Exactly one hour before the start of the concert, the rain started. Not strong enough to keep the farmers happy, but thanks to gusty gusts, enough to torment the visitors who came to Luckau for the opening of the Brandenburg Summer Concerts. Shortly after its founding, the festival, which sends the classics out into the country, was a guest in the St. Nikolai Church there for the first time in 1992, Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke recalled in his welcoming address. At that time, however, the proud Gothic church with the exquisite Baroque interior was in a desolate condition, and many areas were closed due to dilapidation.

Like the entire Lower Lusatia town, the Nikolaikirche has long since been renovated in the finest manner as a monument. What remained, however, as quickly becomes apparent at the concert with the Zielona Gora Philharmonic Orchestra, is the problematic acoustics. The notes reverberate twice as long here as in an ideal concert hall, and the overtone spectrum of the instruments is cut off, which makes the sound impression dull and dull.

Under the direction of their young general music director Rafal Kloczko, the musicians from the western Polish city are working hard on the other hand, energy and verve can be felt in Mozart’s “Figaro” overture just as clearly as in Beethoven’s 8th symphony. And yet much remains vague, interpretative details are lost in the Wattig-vagueness. Romantic works have it easier here than the delicate Viennese classics, as becomes clear with the encore, a polonaise from the opera “Hrabina” by the Polish national composer Stanislaw Moniuszko.

The pianist Martin Helmchen deals resourcefully with the acoustic challenges. In Mozart’s D major piano concerto KV 451, he gives life to a musicological thesis: namely, that all of the music by the Salzburg genius has its roots in musical theater. He stages his solo part effectively on the Bechstein grand piano, plays gestural, becomes a storyteller. The slow middle movement in particular appears as an opera without words: a nocturnal scene appears in front of the inner eye, in which an imaginary soprano is consumed with tender longing for love. It is also admirable how Helmchen is able to create brilliance in the finale through the greatest possible naturalness – and thus replaces that sunshine that is so painfully missing on this cold May weekend.

With this opening concert, Wolfram Korr, the managing director and artistic director of the Brandenburg Summer Concerts, sets two accents that point to the future. In the future he wants to work intensively with Martin Helmchen and his wife, the cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker. Because the virtuoso couple, who live not far from Luckau, are planning to expand their Bohnsdorf “Drauschenmühle” into an artist campus and to organize an innovative international chamber music festival from 2023, with events throughout the Spreewald region. There is already a sneak preview this summer, at a barn concert on August 27th.

Wolfram Korr also wants to strengthen the festival’s contacts with Poland. The guest performance from Zielona Gora will be followed on August 6 by the return visit of the Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra in Gorzow, the former Landsberg an der Warthe. The city of 123,000, 80 kilometers north-east of Frankfurt/Oder, has had a modern concert hall with 600 seats since 2012. The young Portuguese violinist Javier Comesana will play Mendelssohn’s violin concerto there, conductor Jakob Lehmann has composed symphonic works by Grieg, Kodaly and Milhaud for him selected this “European concert”. In September, the Brandenburg Summer Concerts then offer two more weekend trips with the cultural train to Legnica and Wroclaw, including an on-board program on the trip and visits to concerts on site.

Festival organizer Korr also wants to go beyond stylistically over the next 16 weekends, in addition to genuine classical music – sometimes at unusual locations such as the Niederfinow ship lift or the construction site of the Potsdam Garrison Church – there are also musicals in the Doberlug Castle Park, the Klazz Brothers