Over 200 festivals are held throughout the country each year. From the prestigious world-class festivals to the smaller events closely tied to a particular region, they are all greatly influenced by the special history of this country, by the interaction with the surrounding landscape, the aura of the cities and the manifold culinary traditions. And, of course, by the people who live here.
Making contrary sounds audible and visible in music, on theater stages and in the entire city is the aim of the Wiener Festwochen. But this event’s name also contains the word ”Fest”. And it is, indeed, a huge celebration each year in front of City Hall that kicks off this festival, which combines cultural experiences of the highest order with socially relevant themes and objectives.
Vienna is one of the leading cultural capitals of the world. With its rich artistic offerings, the Wiener Festwochen has in the sixty years of its existence earned an important place in the festival scene as an innovative event with an emphasis on joint projects with international artists and featuring a wide variety of genres: opera, theater, concerts, performance art, and installations.
A large number of places throughout the city serve as performance venues, ranging from the MuseumsQuartier — one of the world’s ten largest cultural complexes — and the Theater an der Wien to the Musikverein, Schauspielhaus and the city’s markets and squares. Classical and contemporary operas and concerts, legendary theater marathons such as Peter Stein’s recent adaption of Dostoevsky’s ”Demons”, and the Vienna Boys’ Choir singing in council-housing projects are as much a part of the festival’s programme as the annual ”Into the City” series, which aims at addressing various communities in Vienna and drawing them into the cultural activities of the city.
With ”Bed and Breakfast”, guest workers demonstrate their hospitality, while ”A Long Night at the Naschmarkt” not only features musical performances at the market but also takes a look at the people who work here. The Wiener Festwochen therefore not only acts as a mirror for this city’s love of culture and high festival spirits, but also promotes an openness toward other cultures, including the cultures represented in this very city.
Dates: May/June www.festwochen.at
Jazz Fest Wien
Jazz at the Opera: when for two weeks during the summer the stalls and boxes fill with exuberant audiences and the sounds of jazz resonate throughout the imposing stage area, the annual Jazz Fest has once again taken over the Vienna State Opera.
Herbie Hancock has been here, as well as Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson and the ”Father of Bossa Nova”, João Gilberto. And because the organizers of Austria’s largest jazz event are not too fussy about the boundaries of the genre, Juliette Greco and Ray Charles as well. They have all graced the stage of the Vienna State Opera, built between 1863 and 1869 as one of the first monumental structures on the city’s Ring. It is not only the great jazz stars who appear here and the undogmatic programming of the event but also the extraordinary performance venues that create the special atmosphere of the Jazz Fest Wien. For the entire summer the square in front of City Hall is transformed into a landscape of culture and international culinary delicacies. The courtyard of the imposing City Hall is where jazz legend Joe Zawinul celebrated his 70th birthday, Gilberto Gil enthralled the crowds and the stars of the Vienna’s downbeat scene jammed until the break of dawn. An off-beat open-air venue is the Spittelau district-heating facility, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Another festival district is the MuseumsQuartier, one of the world’s ten largest cultural complexes, whose combination of Baroque façades, modern museums, galleries, excellent food, concert halls, dance stages and courtyards act as a wonderful oasis in the middle of a vibrating city. And of course there are the city’s established jazz clubs, such as Porgy & Bess and the venerable Jazzland.
Local musicians are a particular focal point of the festival organizers. Thus, the Jazz Fest Wien offers urban ambience with a mix of international and Austrian musicians, who each summer join forces to transform Vienna into a center of jazz.
ImPulsTanz — Vienna International Dance Festival
For five weeks each year, thousands of professional dancers, choreographers, teachers and students from all over the world turn Vienna into the dance capital of the world.
When at the end of the eighteenth century couples began twirling in three-quarter time in the dance halls of Vienna’s suburbs, it was still considered vulgar. But this could not halt the triumphant march of the Viennese waltz around the globe. Vienna has remained the waltz capital of the world, which is evidenced by the innumerable dancers one can observe on New Year’s Eve. And the waltz is, of course, also the opening dance each year at the glittering Opera Ball.
