Open main menu

The Lower Rhenish Music Festival (German: Das Niederrheinische Musikfest) was one of the most important festivals of classical music, which happened every year between 1818 and 1958, with few exceptions, at Pentecost for 112 times.


In the year 1817 Johann Schornstein, the musical director at Elberfeld, organized a music festival in his town, in which he was assisted by the musicians from Düsseldorf under their conductor Friedrich August Burgmüller. During this festival the idea was born by Schornstein and Burgmüller to repeat this event every year alternately between their cities. In the year 1821 the musicians from Cologne and 1825 from Aachen participated, but with the performance 1827 the responsible persons of Elberfeld decided to stop their commitment, because the town was not up to manage the rush of musicians and guests. This festival continued up to 1958 and took place 112 times. Only during the period of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states and the First and Second World War the meeting was interrupted. After the last war in the year 1948 Cologne resigned out of this cycle of the music festival, whereas the cities Wuppertal, a fusion of Elberfeld and Barmen, and Duisburg acceded to this meeting. But in the year 1958 the festival was closed definitely, because in the meantime some other regional music festivals were founded.

At the beginning the Lower Rhenish Music Festival continued two days and from the year 1826 one day more, every year during Whitsuntide. Temporary in 1834 the king Frederick William III of Prussia interdicted this performance on Whitsun for religious reasons, but by the intercession of his nephew prince Frederick of Prussia, an art enthusiast and protector of the art societies of Düsseldorf, the festival regained permission with some restrictions.


From the beginning the Lower Rhenish Music Festival apprehended as a societal and cultural culmination on a highly artistically level. To the home and foreign guests, politicians, business people and members of the high nobility there were presented all the compositions, which played a significant role at that time. In addition to the local music directors many important conductors, composers and soloists were engaged as director of the festivals. Again and again the stage was used for the performance of world and national premieres and also for the presentation of new versions by known or unknown artists. The focus comprised the music of the last epochs of the Baroque music, the Viennese classical as well as the Romantic Music and later of the 20th-century classical music. There were performed the great symphonic poems, mass, oratorios, chorale, cantatas and here and there chamber music.

This implicated that sometimes the participation of more than 500 musicians. On one side the high number of musicians and the foreign guests connoted a lucrative revenue stream but on the other side also a logistical challenge and risk for the organization.


In the following you will find a chronology of the Lower Rhenish Music Festival in detail, which was compiled from a selection of reliable sources and provides an overview.

