Classical Music

The View from the Front Row at the Dresden Semperoper, Germany
The Dresden Staatskapelle with Fabio Luisi

Are you a Classical Music Fan ?

We would be pleased to recommend great destinations to hear world famous artistes and the cream of symphony orchestras perform, in the great cultural centres where your favourite composers used to live and work. Whether you are looking for a concert hall, a composer's house, a birthplace or grave, we can tell you how to fit it in your itinerary. We can assist you to make bookings with seating advice, find you a suitable hotel near the venue and advise you on how to best sightsee in the city where you are based.

The top destinations include:(C) Rajeev Aloysius. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Riccardo Muti, in the Musikverein, Vienna
Vienna. Wien, the world capital of Classical Music. The UNESCO World Heritage Site capital of Austria, is where Mozart, Beethoven, Johann Strauss II, Schubert and SchÖnberg (among others) all lived and worked, and have memorial graves in the Central Cemetery. The famed Vienna Philharmonic, the busy Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Symphony, the Volksoper and the fabled Theater an der Wien are the main organisations. There are many classical music tourist traps, though. The opulently lovely Golden Hall of the Musikverein has fabled acoustics based on the principle of a violin soundboard. The Brahms Hall is great for chamber music (the best string quartets have complete composer-cycles here), song and instrumental recitals. The Konzerthaus is the other major venue, and on one glorious night in summer the gardens of the SchÖnbrunn Palace echo to the sounds of a free concert by the Wiener Philharmoniker. The beautiful Deutscheordenshaus chamber music hall is one of the oldest performing venues in the world.

Salzburg Festival. Whether you arrive in the picture postcard beautiful Salzburg at Easter or in Summer, you can be assured of memorable music and opera in the birthplace of Mozart. The resident orchestra is the Dresden Staatskapelle, with the Vienna Philharmonic being in regular attendance as usual. The city also formed the backdrop for the movie, The Sound of Music (1965). The Festival's creator, Herbert von Karajan was born here, and has a street named after him near the Großes Festspielhaus he helped to make a reality. You can catch an opera or show at the Marionette Theatre, or a chamber music concert at the Mozarteum.

Berlin. The other city with a Karajanstraße is the German capital of(C) Rajeev Aloysius. The Monteverdi Choir,ORER and Sir John Eliot Gardiner in the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Germany Berlin. It is home to seven professional symphony orchestras, many professional Chamber Orchestras such as the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, three opera houses and a multitude of other concert halls and fine recording venues. While most music fans visit to hear the world famous Berliner Philharmoniker, you will not be disappointed by the variety of affordable (some free) options  available.

Baden-Baden. In 2011, the Berliner Philharmoniker after a long relationship, parted ways with the Salzburg Easter Festival. The beneficiary of this has been the central German city of Baden-Baden (German: bathing, bathing), which is about 90 minutes from Frankfurt International Airport by train. It is a spa town on the western foothills of the Black Forest, also within striking distance of ZÜrich, Basel and MÜnich. Its Festspielhaus is host to some of the best ensembles and soloists, and is a new mandatory stop for most major orchestras from Europe or the USA.

Amsterdam. A little city boasts one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The setting is a beautiful, acoustically excellent hall, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The attached Chamber Music hall attracts some of the best recitals.

The City of a Hundred Spires has a multitude of fine ensembles and venues, including the celebrated Czech Philharmonic resident at the Dvořák Hall in the Rudolfinum, the conductorless Prague Chamber Orchestra, The State Opera, and more. Dvořák, Smetana, Janáček and Suk are some composers who lived and worked here. There are two major festivals, the Prague Spring and Prague Autumn.

(C) Rajeev Aloysius. Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim. Kongress-und-Kulturzentrum,Lucerne,SwitzerlandLucerne Festival. You can listen to all of the great orchestras of the world, including a selection of the American Big 6, all in one historic city in September, at the Congress-and-Culture-Centre (Luzern KKL). For the sheer world class quality of the recitals, celebrity artistes, repertoire and orchestras on offer, it cannot be matched. Be warned that accommodation and ticket prices are equally awesome.