But the fact that Vienna is in the twenty-first century still one of the world’s dance capitals is due in large part to the ImPulsTanz International Dance Festival. Illustrious choreographers such as Wim Vandekeybus, Marie Chouinard and Mark Tompkins have presented their works here and remain closely tied to what is now Austria’s largest dance festival. The festival is also committed to the promotion of contemporary dance, and in 1996 the danceWEB project was launched. The networking of various European dance institutes is intended to provide orientation for dancers and choreographers and support for their artistic careers through scholarships, continuing-education programmes and co-productions.
Over the period of one month, ImPulsTanz presents forty productions at venues such as the MuseumsQuartier, the Schauspielhaus and the Akademietheater. Eighty instructors lead nearly 200 workshops with over 5,000 class registrations and 3,000 students.
In the series [8:tension] the contemporary dance establishment meets the trendsetting productions of tomorrow. Even after over twenty years, the ImPulsTanz festival remains focused on the constant search for new trends and movements in contemporary dance.
Grafenegg Music Festival
The combination of culinary pleasures, the atmosphere of the historic castle and landscape gardens, and the modern architecture, along with a world-class concert programme, makes the Grafenegg Music Festival a delight for all the senses.
A summer day in Grafenegg could go like this: after a visit to the castle — Austria’s most important historic castle complex, whose origins go back to the Late Gothic and Renaissance — you take a stroll through the English landscape garden. With your picnic basket, which was stocked according to your wishes at the picnic pavilion, you find a shady spot beneath the centuries-old trees, next to the goldfish pond or on one of the lawns in front of the castle. After so much relaxation, your senses are now free for fully enjoying a concert.
As a continuation of the tradition of the English landscape garden, which created places of pleasure nestled in the middle of nature, two prize-winning event venues were constructed in recent years at prominent locations on the grounds: the Cloud Tower and the Auditorium concert hall. The Cloud Tower juts into the sky like a giant sculpture and crowns the grandstands of Europe’s largest open-air arena, which also boasts outstanding acoustics. The castle, grounds, Cloud Tower, and Auditorium are in use throughout the entire year for events ranging from New Year’s concerts and Christmas programmes to concerts as part of the Grafenegg Music Summer. And Grafenegg Advent has long become an institution in Austria’s pre-Christmas season.
But the annual highlight is the classical-music festival, directed by Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder. This is where the world’s top orchestras, such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by the likes of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Franz Welser Möst, encounter such superb soloists as Lang Lang. And mention should be made of the ”house orchestra” of the festival, of course: the superb Lower Austrian Tonkünstler.
The perfect way to wrap up the evening is a visit to the Castle Tavern or a dinner in the State Rooms of the castle. Enjoy prize-winning Austrian cuisine accompanied by fine wines from the nearby Wachau and Kamp Valleys or from the sunny slopes of the Wagram wine region.
Dates: August — September
Every year since 1997 artists from all over the world have been coming to Krems and vicinity to explore their own musical roots at an innovative, off-beat and often surprising festival.
Throughout history rivers have delineated borders while at the same time serving as connecting corridors for a variety of peoples and cultures. Even today the Danube links the East with the West and flows through ten countries on its way to the Black Sea. In Krems, located at one end of the Wachau Valley, one encounters at every step remnants of a millennium-old culture that has melded manifold influences to create a distinctive identity. What better place, then, could there be for a festival devoted to exploring one’s own roots and at the same time experiencing completely new musical worlds?
The term ”glatt und verkehrt” literally means ”knit and purl”, a knitting pattern that is a synonym for a harmonious structure, a surface that is smooth despite consisting of contrary elements. Austria’s largest festival for traditional music ”knits” together the old and the new, the traditional and the innovative from all over the globe.
