Göttingen International Handel Festival - 2023 - Semele, Hercules & Medea

It was a great pleasure to play with the Festspiel Orchester Göttingen (FOG) as part of the Göttingen Handel Festival 2023, under their new artistic director, George Petrou. I played first trumpet, with Gareth Hoddinott on second, Maarten van der Valk on timpani, and the horn players Stephan Katte and Claudia Pallaver.

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This year I arrived in Göttingen on 14th May 2023 and departed on 29th May 2023. The theme of the festival was Hellas (Greece). As a result the festival orchestra gave five performances of Handel’s Semele (HWV 58) in the Deutches Theatre in Göttingen, two performances of Handel’s Hercules (HWV 60) with the NDR a choir (one in Göttingen’s St Johannis Kirche and the other in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie); and a Greek-themed gala concert which took place in the Waldorfschule in Göttingen. The gala concert included Jiří Antonín Benda’s melodrama Medea (1775), with the narrator Eva Vogel. This work was performed alongside modern works for baroque orchestra by Greek composers, and Handel’s Ouverture from Teseo (HWV 9). It was wonderful to hear Giorgos Koumendakis’ (b. 1959) Five more steps until you fall asleep, and Giorgios Kouroupos’ (b. 1942) Lamento - Concerto grosso, which featured the singer Lena Sutor-Wernich (pictured left), and it was performed in the presence of the composer (pictured right).

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I was particularly delighted to play Handel’s Hercules with this fine orchestra and choir in the St Johannis Kirche in Göttingen and again in the stunning Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. I first played in this impressive building last October with the Aurora Orchestra, and it was great to return with another wonderful orchestra. 

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‘Some of the choruses, when accompanied by trumpets and timpani, such as “Crown with festal pomp the day” were particularly exciting.’ - Sandra Bowdler - Bachtrack

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Photo credit: unknown

I also enjoyed playing in the pit of the opera theatre, appearing in the final chorus of Semele. I've played from the box and offstage in the theatre before, but this was my first time in the pit.

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It’s hard to describe just how special this festival orchestra is, both musically and socially. It is nine years since I first performed in the festival: Göttingen is a wonderful university town, and I always look forward to my time there. As ever there were lots of memorable gatherings, and in the true spirit of the festival theme, we were treated to wonderful Greek food by Dimitris, Iason, and Theo.

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Russell Gilmour
Russell Gilmour Blog
writing on music, photography, engraving, travel and life as a freelance professional musician.