The Festival Director

Music is experienced most intensely communally and live. A concert, even more so a festival, brings people together, links them through common experience and, at its very best, leaves them emotionally enriched and intellectually stimulated. What gives a festival a special flair is the combination of a unique environment, thematic focus and the highest possible performance quality. The Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden has established itself over the past two decades and is now both an undisputed cultural highlight within the Niederrhein region and a cultural trademark recognized across Europe.

The Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden focuses on an inexhaustible topic which is of great interest to many people, particularly in our globalised modern times. The festival features music of the past (ranging from the oldest surviving music of the early middle ages to works from the last century), and it is based on a very particular way of experiencing this art: historically informed performance practice as it is called in musicological jargon. The term refers to what any reflecting human being would recognize as obvious, namely that music is at its most expressive if played in the way its creators envisaged: on historically authentic instruments and against the background knowledge of historical musical practices.

Hermann Max founded the Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden in 1992. Since then it has taken place annually at the end of September in the town’s monastery and the attached Romanesque Basilica.

From solo pieces to large scale oratorio works or indeed operas, international artists perform a wide spectrum of classical music, while folk music, improvisation, dance and staged performances can be experienced too. A considerable proportion of the concerts is performed by the Rheinische Kantorei and Das Kleine Konzert under the direction of Hermann Max himself.

Since 2003 the festival has also encompassed well-received events for children and young people. Das Junge Festival involves children and young people from Dormagen and across the region and inspires participants and visitors alike.

Most concerts are performed in the unique Romanesque Basilica of Knechtsteden monastery. The monastery, situated peacefully amongst green meadows and forests, was founded in 1130 by Premonstratensians and features with its 12th century Romanesque basilica one of the Rhineland’s most interesting religious architectural monuments.

Adjacent to the nave are the cloisters, where chamber music performances are presented in a most charming atmosphere. The grounds of the monastery also contain former agricultural buildings (Bullenstall and Theaterscheune), which are being used as more intimate performance spaces. The Kreismuseum Zons, located in the nearby small historic toll town offers yet another ideal space for chamber music.

The Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden has become a notable cultural event within the region between Cologne and Düsseldorf. Evidence for the festival’s artistic excellence are not only the thousands of visitors but also the continued interest of the radio stations WDR, DLF and Deutschlandradio Kultur, who have been documenting the festival since its very beginnings through recordings and co-productions.