The covered courtyard of the Winzer Krems winery, with its marvelous views of the city, the Danube and Göttweig Abbey, is the festival’s main performance venue While the sounds of Latin-American rhythms, hammered dulcimer or free-bass accordions fill the air in the courtyard and Finnish overtone singers, Tunisian oud virtuosos and the brass band from Krems take turns on the stage, fine wines emerge from the cellars and fine regional foods are served in the adjacent tent area. The Baroque Göttweig Abbey, perched high above the Danube, is the home of the music workshops, where for two weeks nearly everything is taught that is related to traditional and contemporary music. The arcade courtyard of the Minorite monastery in Stein, next to the Klangraum Krems in the Minorite church, is a charming new open-air venue for festival events. And when the apricot is the center of attention at the traditional Apricot Fair at Spitz Castle, Glatt&Verkehrt is also on hand, as it has been every year since 2001, to present some new folk music as a contrast to the age-old culinary traditions.
The initiators of the Glatt&Verkehrt festival are convinced that creativity has its roots in the exploration of one’s own origins as well as in encounters that transcend all borders. And the festival provides impressive proof of this year after year.
Liszt Festival Raiding
Wunderkind, piano virtuoso, playboy and abbé, citizen of the world and self-proclaimed ”gypsy musician”. Franz Liszt’s music is as versatile and contradictory as its creator. In 2011 Burgenland celebrates the composer’s 200th birthday.
Beyond the last foothills of the Sopron Mountains the land becomes flat and the sky grows large. This is where Central Burgenland opens up to the Hungarian Basin, and the Pannonian climate ensures outstanding conditions for the wines produced in this region. The Blaufränkisch made here is characterized by a ruby-red colour and a spicy, fruity aroma.
It was in the middle of ”Blaufränkisch country” that Franz Liszt was born on 22 October 1811 in a former administration building of the royal Esterházy family, in the village of Raiding. This farm town, as well as the entire province of Burgenland, belonged at that time to the Hungarian half of the monarchy. Throughout his entire lifetime, Franz Liszt retained a close connection to his homeland and to the music of the region. Even after he had become famous all across Europe, he continued to refer to himself as a ”gypsy musician”.
The shingled house where Liszt was born still stands today and now serves as a museum. On the occasion of the founding of the Liszt Festival in 2006, the Franz Liszt Concert Hall was built directly adjacent to Liszt’s birthplace. Like the surrounding farmhouses, the Concert Hall, which was awarded the Architecture Prize of the Province of Burgenland, is a single-storey structure, and it seats 600 people — nearly the number of people who live in Raiding.
In celebration of Franz Liszt’s 200th birthday, Lisztomania 2011 presents a wide variety of exhibitions in Eisenstadt and Central Burgenland. Under the title ”Hear the light … see the sound”, artists from the many European countries in which Liszt performed joined forced in 2010 at Burgenland’s Cselley Mühle to focus on the relationship between music and the fine arts, as exemplified in the works of Franz Liszt. The results will be on display in 2011 in the Provincial Gallery in Eisenstadt, before the exhibition goes on tour through Europe. Liszt’s hometown of Raiding and the neighbouring parish church of Unterfrauenhaid will look at the origins and the early years of the composer as a child prodigy.
At the Franz Liszt Center Raiding, a series of piano recitals, orchestra concerts and vocal-music concerts illustrate the broad spectrum of Franz Liszt’s music. Commemorative concerts and cross-border projects that explore the work of Franz Liszt in a creative and innovative way with new works and improvisation round out the programme of the Liszt Festival. A special highlight can be experienced on 22 October, Liszt’s birthday, when Daniel Barenboim performs a selection of Liszt piano pieces.
Festival dates: January; March; June; October
Opera Festival St. Margarethen
Great Opera in One of Europe’s Oldest Quarries. Bizarre rock formations on Europe’s largest natural stage form the impressive backdrop for opulent opera productions every summer.
