German Musicians Frustrated Over Canceled Festival Amid Continued Sports Events

An open letter was sent to public officials after the Nürnberger Klassik Open Air festival was canceled, citing a double standard

8
(Photo credit: Uwe Niklas)

The Klassik Open Air festival, an annual outdoor event which attracts around 80,000 audience members in a typical year, was canceled for the second year in a row, citing COVID-19 fears.

The event — which features the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and the Nuremberg State Philharmonic — is the largest of its kind in Europe and was slated for July 24 and 25. Nuremberg, where the festival has taken place for two decades, is the second-largest city in the German state of Bavaria.

On July 3, the boards of the two Nuremberg orchestras wrote an open letter to State Minister Bernd Sibler and Prime Minister Markus Söder opposing the festival's cancellation. They expressed their absolute lack of understanding of the situation, saying that the government's treatment of sports and the arts represents a double standard.

"Is it too difficult to find an individual solution for Nuremberg too?" the letter reads, as translated from German.

"Are we too far from Munich to be perceived as important? Is the community of people who attend such cultural events less important than the community of those who like to watch football? From you, in particular, we would have wished and expected a greater commitment to the Nuremberg culture and to the Nuremberg city population."

Following the cancellation, Nuremberg Mayor Marcus König expressed regret and emphasized that the decision was made to protect musicians and audience members.

Nuremberg State Philharmonic board member Sornitza Baharova told The Violin Channel that König and the Nuremberg mayoress for arts and culture Julia Lehner responded to the letter and suggested moving the concerts to the local soccer arena — but the plans "couldn’t be accepted due to different organizational reasons."

Baharova added that the musicians hope for an explanation and invitation for a discussion on cultural matters in Nuremberg.

As of July 12, the letter's addressees did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter cites nearby Euro Cup soccer games with much larger audiences that were permitted to take place. They cited a June 24 Bavarian state government permit that allowed four Munich soccer games to proceed at 20 percent capacity, adding that if the Klassik Open Air festival followed the same COVID-19 protocol — including negative viral tests, crowd control measures, and reduced seating capacity — the festival should also be allowed to proceed.

In particular, the orchestras drew comparisons between the festival's location, Nuremberg's Luitpolhain, and the Allianz Arena, the home soccer stadium for the FC Bayern Munich. They calculated that there were approximately 2.6 square meters of space per person at the Allianz Arena soccer matches, which almost 15,000 people attended. The Luitpolhain park — a significantly larger space — would have allowed 6.9 square meters for attendees, given a reduced audience capacity of 8,000.

The boards of the two Nuremberg orchestras also suggested alternative formats of the festival, such as multiple performances with smaller audiences at each, referencing Munich's "Klassik am Odeonsplatz," which is happening July 9 and 10 and is split up into four smaller concerts.

Further, the authors of the letter emphasized that the festival is an open-access cultural event with a low barrier to access, making it especially important that the event proceeds to connect people across cultural and socioeconomic lines and expand access to the genre.