As Aristotle already knew: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” And with 30 years now under its belt, isa – the International Summer Academy of the mdw is expanding its interdisciplinary canon of programmes (isaMasterclass, isaFestival, isaScience, isaOutreach, isaOperetta) by isaDigital, which premiered in August of last year. This purely digital isa format, originally Intended as a stopgap measure, generated new synergies and brought together participants from numerous countries online and onscreen. So we’re now looking to combine these positive effects of our digital isa20 with the experience we’ve been living for nearly 3 decades, that experience of creative conviviality on location in the Semmering-Rax region, uniting the digital and the analogue realms. The result will be a hybrid overall experience!

© Stephan Polzer
unlimited – Transcending Boundaries and Barriers

In keeping with this year’s theme of unlimited, participation in isa21 is open to all interested students regardless of their momentary locations—with the only requirement being a stable Internet connection. In addition to digital courses and workshops, the online participants will also be provided with a virtual stage on which they can introduce themselves and present themselves musically. The reach that this provides will also help them to expand their circles of fans, friends, and subscribers. And to top it all off, social events will complement the (online) offerings and make the entire breadth of the “isa Experience” available to all participants.

Streaming Studios On-site

During isa21, which is set to run from 15 to 29 August, there will be a number of online and streamed offerings alongside the in-person master classes and events. And in order to realise all this from a technical standpoint, Reichenau’s Literatursalon Wartholz and Schloss Reichenau are being furnished with fully equipped streaming studios. On an almost daily basis, the mdw’s AV team will be live-streaming concerts, lessons, discussions, and workshops with international greats including Alfred Brendel, Hatto Beyerle, Sharon Kam, and Thomas Hampson. What’s more, teaching spaces will be digitised with the necessary equipment in order to put out additional course sessions. This will also allow isa’s on-site participants to join activities live from other spaces—a new option that makes sense in terms of reducing the many kilometres’ worth of travel between our various course locations in the Semmering-Rax region, representing an important step towards sustainability and a “green isa”.

© Stephan Polzer
Be Creative!

It’s hence nearly unlimited possibilities that are opened up by holding isa in a hybrid format like this one. isaMasterclass, with its master classes and workshops for strings, winds, pianists, chamber musicians, and composers, as well as for musicians interested in performing contemporary music, will bring together an internationally prominent faculty both on location and (in some cases) via intercontinental online connections. The field of illustrious tutors at isa21 ranges from Shmuel Ashkenasi, Alfred Brendel, Boris Berman, Emanuelle Bertrand, and André Cazalet to Thomas Hampson, Dag Jensen, Xenia Jankovich, Michael Jarell, Andrea Lieberknecht, Sharon Kam, Jerome Pernoo, Dora Schwarzberg, and Ulf Wallin, to name just a few.

Openness to the new and unknown also characterises the programming of isa21’s workshops and concerts. One emphasis will be on cooperating with the mdw’s Centre for Banned Music. Encounters with “unheard (-of)” music that include works by exiled women plus a 150th birthday nod to Alexander von Zemlinsky, who still enjoys insufficient recognition, will be further important accents. The “progressive strings vienna” (Mandola Bartolomey, cello; Klemens Bittmann, violin and mandola) will be expanding the spectrum by playing techniques from jazz and rock, while classical improvisation guru David Dolan will point out routes to an “improvisatory state of mind” as a basis for creative and spontaneous interpretations. The “Digital Creative Award” competition, first held in 2020, will once again await exciting submissions. And for the first time, students will also be able to act as project managers and submit their concert formats to the competition “Create your own event”. The winning project will be realised as part of the isaFestival, which will hopefully be taking place once more at the region’s numerous beloved venues. And last but not least, interdisciplinary projects involving film, chamber music, and acting as well as journeys through musical eras from early to contemporary music will offer both live and digital audiences a variety-packed concert programme.

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