For 2,000 years sandstone was extracted from one of Europe’s oldest quarries, thus creating a bizarre rock landscape that resembles a monumental opera stage set, and which today is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
In 1996 the first opera performance took place here: Verdi’s ”Nabucco”, with Oriental-like landscape scenery as a backdrop. Europe’s largest natural stage was born. Staging opera productions that are popular while featuring a top-cast of singers, the festival now attracts over 20,000 opera lovers each year. A wide-ranging programme presents not only international opera stars but also jazz and pop greats in open-air performances. And the ”Children’s Opera” series stages a fairytale opera each year, giving young audiences, as well, the opportunity to immerse themselves in a world of magic and wonder.
Culinary delicacies are in abundant supply in the newly designed Foyer Park. The symbiosis between the chalk-rich soil and the advantageous microclimate resulting from the proximity to Lake Neusiedl create the conditions for the outstanding wines of the region, which are presented at a number of vendor stands. Every year a jury selects a ”festival wine” that is especially suited to the theme of that opera season.
It is the special magic of this location, along with the musical and culinary impressions, that make Opera Festival St. Margarethen such an unforgettable experience.
Dates: June to August
Summer after summer Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s styriarte festival in Graz is the place to be when it comes to new interpretations of old masters.
It is the relentless intellectual curiosity that Nikolaus Harnoncourt has in common with his great-grandfather Archduke Johann. With his natural-history collections, the elder laid the foundation for the Joanneum Provincial Museum in Graz, while the younger was driven by his musicological passion to form the Concentus Musicus Wien, which under Harnoncourt’s direction revolutionized the performance of Renaissance and Baroque music. Harnoncourt’s artistic demands were also brought to bear on the standards for the performances of the styriarte festival, which was founded in 1985 in his hometown of Graz. Since that time, over a period of one month in the summer the Styrian festival offers fresh perspectives of our musical heritage and reflects the diversity found today in approaching the music between the Middle Ages and the Romantic period.
The splendid imperial Mausoleum; the Landhaus in Graz, one of the most magnificent Renaissance structures north of the Alps; the imposing Eggenberg Castle, the most important castle complex of Styria and modelled after the Spanish Escorial; and the historic city center of Graz, which has been named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site; are only a few of the performance locations. For one event the festival leaves Graz for the town of Stainz. In this case, Harnoncourt is retracing his family history: Archduke Johann was not only the first elected mayor of Stainz; this was also the seat of the Counts of Meran, the direct descendents of Archduke Johann through his morganatic marriage to Anna Plochl, and a family of which Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s mother was also a member.
In addition to the Concentus Musicus Wien, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, regular guests at the festival include such early-music stars as Jordi Savall, Quatuor Mosaïques and Armonico Tributo Austria. At this festival, the artists hone works by the old masters with equal parts of relaxation and concentration, and each year inquisitive audiences descend on Graz to hear the results.
While the festival focused on individual composers in its early years, since 1992 the styriarte has selected a particular theme for each season. The 2011 edition of the festival opens with a semi-staged production of Smetana’s ”The Bartered Bride”, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Dates: June —July
The familiar and the unknown, the innovative and the traditional meet at the Carinthia Summer, whose goal it is to break free of the constraints of the conventional music repertoire.
That new music, if perfectly played, has the ability to captivate audiences is demonstrated each year by the Carinthian Summer. Austrian premieres, composers in residence, and — as a central element of the festival — the performance of a different church opera each year testify to the passion for innovation and experimentation that characterize this festival. Founded in 1969, the Carinthian Summer has a knack for skilfully mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar, and it is not unknown for a tango to find itself paired with a traditional Austrian folk song. For the festival organizers, the dialogue between composers, performers, and audiences is a vital factor, as are the classes and events for and with children.
In view of the quality and diversity of the Carinthian Summer’s programming, it is not surprising that the list of artists closely associated with the festival reads like a ”who’s who” of modern and classical music and includes names like Gottfried von Einem, Arvo Pärt, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, and Gidon Kremer.
