Festival Theme


From January 19th–22nd 2023 the 9th edition of the Mizmorim Kammermusik Festival will explore the phases of Theodor Herzl’s life (1860–1904) and the rich tapestry of music from this era that not only accompanied him  personally throughout his life, but also the Zionist movement itself. 
Herzl’s 1896 book "Der Judenstaat" together with the first Zionist Congress of 1897 in Basel, laid the theoretical and practical foundation for the Zionist movement for the creation of a Jewish nation-state. Herzl was a lawyer who also worked as a writer and journalist and he envisioned a Jewish state based on European political principles. He also placed great value on culture and especially music.
The path that finally led to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 was accompanied by a "soundtrack" of great stylistic diversity. A constantly expanding repertoire of songs strengthened the sense of togetherness between both the Zionists themselves and also sympathizers. Composers such as Joel Engel, Jakob Schönberg, Ernst Toch, Kurt Weill, Stefan Wolpe and many more referred to these Zionist songs and were inspired by their melodies and Zionist literature. What followed was a process of musical examination with Jewish composers searching for their own voices within the tradition of Western art music. This often set-off a process of musical examination within the composers, a search for their own voices within the tradition of Western art music.
Important, including forgotten, works by Jewish and non-Jewish composers such as Karl Goldmark, Zoltán Kodály, the young Erich Wolfgang Korngold, but also pieces by Claude Debussy and Richard Wagner as well as the Swiss Jewish composer Ernest Bloch – who rejected the Zionist idea– form a tension between the utopia and the reality of Zionism. This tension will not be ignored at the Mizmorim Kammermusik Festival. Both the concerts and the panel discussions offer an opportunity to reflect on this.
The flag of the Zionist movement, first presented in Basel in 1897, became the symbol of Herzl's project. Based on the traditional prayer shawl and its blue and white threads, a white background was combined with two blue stripes and a blue Star of David. The design of the flag and the use of the colors blue and white refer to the connection between religious tradition and modernity in the Blue and White project that was championed by Herzl and in which you will hear reflected upon in the 2023 Edition of Mizmorim. 

Left: Herzl at the opening speech at the Second Zionist Congress in 1898 in the Stadtcasino Basel | Right: Theodor Herzl, standing on the balcony of the “Les Trois Rois” hotel in Basel, bent over the Rhine with a thoughtful gaze (probably 1901 during the 5th Congress in Basel)