The years from 1884 until the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 form a golden period in European art. This period, or the ‘belle époque’, represents a last and extraordinary flowering of European aesthetic traditions going back to the Renaissance. In this time new, freer forms of artistic expression supersede historicist art. In Vienna we think of Secessionism and the works of Klimt. In Munich, the term ‘Jugendstil’ arose, and here we remember the Lenbachhaus. In the French world ‘Art Nouveau’ and ‘Impressionism’ give birth to new artistic forms.

It is perhaps the co-existence of all these directions and styles that speaks of an artistic and spiritual richness, unparalleled in European history. Today musical works by the Austrian-Bohemian composers such as Mahler, Schoenberg and Zemlinsky are still essential repertoire in symphonic concerts and contemporary compositional thinking. Czech national composers such as Janacek, Fibich and Suk are crucial in the development of Czech identity. In the arts, the Czech painter and illustrator Alfons Mucha became the face of ‘art nouveau’ in Paris.

In architecture, the historicist, and highly decorative styles of Vienna’s ‘Ringstrassenstil’ reached their apogee , whereas architects such as Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Leopold Bauer created less heavily ornamented, Jugendstil villas and public buildings, that speak of a golden age of aesthetic sensibility, a highly educated bourgeoisie, and a sense of beauty, that fascinates us today.

In literature, the ground-breaking works of Proust and his dissection of fin-de-siecle society, the morality of Dostojewski and the genius of Kafka in Prague, describing modern states of alienation, set the bar for writers in the following decades.

The list of painters, composers, architects, writers and scientists - Monet, Debussy, Adolf Loos, Einstein - is astonishing, as is the development of modern psychoanalysis, and the concomitant uncovering of the subconscious by Freud. The shadow of their legacy lingers very much into our times.

Our project aims to explore this world through concerts, readings, exhibitions and, above all, a physical experience of salon culture in beautiful surroundings. We do not wish to limit our gaze solely to the artistic achievements of this period, but rather think about them as an inspiration for our times. In this sense, new compositions, paintings and living writers will play a role.

Education programmes for young people and modern means of content creation, for instance digital, will be included.

We hope to create a space that will be a unique meeting-point for cultural reflection and inner regeneration.

David Robert Coleman MA Cantab

Conductor and composer (Berlin State Opera, RSB Sinfonieorchester)