No less diverse than the event programme are the performance venues. Ossiach Abbey, which dates from the 11th century and was furnished magnificently in the Baroque period, the mountain church in Tiffen, Günther Domenig’s avant-garde Steinhaus, the Gothic church of St. Martin in Feldkirchen, the Glanegg castle ruins, and the Congress Center Villach — the ”second home” of the festival — are locations that are determined to break away from the increasingly limited music repertoire favoured by most concert organizers.
The Carinthian Summer 2011 focuses on Darius Milhaud, whose staged cantata ”The Return of the Lost Son” continues the tradition of the Ossiach church opera.
Dates: July — August
Ars Electronica Festival
From trial balloon to worldwide success, what began as a pilot project has in the past thirty years become one of the world’s most important festivals for media arts, which each September turns the city of Linz into the capital of the cutting edge.
For nine days at the beginning of September it was to serve as the ”nucleus for new futures for the city”: the former Linz tobacco factory, Austria’s first large steel-framed structure, which closed down at the end of 2009. ”This is a trial balloon in every sense”, said event organizer Gerfried Stocker in advance. And a location with great symbolism for a festival that in 2010 again devoted itself to the interface of art, technology and society — this time with the exhibition ”Repair — Ready to Pull the Lifeline”.
With the selection of this location the Ars Electronica Festival once again remained faithful to its tradition of uncompromisingly turning its back on conventional conference spaces and cultural centers in favour of seeking an artistic-scientific discussion with the public. As part of the Cloud of Sound event and accompanied by a soundtrack by Peter Valentin, the train of the future was presented in a supersonic experiment. Chris Jordan pulled 2.4 million pieces of plastic out of the Pacific Ocean and arranged them to create an impressive picture, and the Japanese robot Asimo celebrated his Austrian debut. These are just three of over 200 individual events, designed with much imagination, idealism, and expertise, that are concerned with creating scenarios for an alternative future.
In its specific orientation and long-term continuity, the Ars Electronica is today a platform for digital art and media culture that is unique in the entire world. In addition to the festival, which was founded in 1979, it encompasses the Prix Ars Electronica as a scout for the newest trends in art and technology, the Ars Electronica Futurelab as a gateway to business and science, and the Museum of the Future in the new Ars Electronica Center.
Salzburg lies in the heart of Europe, in the center between the South and North and the East and West of the reunited continent. But for six weeks a year Salzburg is the center of the world, when the most prestigious music festival on earth opens with a celebration on the city’s squares and streets.
Ninety years ago the Salzburg Festival was founded by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Max Reinhardt and Richard Strauss as a peace project aimed at reconciling the peoples of a devastated Europe. It was to offer opera and theater, and of both, as Hofmannsthal put it, the very best. Today the Salzburg Festival is the most celebrated festival in the world, and the splendid setting for this jewel is provided by the Baroque city center and the surrounding area, which world traveler Alexander von Humboldt called one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.
The performance schedule consists of opera, theater and concerts, and offers a broad spectrum ranging from Mozart — the festival’s genius loci — to the modern, from classic productions to avant-garde experiments, and from Hofmannsthal’s ”Everyman” to world premieres by contemporary playwrights and composers. Salzburg thus presents a wider range of styles and genres than any other festival, and everybody who is anybody in the arts world gathers every summer in the city whose architecture seems to have been created over a period of centuries for the sole purpose of hosting a festival.
Even ninety years after its founding the Salzburg Festival demonstrates an undiminished capacity for rejuvenation. New stage directors and conductors have been engaged, new plays and compositions performed, the performance schedule expanded and broadened and new performance venues acquired. New music has long been a focal point of the festival. And in 2010 the youngest ”Everyman” since the first performance of the work in Salzburg made his debut: Nicholas Ofczarek, with Birgit Minichmayr in the role of the Paramour, in a critically acclaimed and popular production. In 2011, in a monumental undertaking, the director Nicolas Stemann will stage both parts of ”Faust” on Perner Island.
