by Enoch zu Guttenberg, and Mendelssohn, including Elijah with the Collegium Vocale Gent under Philippe Herreweghe.
Each year a series of concerts is grouped around a theme, such as "Bekenntnisse" (Confessions) in 2009. Some work cycles, such as the symphonies of Gustav Mahler with the hr-Sinfonieorchester conducted by Paavo Järvi or the piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven interpreted by Rudolf Buchbinder, are presented over several years. Most events are dedicated to classical music, but cabaret, jazz, readings, musical cruises, children's concerts, wine tastings or culinary events with music add to a diverse program. Soloist still in their teens are presented at the regular "Treffpunkt Jugend" (meeting point youth).
Artists have included Anne-Sophie Mutter, Alfred Brendel, Mstislav Rostropovitch, the Alban Berg Quartet, Zubin Mehta, or Riccardo Muti. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau appeared as a recitator, Giora Feidman and Bobby McFerrin included their audience. In 2001 Dave Brubeck and his quartet appared together with the Jacques Loussier Trio. Choral concerts have included rarely performed grand scale works such as Messa per Rossini (2001) or Polish Requiem (2005). Chick Corea visited in 2009 and improvised with Roy Haynes whose band had opened the concert. Other artists of 2009 included Colin Davis, Ludwig Güttler, Martha Argerich, Frank Peter Zimmermann and Anne Sofie von Otter. Lorin Maazel conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in a Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 and Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps The festival usually concludes with a choral concert in Eberbach Abbey conducted by Helmuth Rilling.
A special feature of the RMF is the annual Komponistenporträt, the presentation of a living composer in talk and music. It was initiated by Walter Fink (born 1930, a founding member of the RMF) and has been sponsored by him. From the beginning in 1990 the core of this portrait has been the invitation of a composer for an interview with chamber music. The modern ESWE Atrium was a fitting venue, but since a larger audience got interested the talks were moved to Schloss Johannisberg. In later years more concerts were added, sometimes in different locations, sometimes showing the works of the featured composer in relation to other music, lately concentrating on large scale works. Some composers have played or conducted themselves.
In 1994 the festival initiated the Rheingau Musikpreis that has been awarded annually for musical achievements, to