Edinburgh Festival. Spend a memorable August in Scotland, at the centre of the  Edinburgh International Festival, and all other festivals which have been created around it. The great musicians, singers, conductors, actors, authors, painters and film makers flock to the Scottish capital for the largest cultural event in the world. Scotland the Brave and other traditional tunes on bagpipes echo through the hills. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a spectacle in the dramatic backdrop of the castle, at the top of the Royal Mile, the last of which is capped by a dazzling fireworks display.

The Proms. From June to September, London's Royal Albert Hall presents major world renowned artistes, performing at their best before an enthusiastic audience "in the Round". While in London, you are spoiled for choice: you should also visit the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the English National Opera, Cadogan Hall, the Barbican and the intimate Wigmore Hall for chamber music (which has the best acoustics in town) among others.

Birmingham. The English city boasts Symphony Hall, which has the best acoustics of any large hall in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is also one of the country's finest.

The fabled Teatro alla Scala (known as La Scala) designed by Piermarini has a long history of producing operas with world class singers. The loggionisti "up in the Gods" (high in the balcony cheap seats), are deemed to be some of the most knowledgeable opera critics in the world. The boos for off-pitch singing and cheers for their heroes and heroines are both something to experience (but are not encouraged). For orchestral music the premier venue is the Auditorium di Milano la Verdi.

Verbier Festival
. In the centre of the Swiss Alps in Summer, a stunningly beautiful panoramic village suddenly becomes the centre and a sanctuary of truly great chamber music making. It was famous for being the only surefire way of hearing the reclusive Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich. Her friends ensure that high standards are maintained.

Ravinia Music Festival. The USA's finest orchestra, the Chicago Symphony retires to Ravinia, in summer. Great artistes, Great Music, Great Venue, just an hour out of the Windy City.

Dresden. The eponymous opera house designed by Gottfried Semper, is the venue for opera and concerts by the Staatskapelle Dresden, which began as a court orchestra in 1548, making it the oldest orchestra in the world. The building is as opulent and beautiful as the Musikverein, lovingly restored after the disastrous floods of 2002. Tickets are subsidised, and are reasonable by European standards.

Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Scandinavian (Finland) centre for great operas in July. Most of them are in Ovanlinna, a medieval castle. You would be hard pressed to find a more breathtaking lakeside setting for any cultural event  (Verbier excepted)

Singapore Arts Festival.
Great Music closer to home. A short three hour hop takes you to the Lion City, and the Esplanade: the Theatres on the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands Theatre for Musicals. The Victoria Concert Hall is the other, more traditional venue. In addition, you get to see touring Broadway musicals.

Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Great venues offering both Western and Chinese classical music, as well as ballet, theatre, poetry readings and more. The beautiful Victoria Harbour has added attractions during the festival.

Brescia and Bergamo International Piano Festival.
This Italian festival, founded in 1964, has both recitals as well as orchestral concerts with the piano in the spotlight. While costs of accommodation can be high, great orchestras, celebrity pianists, and witnessing the annual "La consegna del Premio" award, and two beautiful venues compensate. Bergamo lies 50km east of Milan, and Brescia to the 43km east of that, towards Venice.

Sydney Festival
The Sydney Festival is in January. The most famous venue in Asia Pacific is the Sydney Opera House.

New York Central Park
The New York Philharmonic has free concerts every summer in Central Park. In 2015, the Avery Fischer Hall at the Lincoln Center, long the home of the New York Philharmonic, was named for film moghul David Geffen.

More Festivals ? Saratoga New York, Schleswig-Holstein Germany, White Nights St. Petersburg, Tanglewood Boston, Glyndebourne England, Drottningholm Sweden?
Absolutely! see: Other Festivals. There are many more choices available.

   - R.A.

We would be pleased to work out itineraries that can take in one or more of these. You should book about 4 months before to ensure accommodation and seats at concerts/operas at festival time. Please contact us for more details.
See also BachTrack | Gramophone: Festivals

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