Situated very close to the Alps and the scenic Salzkammergut lake region, Salzburg is the perfect starting point for daytime excursions out into the countryside. But by the early evening, the city’s streets and squares are again filled with elegantly dressed festival guests, and the air is filled with the very atmosphere that makes the Salzburg Festival so extraordinary. Then the Festival Hall, theaters, churches and Cathedral Square all become the stage for a festival whose philosophy, in the words of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, is: ”Dramatic acting in the strongest sense”.
International Jazz Festival Saalfelden
Jazz on the Mountain, the imposing Alps, deep-green mountain pastures and a lovely lake form the backdrop for Europe’s most important festival for contemporary jazz.
Salzburg is a bustling place in summer. After all, this is the time of the Salzburg Festival. The SommerSzene, held at the same time, addresses a completely different audience. Then there is the Jazz Festival in Saalfelden, which endeavours to offer fans a type of music that is honest, unaffected and a bit rough. It strives to be a place for experimentation, where the most innovative playing can be heard. The Jazz Festival Saalfelden has long established itself as a worthy counterpart to the Salzburg Festival — in the field of contemporary jazz.
What began in 1979 in a horse barn has long since established its main stage at the Congress Saalfelden. There are also concerts in the Kunsthaus Nexus and free performances in front of the Town Hall. All in all, the festival features four days of top-flight jazz in the middle of Salzburg Province’s spectacular Alpine scenery. So what could be more logical at this ”jazz summit” than to take the music up to the mountain pastures as well? The culinary offerings at the Steinalm and Vorderkühbühelhof Alpine farms, the old Leogang smithy, and the Huggenberg mountain inn ensure that one does not have to haul heavy picnic baskets. The mountain concerts are also free of charge.
The festival organizers consciously try to interpret the term ”jazz” as flexibly as possible and allow space for innovative projects. The stylistically diverse programme encompasses traditional sounds as well as modern trends in jazz, with an emphasis on experimentation and cross-genre projects. And these offerings attract audiences that are not afraid of engaging in new listening experiences.
Innsbruck Festival of Early Music
In the Renaissance and Baroque, Innsbruck was one of Europe’s most important centers of music. The Innsbruck Festival, the oldest existing festival for early music, carries on this tradition.
As the royal seat of the Habsburgs from the late Middle Ages well into the Baroque period, Innsbruck attracted the most celebrated musicians of the day. Masters like Paul Hofhaimer, Heinrich Isaac, and Pietro Antonio Cesti were all active as court musicians in the Tyrolean city, and the first freestanding theater in the German-speaking region was the site of splendid opera performances.
Since 1976 the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music has been carrying on this grand tradition. As one of the most renowned festivals of its kind, the Innsbruck event attracts the most illustrious artists of the early-music scene, including Nikolaus Harnoncourt, John Eliot Gardiner, Alan Curtis, Jordi Savall, Sigiswald Kuijken and long-time festival director René Jacobs. In addition to the famous original-instrument ensembles, opera stars such as Jennifer Larmore and the countertenor Derek Lee Ragin are also regular guests. Since 2010 Alessandro De Marchi has been artistic director of the Innsbruck Festival.
The festival is accompanied by a varied supporting programme. Backstage events provide a glimpse behind the scenes, and at the lunchtime concerts in the Hofgarten visitors can eat and drink while enjoying the music. Musicians playing festive processional music fill the city’s squares, just as they did in the days of the Tyrolean archdukes. And the golden age of the Renaissance is brought back to life during the Castle Fest at Ambras Castle, while at the ”Long Night of Music”, ancient music can be heard from sundown until daybreak.
Ambras Castle, with its famous Spanish Hall, a light-flooded gem of Renaissance architecture; the Giant’s Hall in Innsbruck’s Hofburg, which Maria Theresa had designed in the Viennese Rococo style; the Silver Chapel of the Hofkirche and numerous other historic venues all serve as the settings for opulent opera productions and performances by renowned ensembles.
