top of page

LiedFest Berlin-Oxford 2023

SEP 29th/30th, OCT 1st

Art and Music - Die Schöne Müllerin - Voice Electric


Robert Holl - Alessandro Fisher - Lotte Betts-Dean - Andrew Munn - Rowan Hellier - Dietrich Henschel

Birgit Ramsauer - Sholto Kynoch - Axel Bauni - Jonathan Ware


Visual arts have always been a source of inspiration for composers, and this especially applies to song, which is connected on two levels: the words and the music. In the LiedFest 2023, art forms a bracket for the festival program: both its effect on music and, conversely, the influence of music on art is the common thread running through the program.

The LFBO 2023 offers four song recitals covering a wide range of wonderful repertoire, a concert for voice and electronics created by Lotte Betts-Dean, a masterclass for exciting young artists, and a participatory art-music workshop

200th anniversary of „Die Schöne Müllerin“

The theme of the art-music workshop is a reflection on the topic Die schöne Müllerin. The Vienna-born artist Aviva Ronnefeld, who lives in Berlin, will discuss pictorial symbolism, colors and rhythmic techniques in visual responses to music, as well as giving practical instruction to the participants.




The LFBO 2023 will open with a project by mezzo-soprano Rowan Hellier and pianist Jonathan Ware. Inspired by visual art from the German 1920’s New Objectivity movement, She Represents (after a 1928 watercolour of the same name by Jeanne Mammen) is a costumed lieder recital exploring female expression and definition of self. At the programme’s core is the concept of the New Woman: a profoundly influential feminist ideal emerging late in the 19th century of an independent woman reframing restrictive notions of womanhood through her artistic output, behaviour and dress. The concert features works by Rita Strohl, Arnold Schönberg, Johanna Müller-Hermann, Kurt Weill, Mischa Spoliansky, Cathy Berberian, Anton Berg, Ethel Smyth and Margarete Schweikert. 


These musical works are augmented by a visual element: specially commissioned costumes based on artworks by Otto Dix and Jeanne Mammen. Both leading figures of the New Objectivity movement, they sought in their portraiture and sketches of real-life Berlin stage performers, barflies and intellectuals, to depict the New Woman in her richly diverse forms. The recital examines contrasting female individualities in curated groups of songs linked in terms of archetype (femme fatale, androgyne) and invites a playful, alternative approach to female expression via sartorial means on the classical platform. 


‘Hellier’s performance captivated… wit, aplomb and a consistently velvety tone.’

The Guardian, reviewing Rowan Hellier’s 2021 recital for the Oxford Lieder Festival



Singer, vocal artist and performer Lotte Betts-Dean, associated with the LiedFest since its inception, will perform a solo recital with electronics: VOICE ELECTRIC is an art-video-music project created in collaboration with video artist Purple Taiko and featuring music by Luigi Nono, Morton Feldman, Giaccinto Scelsi, and contemporary works by Mathis Saunier, Stuart MacRae and Linda Buckley. It was developed in 2022 as part of a residency at the Britten-Pears ‘Festival of New’.


In 1823, Franz Schubert completed the work of the century, which, as the first collection of songs with a continuous plot, is the prototype of the “song cycle”, so to speak. The young miller, striding out into the world, makes friends with the creek he walks along, discovers love and lives through it from being in love to jealousy and disappointment. The story of Wilhelm Müller, told in poems that were written partly in Berlin, it is based on the poet's unrequited love for the poet Luise Hensel, who was the sister of the Berlin painter Wilhelm Hensel and sister-in-law to Felix Mendelssohn's sister, Fanny Hensel. Die Schöne Müllerin was born out of the spirit of the Berlin Salon, so to speak, in whose tradition of intimate music-making the LiedFest Berlin-Oxford sees itself.


At the closing concert of the LiedFest Berlin-Oxford 2023, the British tenor Alessandro Fisher, BBC New Generation Artist 2018 and former Oxford Lieder Young Artist will perform Die Schöne Müllerin with pianist Sholto Kynoch, the founder and director of Oxford Lieder.


Die Schöne Müllerin is also the focus of the master class for singers and pianists given by the great bass-baritone Robert Holl as part of the LiedFest (participation by prior registration), and of an art workshop given by Birgit Ramsauer, performer, poet and mutli media artist; at her course "Walking Pictures" participants will work at the production of flip cinema sequences.



The second art-related song concert, with  songs and chansons by the French composers group "Les Six”, will be performed by baritone Dietrich Henschel and pianist Axel Bauni, alongside selected young song duos from Berlin and the Young Artist Platform of the Oxford Lieder Festival. Professor Philip Bullock (University of Oxford) will give an introduction to the programme.

MUSIC AND THE MODERN | an evening of music and discourse

In 1974 Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Suite on Verses by Michelangelo on eleven of the artist’s sonnets, exploring themes of love, political critique, and legacy. Canadian Bass Andrew Munn will present the forty-five-minute song cycle, characterized by the sparsity of Shostakovich’s late style, in tandem with an art historical lecture by Julia Modes.


By setting Michelangelo’s address to the poet of previous centuries, Shostakovich creates a double echo – a modern composer drawing on the thoughts of the renaissance artist, whose own thoughts turned to the medieval wellspring of modern literature, Dante Alighieri. Alongside the musical performance, art historian and curator Julia Modes will trace a through line from the renaissance works of Michelangelo to the modern abstract art of Cy Twombly, who was living in Rome shortly before Shostakovich published the Suite. She explores how both artists engaged with eroticism and violence, history and mythology, in the rapidly changing visual languages of their times. 



The LiedFest Berlin-Oxford is presented in association with the Oxford Lieder Festival, and is pleased to also develop international partnerships with the International Lied Festival Zeist, the competition "Franz Schubert and Modern Music" in Graz, and the Beethovenfest Bonn.




bottom of page