serial number year place Directors of festival specifics/premiere/significant soloists (selection)
0 1817 Elberfeld Johannes Schornstein Officially it doesn't ranking to this cycle, but it believes as an initial spark;
1 1818 Düsseldorf Friedrich August Burgmüller Top priority: The Seasons and Schöpfungsmesse of Joseph Haydn; Soloist: Johannes Schornstein (piano)
2 1819 Elberfeld Johann Schornstein
3 1820 Düsseldorf Friedrich August Burgmüller German premiere of the oratorio "Samson" of George Frideric Handel; Soloist: Johannes Schornstein (piano)
4 1821 Cologne Friedrich August Burgmüller, The city of Cologne new in the programme; inter alia promote through Erich Verkenius, president of the Cologne University of Music
5 1822 Düsseldorf Friedrich August Burgmüller world premiere of the oratorio "Das befreite Jerusalem" of Abbé Maximilian Stadler; For logistic reasons Düsseldorf deputized for Elberfeld. At first-time in the hall of knights of the old castle of Düsseldorf.
6 1823 Elberfeld Johannes Schornstein
7 1824 Cologne Friedrich Schneider World premiere of the oratorio "Die Sündflut" of Friedrich Schneider
8 1825 Aachen Ferdinand Ries City of Aachen new in the programme; German premiere of the Symphony No.9 of Ludwig van Beethoven in celebration of opening of Theater Aachen
9 1826 Düsseldorf Louis Spohr and Ferdinand Ries Düsseldorf premiere of the oratorio "The Last Judgement" of Louis Spohr (Text: Johann Friedrich Rochlitz) and the Symphony Nr. 6 D major op. 146 of F. Ries; First-time the festival takes over three days.
10 1827 Elberfeld Johann Schornstein and Erich Verkenius Last participation of the City of Elberfeld;
11 1828 Cologne Bernhard Klein, Ferdinand Ries and Carl Leibl World premiere of the oratorio "Jephtha" of B. Klein and a new recording concert overture at "Don Carlos" of F. Ries
12 1829 Aachen Ferdinand Ries
13 1830 Düsseldorf Ferdinand Ries German premiere of the overture "Braut von Messina" op. 162 of F. Ries, (Text: Friedrich Schiller), also Düsseldorf premiere of the oratorio "Judas Maccabaeus" of G. F. Handel
14 1832 Cologne Ferdinand Ries
15 1833 Düsseldorf Felix Mendelssohn German premiere of Symphony No. 4 (The Italian) and a "festival-overture" of F. Mendelssohn, also the oratorio Israel in Egypt in the German original version of G. F. Handel; new in the programme: morning concerts
16 1834 Aachen Ferdinand Ries Soloist: Frédéric Chopin (piano)
17 1835 Cologne Felix Mendelssohn Solomon of G. F. Handel in original score and with comp of organ; Choir master: Fanny Mendelssohn
18 1836 Düsseldorf Felix Mendelssohn World premiere of the oratorio "St. Paul" of F. Mendelssohn; Choir master: J. Schornstein
19 1837 Aachen Ferdinand Ries World premiere of the oratorio "Die Könige in Israel" of Ferdinand Ries
20 1838 Cologne Felix Mendelssohn
21 1839 Düsseldorf Felix Mendelssohn Guest appearance and successfully artistic breakthrough of the composer Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath; world premiere of a festival-overture of Julius Rietz; Choir master: J. Schornstein
22 1840 Aachen Louis Spohr
23 1841 Cologne Conradin Kreutzer
24 1842 Düsseldorf Felix Mendelssohn
25 1843 Aachen Carl Gottlieb Reissiger
26 1844 Cologne Heinrich Dorn German premiere of Missa Solemnis D major op. 123 of L. v. Beethoven
27 1845 Düsseldorf Julius Rietz German premiere of the "Requiem" of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Nine years pause follows because the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states
28 1846 Aachen Felix Mendelssohn Soloist and discovery of the "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind (soprano)
29 1847 Cologne Heinrich Dorn, Gaspare Spontini and George Onslow German premiere of the Symphony No. 4 G major op. 71 of G. Onslow
30 1851 Aachen Peter Josef von Lindpaintner
31 1853 Düsseldorf Robert Schumann, Ferdinand Hiller and Julius Tausch World premiere of the Symphony No. 4 d-minor op. 120 and the festival-overture Op. 123 of R. Schumann; Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano) and Joseph Joachim (violin);
32 1854 Aachen Peter Joseph von Lindpaitner
33 1855 Düsseldorf Ferdinand Hiller Special performance of the oratorio "Paradise and the Peri" by R. Schumann by special request of the soloist Jenny Lind (soprano)
34 1856 Düsseldorf Julius Rietz Düsseldorf provided an alternative venue at short notice because the Cologne concert hall, the "Gürzenich," had to be restored and rebuilt.
35 1857 Aachen Franz Liszt
36 1858 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller World premiere of the oratorio "Saul" of Ferdinand Hiller
37 1860 Düsseldorf Ferdinand Hiller Soloist: Joseph Joachim (violin)
38 1861 Aachen Franz Lachner Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano)
39 1862 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
40 1863 Düsseldorf Otto Goldschmidt and Julius Tausch Soloist: Jenny Lind (soprano)
41 1864 Aachen Julius Rietz and Franz Wüllner First-time in the new "Redoute", the ballroom of the old casino in Aachen; Application of a new organ by organ building company "Ibach"
42 1865 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller Soloist: Friedrich Nietzsche as singer
43 1866 Düsseldorf Otto Goldschmidt and Julius Tausch World premiere of the Violin Concerto No.1 g-minor, op. 26, of Max Bruch; Soloists: Clara Schumann (piano), Joseph Joachim (violin) and Jenny Lind (soprano); Inauguration ceremony of the new concert hall Tonhalle Düsseldorf
44 1867 Aachen Julius Rietz and Ferdinand Breunung
45 1868 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
46 1869 Düsseldorf Julius Rietz and Julius Tausch Soloist: Joseph Joachim (violin)
47 1870 Aachen Franz Lachner and Ferdinand Breunung last performance of Jenny Lind with the soprano-solo of the oratorio "Ruth" of Otto Goldschmidt
48 1871 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
49 1872 Düsseldorf Anton Rubinstein and Julius Tausch World premiere of the religious opera "Der Turm zu Babel" of A. Rubinstein