In 2011 the festival opens with Georg Philipp Telemann’s only surviving opera seria: ”Flavius Bertaridus, König der Longobarden.” Under the direction of Attilio Cremonesi, Johann Adolf Hasse’s opera ”Romolo ed Ersilia” will be staged 245 years after its first performance, which also took place in Innsbruck. The ”BAROQUE OPERA YOUNG” series will this year present Francesco Cavalli’s ”La Calisto”.
Dates: Innsbruck Festival of Early Music August Ambras Castle Concerts July
Opera on the Lake, with the Bregenz Festival an evening of opera begins long before the conductor lifts his baton, when guests are brought over the water to the floating stage by ship — and thus become part of the spectacle themselves.
It must have been the city’s splendid location directly on Lake Constance and the beautiful surrounding area that in 1946 gave a few resourceful people the idea of building a stage on two anchored barges, thus laying the foundation for the Bregenz Festival. From the very beginning the lake and the lovely natural surroundings were intended to play a central role in the opera productions. Now, over sixty years later, Austria’s cultural life would be unimaginable without the Bregenz Festival, and the floating stage has long been the largest of its kind.
For four weeks each summer audiences in Bregenz experience monumental opera productions under open skies in a hitherto unknown intensity. It is therefore no wonder that in 2008, when the producers of the James Bond film ”A Quantum of Solace” were combing the earth in search of spectacular locations, they were bowled over by this setting. For two weeks the filming in Feldkirch and on the Bregenz floating stage, with its huge ”Tosca” eye, caused an unimaginable tumult in these two towns. The ”Tosca” production in front of 1,500 extras formed the background for the film’s key scene, while Puccini’s music delivered the dramatic soundtrack.
Opera performances in the Festspielhaus, orchestral concerts and guest appearances by theater troupes, contemporary works in the Workshop Theater, in the Festspielhaus, and in the Kunsthaus Bregenz, as well as numerous events as part of the ”cross-culture” young people’s series, complete the program of a festival for which the drama does not end at the stage ramp.
The fascination of the Bregenz Festival can be attributed to the combination of popular opera and a bold, edgy artistic profile. This is evidenced by the gratifying balance for the 2010 season, which, in addition to the staging of Verdi’s ”Aida” on the floating stage, also presented a retrospective of the Polish-Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. This successful strategy is to be continued in the coming years.
In 2011 and 2012 Umberto Giordano’s ”André Chénier”, equal parts romantic drama and historic thriller, will be presented on the floating stage. A new series of world premieres of commissioned works will be kicked off by the opera ”Miss Fortune / Achterbahn”, by the British composer Judith Weir.
A musical respite from the daily routine. For over twenty-five years the Schubertiade has accomplished the seemingly impossible: retaining its intimacy while becoming the world’s premier Schubert festival.
Back when a circle of friends and music enthusiasts assembled around Franz Schubert to give house concerts — with Schubert at the pianos — and often undertake excursions out into the countryside, the term ”Schubertiade” was born. And this intimate character of Vorarlberg’s Schubert festival, in which the focus is completely on the music, comes very close to replicating the atmosphere of those historic events. Giving Schubert the place he deserves next to Mozart and Beethoven was the intention when the Schubertiade was founded over twenty-five years ago, and the uncompromising dedication to the art of Franz Schubert has remained.
With the renovation of Markus Sittikus Hall in 2005, the Schubertiade was able to return to its original home of Hohenems after a fifteen-year hiatus. Schwarzenberg, a town of 1,700 inhabitants filled with the lovely shingled houses typical of the Bregenzerwald, has established itself as the second festival venue. Set in the midst of lush, green Alpine pastures, extensive forests, and the rocky outcroppings of the surrounding mountains, the Angelika Kauffmann Hall, with its simple wood construction, is regarded as one of the very best chamber-music halls in all of Austria.
