22nd Early Music Festival in Haapsalu, Estonia


Estonia is a country of immense rich musical traditions. And yet at present there is a vivid concert and festival scene all over the country, featuring among others Organ Music, Chamber Music, Guitar Music and Early Music. An impressive overview is provided here.

Supported by Eesti Kultuurkapital, the federal cultural endowment of Estonia, I had the chance to visit the 22nd Early Music Festival in Haapsalu in July 2015. The small town of Haapsalu, located at the Baltic Sea's coast in the west of Estonia, has been famous since the early 19th century for its spa facilities. It was popular with holiday makers mainly from the Baltic region and from Petersburg who relied on the curative properties of the local mud that the doctor Carl Abraham Hunnius had discovered and described in his medical dissertation thesis submitted at the University of Tartu in 1821. Like other spas of the Baltic region, Haapsalu attracted a more or less solvent public; spa facilities like the kursaal reflected the sophisticated status. After Estonia's first period of independence 1918-40, Haapsalu sank nearly into insignificance and is slowly being rediscovered as holiday resort since the Singing Revolution and Estonia's second independence in 1991. Today, architectural testimonies in Haapsalu remind of both periods, so that in his Rough Guide to the Baltic States, Jonathan Bousfield can call Haapsalu "an endearing mixture of belle époque gentility and contemporary chic". Having around 12,000 inhabitants, Haapsalu is center of a rural region with quite a number of scattered summer houses where Estonians spend some weeks or months during the summer time.

With its first archival record given in 1279, however, Haapsalu has already been important as Episcopal see in the late Middle ages and Early Modern times until the see was moved to Kuressaare on the nearby island Saarema in 1562 as a result of the breakdown of the Livonian confederation and the struggle about supremacy in the Baltic region between Denmark, Sweden and Russia. The Haapsalu Dome church, like in other parts of the German order influenced Baltic region surrounded by a Bishop's castle, is related to this former significance.

Since 1994, Haapsalu is home to the Haapsalu Early Music Festival. The festival has been founded by Toomas Siitan, who with support of local and governmental sponsors like the Estonian Ministery of Culture, the Estonian Culture Foundation, the Haapsalu town authorities and others manages it to invite top-ranking international Early Music ensembles and artists to Haapsalu where during half a week at the beginning of July a number of concerts take place in the Dome church and other venues, whereby nearly one half of the concerts is played by international artists while the other half is performed by Estonian artists and ensembles specializing on Early Music.



Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andreas Waczkat | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen |

Kurze Geismarstr. 1 | D–37073 Göttingen

Telefon: +49 551 39-25072 | mail: andreas.waczkat@phil.uni-goettingen.de

Internet: www.gwdg.de/~awaczka

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