50 1873 Aachen Julius Rietz and Ferdinand Breunung Soloists: Marie Wilt (soprano), Johann Christoph Lauterbach]] (violin) and Clara Schumann (piano)
51 1874 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
52 1875 Düsseldorf Joseph Joachim and Julius Tausch Düsseldorf premiere of the Missa Solemnis of L. v. Beethoven
53 1876 Aachen Ferdinand Breunung Inauguration of a new organ by Georg Stahlhuth; Soloist and artistic breakthrough of Adolf Wallnöfer (Tenor)
54 1877 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller guest appearance as conductor of Giuseppe Verdi with his Messa da Requiem
55 1878 Düsseldorf Joseph Joachim and Julius Tausch World premiere of the choir-performance "Germanenzug" of Julius Tausch; Artistic breakthrough of the Symphony No. 2 of Johannes Brahms; Düsseldorf premiere of "Szenen aus Goethes Faust" of R. Schumann; Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano)
56 1879 Aachen Ferdinand Breunung and Max Bruch
57 1880 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller Soloist: Clara Schumann (piano)
58 1881 Düsseldorf Niels Gade and Julius Tausch Soloist: Eugen Gura (baritone)
59 1882 Aachen Franz Wüllner
60 1883 Cologne Ferdinand Hiller
61 1884 Düsseldorf Johannes Brahms and Julius Tausch Soloist: Eugen d'Albert (piano)
62 1885 Aachen Julius Kniese and Carl Reinecke
63 1886 Cologne Franz Wüllner
64 1887 Düsseldorf Hans Richter and Julius Tausch Soloist: Eugen d'Albert (piano)
65 1888 Aachen Hans Richter and Eberhard Schwickerath
66 1889 Cologne Franz Wüllner
67 1890 Düsseldorf Hans Richter and Julius Buths Soloist: Bernhard Stavenhagen (piano)
68 1891 Aachen Ernst von Schuch and Eberhard Schwickerath
69 1892 Cologne Franz Wüllner
70 1893 Düsseldorf Julius Buths
71 1894 Aachen Ernst von Schuch and Eberhard Schwickerath
72 1895 Cologne Franz Wüllner
73 1896 Düsseldorf Johannes Brahms, Julius Buths and Richard Strauss last performance of J. Brahms in Rhineland; Soloists: Pablo de Sarasate (violin) and Ferruccio Busoni (piano)
74 1897 Aachen Hans Richter and Eberhard Schwickerath
75 1898 Cologne Franz Wüllner
76 1899 Düsseldorf Richard Strauss and Julius Buths
77 1900 Aachen Richard Strauss and Eberhardt Schwickerath
78 1901 Cologne Karl Wolff and Erich Urban
79 1902 Düsseldorf Richard Strauss and Julius Buths The meeting was incorporate[clarification needed] under the programme of the Düsseldorf industrial exhibition; second German performance also breakthrough of the oratorio The Dream of Gerontius of Edward Elgar.
80 1903 Aachen Felix Weingartner and Eberhard Schwickerath Soloist: George Enescu (violin)
81 1904 Cologne Fritz Steinbach
82 1905 Düsseldorf Julius Buths Soloists: Ernő Dohnányi (piano), Irene Abendroth (soprano)
83 1906 Aachen Felix Weingärtner and Eberhard Schwickerath
84 1907 Cologne Fritz Steinbach
85 1909 Aachen Max von Schillings, Eberhard Schwickerath and Richard Strauss
86 1910 Cologne Fritz Steinbach
87 1911 Düsseldorf Karl Panzner Soloist: Eugène Ysaÿe (violin)
88 1912 Aachen Karl Muck and Eberhard Schwickerath
89 1913 Cologne Fritz Steinbach Cologne premiere of the Symphony No. 8 of Gustav Mahler
90 1914 Düsseldorf Karl Panzner Soloists: Elly Ney (piano), Bronislaw Huberman (violin)
91 1920 Aachen Karl Muck and Eberhard Schwickerath
92 1922 Cologne Hermann Abendroth Cologne premiere of the romantic cantata "Von deutscher Seele" of Hans Pfitzner
93 1924 Aachen Peter Raabe and Walter Braunfels
94 1925 Cologne Hermann Abendroth and Richard Strauss integrate under the programme of the "millennium-festival of the Rhineland"
95 1926 Düsseldorf Hans Weisbach German premiere of the dramatic and symphonic Psalm "Le Roi David" of Arthur Honegger; Soloist: Ludwig Wüllner (recitative), Edwin Fischer (piano)
96 1927 Aachen Peter Raabe and Walter Braunfels
97 1928 Cologne
98 1929 Düsseldorf Hans Weisbach World premiere of "Marianischen Antiphone" of Wolfgang Fortner also the chamber concert op. 43 a of Adolf Busch and the Sonata for flutes, 2 Viola da gamba and Basso continuo according to a scripture in the state library of Hesse of Georg Philipp Telemann
99 1930 Aachen Peter Raabe and Paul Pella Highlight: Wozzeck of Alban Berg
100 1933 Aachen Gottlob Karl Springsfeld, Aachen fabricant and one of the Aachen sponsors of the music festivals has died
101 1946 Aachen Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Heinrich Hollreiser, Günter Wand, Wilhelm Pitz and Felix Raabe Remake after the pause because the world war; Top priority was English (Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams) aöso French works (César Franck and Maurice Ravel)
102 1947 Düsseldorf Heinrich Hollreiser German premiere of the symphonic metamorphosis about a theme of Carl Maria von Weber aon Paul Hindemith
103 1948 Cologne
104 1949 Aachen Felix Raabe, Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Hans Weisbach, Michael Sittard World premiere of the symphonic cantata "Zwischen Zeit und Ewigkeit" op. 65 of Franz Philipp also the "Variations for Orchestra" of Ernst Pepping
105 1950 Wuppertal
106 1951 Düsseldorf Heinrich Hollreiser Düsseldorf premiere of the oratorio "Das Unaufhörliche" of Paul Hindemith
107 1952 Aachen Felix Raabe, Heinrich Hollreiser, Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Günther Wand and Hans Weisbach world premiere of the symphonic intermezzo from the lyric drama "Boulevard Solitude" of Hans Werner Henze
108 1954 Duisburg Georg Ludwig Jochum World premiere of the choral "Wiegenlied der Mutter Gottes" of H. W. Henze, Text: Lope de Vega
109 1955 Wuppertal Paul Hindemith World premiere of the cantata "Ite angeli veloces" of P. Hindemith, Text: Paul Claudel
110 1956 Düsseldorf Hermann Scherchen World premiere of the choral "Tedeum" of Ernst Pepping also of the concert for piano and orchestra of Hans Vogt
111 1957 Aachen Wolfgang Sawallisch, Theodor Bernhard Rehmann, Rudolf Pohl, Wilhelm Pitz, Leo Nießen and Karl Venth Representation of the composer Wolfgang Meyer-Tormin
112 1958 Duisburg Georg Ludwig Jochum last performance of the Lower Rhenish Music Festivals

