Festspiel Orchester Göttingen
• Founded 2006
The FestspielOrchester Göttingen is a professional orchestra associated with the Göttingen International Handel Festival. Although it comes together only once a year, the group has won praise for its unanimity of purpose and for its part in the festival's innovative programming. The Göttingen Handel Festival (German: Internationale Händel-Festspiele Göttingen) itself was established in 1919. Its founder was the scholar Oskar Hagen, among other things the father of actress Uta Hagen. Well before the idea was popular or even common, the festival and its musicians investigated ideas of historical performance practice; Fritz Lehmann, who directed the festival between 1934 and 1953 except for a wartime hiatus, was one of the German pioneers of the movement. The festival has also had cutting-edge foreigners as directors: John Eliot Gardiner from 1981 to 1990, and Nicholas McGegan from 1991 to 2011. Its director since 2011 is Laurence Cummings, who has also directed the FestspielOrchester Göttingen.
That group was formally established only in 2006, although there has always been a core of musicians associated with the festival. The orchestra participates in the festival's annual productions, which include one Handel opera per year, plus performances of oratorios or other sacred works. The festival has played an important role in the rediscovery and diffusion of Handel's large vocal output in Germany. Those annual productions have been recorded, starting in 2010 with the little-known Mendelssohn arrangement of the Dettinger Te Deum (Dettingen Te Deum). That album appeared on the Carus label, but for the 2015 production of Handel's Agrippina the group moved to Accent, and it has released an operatic album annually since then on that label. The 2017 album featured the very rarely hard Handel opera seria Lotario, HWV 26. That year, the FestspielOrchester Göttingen also released its first instrumental album, featuring Handel's Water Music (with all three suites joined together) and Concerto Grosso in C major from Alexander's Feast.