History | Chronological Table Festival for New Music since 1921

Klanginstallation von Edwin van der Heide unter dem Titel "DSLE -3-" bei den Donaueschinger Musiktagen 2012 (Foto: SWR, SWR - Christoph Haffter)
Edwin van der Heide: "DSLE -3-" (Donaueschinger Musiktage 2012) SWR - Christoph Haffter

The Donaueschingen Festival was founded in 1921 under the princely protection of the House of Fürstenberg. It is today the oldest and most traditional Festival for new music in the world and is generally regarded as the prototype for festivals in specialized fields of culture, which by virtue of their specialization have in their turn become an independent and increasingly growing factor in international musical life.

In the 1920's the Festival was the focal point of contemporary chamber music, with significant first performances of European music by composers such as Hindemith, Berg, Webern and Schoenberg. After the Second World War in 1950 the Festival managed to make a new beginning appropriate to the flourishing mood of these years in co-operation with South-West German Radio, Baden-Baden, which put its orchestra at the Festival's disposal and thus introduced a new focal point as far as the programme was concerned. Thus it became possible to make known in Donaueschingen not only important orchestral works of the classical modern repertoire, but also those by younger composers: in the early 1950's instrumental works by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, John Cage and Iannis Xenakis caused many a scandal at their first performances. After this it was György, Ligeti, Mauricio Kagel and later Wolfgang Rihm who introduced new focal points in first performances of their orchestral works at Donaueschingen.

Many distinguished composers from the second half of the 20th century have also been heard several times, so that their compositional development could be documented in its various stages. In addition the Donaueschingen programmes have always included tendencies which go beyond the scope of the traditional vocal-instrumental musical means and forms of performance and, indeed, reach beyond the very limits of music, such as John Cage's aleatoric music, musique concrète, new forms of radio plays, music films, jazz, multi-media projects, performance art and also, more recently, sound installations by various musicians.