It’s owed to a strange logic peculiar to the media that we always end up paying special homage to great artists on milestone birthdays or anniversaries of their deaths. In the literary realm, 2024 belongs to Franz Kafka, who died exactly 100 years ago. In the world of music, this year is shared by Arnold Schönberg (who would be turning 150) and Anton Bruckner (whose 200th birthday is in September). So what, exactly, are the reasons behind this fixation with jubilees?

For one thing, it’s about plannability. Jubilees never come as a surprise, so there’s always lots of lead time in which to come up with a corresponding focus. This holds just as true for the media as it does for the cultural sector and event organisers. The calendar suggests days of glory by default, where attention on all sides will be ensured. When lots of content gets put out concerning the oeuvre of a particular individual, public interest rises automatically—or so the economic thinking goes. But on the other hand, sadly, ignorance and a lack of knowledge also play a major role. Students at universities of music do, of course, know all about the importance of individual composers’ oeuvres. Nobody thus informed would even think of only paying them attention on special birthdays. But we do have to ask how things look in media outlets’ editorial board meetings—and, unfortunately, in the programming departments of big event organisers: Does anyone there still actually engage with art and possess that knowledge of individual oeuvres that would be necessary in order to courageously plan independent programme emphases and cross-reference currently trendy phenomena with all that has been composed, written, and thought in the past on these topics? Besides which, it would be a great thing if that were to happen outside of jubilee years, as well. For as a woman studying at the mdw so fittingly stated when we spoke recently about Schönberg’s birthday: “To me, every year is Schönberg year.”

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