Literature (selection)Edit

  • Literaturverzeichnis der Rheinischen Musikfeste in der Bibliothek des Beethovenhauses Bonn: [1]
  • Lutz Felbick: Daten der Aachener Musikgeschichte: Chronologie und Bibliographie, Stadt Aachen 1993 (html)
  • Alf, Julius: Geschichte und Bedeutung der Niederrheinischen Musikfeste in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jh.; Nachdruck aus: Düsseldorfer Jahrbuch. 42. 1940 und 43. 1941. Düsseldorf, 1978, ISBN 3-7700-0737-9
  • Dohm, Rudolf: Aachens Beitrag zur Musikgeschichte; in 105. Niederrheinisches Musikfest 1950 in Wuppertal. S. 31-45.
  • Programme sämtlicher in Aachen abgehaltener (Niederrheinischer) Musikfeste (von 1825 - 1879). in: Aachener Calender für das Jahr 1880. S. 107-119. und in: Musik, Theater und Kunst im Jahre 1878/79. S. 97-101.
  • Sietz, Reinhold: Das 35. Rheinische Musikfest 1857 unter dem Dirigenten Franz Liszt; in: Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsverein (ZAGV). 69. 1957. S. 79-110.
  • Sietz, Reinhold: Das Niederrheinische Musikfest 1834 zu Aachen; in: ZAGV. 70. 1958. S. 167-191.
  • Sietz, Reinhold: Die Niederrheinischen Musikfeste in Aachen in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jh.; in: ZAGV. 72. 1960. p. 109-164.
  • Julius Alf: Das Niederrheinische Musikfest in Wuppertal. "Moderne Musik" in Geschichte und Gegenwart; in: Beiträge zur Rheinischen Musikgeschichte, Köln/Krefeld 005, 1952
  • Klaus Wolfgang Niemöller: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und das Niederrheinische Musikfest 1835 in Köln; in: Beiträge zur Rheinischen Musikgeschichte, Köln/Krefeld 0625, 1952
  • Ursula Eckart-Bäcker: Friedrich Nietzsche als Sänger in Köln. Berichte über das 42. Niederrheinische Musikfest 1865; in: Beiträge zur Rheinischen Musikgeschichte, Köln/Krefeld 062, 1952
  • Julius Alf: Das Niederrheinische Musikfest nach 1945. Ausklang einer Jahrhundert-Tradition, in: Düsseldorfer Jahrbuch 57/58, 1980, S. 472-497
  • Willibald Gurlitt: Robert Schumann und die Romantik in der Musik, 106. Niederrheinisches Musikfest in Düsseldorf, Jahrbuch 1951, S. 13-52. - Nachdruck 1966