Germany's Folk & World Music Mecca
Folk & The City: Rudolstadt
To be honest, most time of the year Rudolstadt is rather quiet and deserted. There seems to be no artist or music group really worth mentioning. Yet, this small town in Thuringia did become Germany's folk and world music mecca - if only for the first weekend each July.
The famous German scholar and statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt called the former residency Rudolstadt one of the most beautiful areas of Germany. The town, already mentioned in the 8th century, is situated in the wooded valley of the River Saale where she turns from south to east.
Gogol Bordello @ FolkWorld: FW #36
From the 18th century onwards, the Counts of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt tried to develop their residency into a Little Weimar. They opened a theatre in 1793, featuring performances of the Hoftheater Weimar under the direction of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Here in the summer of 1788, Friedrich Schiller met his colleague Goethe for the first time. Schiller also was inspired to his famous poem "Von der Glocke" (Song of the Bell) by the local bell foundry. Later composers such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Niccolo Paganini were employed in Rudolstadt.
The Heidecksburg castle is overlooking the town, nowadays featuring a museum for regional history. You can view a stuccoed ceiling from 1636, a mirrored gallery from 1720 and a two-storey Rococo ballroom with a musicians balcony. Another place of interest in Rudolstadt is a rather small, but nice open air museum in the Heinrich Heine Park, actually the oldest of its kind in Europe, displaying two authentically furnished half-timbered houses from 1667 and 1700, respectively.
Valravn @ FolkWorld: FW#39
In the neighbourhood you can pay a visit to the town of Saalfeld. It is called Steinerne Chronik (Stony Chronicle) because of several well-preserved houses from different ages. The main attraction is the Feengrotten (Fairy Grottos) with the most colourful showmines of the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The highlight of every visit ist the Gralsburg (Grail's Castle) with the Märchendom (Fairy Dome), featuring iron phosphate stalactites being 440 years old and up to 1,60 metres tall. Siegfried Wagner, son of the famous composer, built a replica as stage design for a performance of the "Tannhäuser" opera in the 1920s.
Ahoar @ FolkWorld: FW #35
North of Rudolstadt a short stop is worth at Schloss Kochberg (in Großkochberg) and at the early Romanic church in Weitersdorf, one of the oldest religious buildings in Thuringia. Let me also mention Bad Blankenburg where Friedrich Fröbel opened the first German kindergarten in 1839, Schwarzburg where president Friedrich Ebert signed the so-called Weimarer Verfassung (Weimar Constitution) in 1919, and the ruins of the Paulinzella monastery from the early 11th century. The latter locations lie in the highly romantic Schwarza valley, a deeply carved rocky gorge in the Thuringian Schiefergebirge (Shale Mountains).
In 1996, Rudolstadt gained the culture award of the State of Thuringia for both preserving traditions and developing new cultural ventures. The Rudolstädter Vogelschießen (bird shooting) in late August, dating back to 1722, attracts half a million visitors every year. Only 60,000 attend at the TFF.Rudolstadt on the first weekend in July, the biggest folk, roots and world music festival in Germany, possibly in entire Europe.
The humble origins of this festival already lie half a century ago in the German Democratic Republic. In 1955 the first Fest des deutschen Volkstanzes (festival of German folk dancing) had been launched. It propagated German unity, both politically and culturally, and costume groups of traditional music and dance from both West and East Germany came to make a stand against the American barbarism of jazz and boogie woogie.
When the Cold War proceeded, Western groups failed to appear and were replaced by dancing groups from Eastern Europe. While the folk dancing festival itself slowly faded away, the folk music revival took off. Eastern German folk musicians, dancers and craftspeople paid a visit to the surrounding villages on horse-drawn coaches, and went camping, carousing and crooning in the local inns. Some of its participants are part of the TFF management today.
The last dancing festival was held in 1989, just as in Hungary the border between East and West came down. However, folkies in East and West Germany put together a new festival in 1991, taking a new direction and trying to establish a German counterpart to European festivals such as Falun, St. Chartier, Dranouter and Tønder. First it was called Tanz&FolkFest Rudolstadt, eventually the nasty f-word was dropped in 2003 and the festival is known as TFF.Rudolstadt ever since.
In the beginning no one was really sure if the concept would work out fine and the population would accept the change from the old dancing festival to the new folk and roots music festival. Would folkies from the West go to a festival in the East? Soon it was clear that they did, and the festival went from strength to strength. Depending on the weather some 60,000 visitors flock into town over the first weekend in July, listening to more than 100 music and dance groups on 20 stages which stretch from the Heidecksburg over the Old Town to the Heinepark.
Musicians from all over the world play a wide range of music: traditional folk music as well as jazz, rock and hip hop. A couple of bands introduce music from a particular country. Another focus is dedicated to a particular instrument, climaxing in a magical jam session. Since a couple of years, there also is a featured dance, and dancers meet in a tent where they can learn the steps, and there is a regional focus introducing artists from a particular German area. However, you can easily miss any of this, because there is such a huge program. There are also buskers all over the town, and a children's festival too.
Let's not forget to mention the German World Music Award RUTH which is granted annually during the TFF. Originally intended to promote young folk musicians, today it is awarded to rather established artists in categories such as German Ruth for artists with roots in German traditions, Global Ruth for artists with roots in regional traditions from all over the world, and Honourary Ruth for deserving persons and institutions.
The 20th TFF.Rudolstadt is held from 2nd to 4th July 2010, featuring
musicians from all over the
(1) Rudolstadt (by Walkin' Tom);
Left Column: (2)-(8) TFF Impressions & Posters (by Walkin' Tom, The Mollis, TFF.Rudolstadt);
Middle Column: (9) Gogol Bordello,
(15) Brave Old World
(by Tom Kamphans),
(13) Mercedes Peon,
(14) Rachel Unthank + The Winterset
(by Christian Moll),
(by Walkin' Tom);
Right Column: (16)-(44) TFF Impressions 1955-2008
To the German FolkWorld
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 11/2009
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