The beautiful Alpine setting, offering opportunities for both relaxing strolls and demanding hikes, and encounters with the world’s finest singers create the special magic of the Schubertiade. Chamber music and piano recitals are additional focal points. The programme is complemented by occasional orchestral concerts, readings and master classes. These are qualities that each year attract a loyal community of festival-goers who want to enjoy a musical event of world-class quality — a festival whose spirit and singular atmosphere make the guest artists, as well, eager to return to the Schubertiade year after year.
The 2011 Schubertiade will again attract a ”who’s who” of the music world. But another important festival tradition will also be continued: nurturing young talent by scheduling artists at the beginning of their career, giving audiences the opportunity to make some exciting new discoveries. The musical offerings range from Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Franz Liszt — whose 200th birthday is celebrated in 2011 — to Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf. And, of course, an abundance of music by Franz Schubert.
International Accordion Festival Vienna
The virtually limitless variety of the idiom of this underrated instrument sets the tone at the International Accordion Festival Vienna.
Accordion, squeezebox, Swiss organ, concertina, hand organ: the variety of names it possesses reflects the diversity of the construction and the musical language of this instrument, which is spotlighted at the month-long International Accordion Festival Vienna.
With this festival, the accordion returns to its roots, as it were. It was the Viennese instrument maker Cyrill Demian who first patented an instrument called ”accordion”. It quickly became an established component in the musical life of the city, taking its place alongside the two violins, contra-guitar and clarinet used to play the traditional ”Schrammel” music. From Vienna the accordion began to spread around the world, where it was adopted by a wide variety of cultures for their folk music.
Viennese folk music can be heard at the International Accordion Festival Vienna, of course, as well as styles ranging from klezmer and the French musette to zydeco. Performers from all over the world will also perform blues, chansons, contemporary music and jazz in churches, theaters, at the city’s MuseumsQuartier cultural center, and as part of the ”Gürtel Late Night Tour”, held in hip music clubs such as Chelsea and Rhiz. At the ”Silent-Film Matinee” series, accordion players perform live to provide the soundtrack to classic silent films, and kids of all ages can enjoy the ”Magic Afternoon” events. This festival promises unlimited musical enjoyment. As Austrian accordion virtuoso Otto Lechner says, ”The accordion is free!”
Dates: February — March
The ”Wienerlied” from Pop to Freud. This celebration of the ”Vienna sound” is not concerned with the stubborn preservation of the typical ”Wienerlied”, but with its continuing evolution.
”Listening to Viennese singers like Mizzi Starecek and Maly Nagl leaves me with the same affectionate feeling that I get from Bessie Smith when she sings slow ballads like ‘Far Away Blues’,” says Roland Neuwirth, the leader of the group Extremschrammeln. And he describes how a completely new musical world opened up for him — even more exotic than that of the old Mississippi blues — when he first heard vintage recordings of the Viennese song style known as the ”Wienerlied”, providing him with an adequate form of expression. It is due to pioneers like Roland Neuwirth that the ”Wienerlied” — like the city of Vienna itself — has become cosmopolitan, and today its influences range from jazz, blues, soul and pop to classical music.
The ”wean hean” (”vienna sound”) festival can take credit for bringing the ”Wienerlied” in from the Viennese suburbs every year and placing it completely in the spotlight — without losing any of its anarchy, offbeat wit, contrariness and edginess. Neurotic navel-gazing is still permitted, of course, and the ”Wienerlied” has on occasion even taken up residence on the couch at Vienna’s Freud Museum. But otherwise the festival is concerned with thinking outside the box, presenting the ”Wienerlied” sung in the Serbian language in seven-quarter time or in classic reggae style. Very popular are also the ”City-to-City Encounters”, in which the music of other cities is confronted with Viennese music.
In addition to showcasing such established stars of the scene as Roland Neuwirth, Karl Hodina, and Kollegium Kalksburg, the festival is also always on the lookout for new groups. The festival events take place at traditional locations like the Bockkeller, in Vienna’s Ottakring neighbourhood — the absolute epicenter of Viennese music — and rustic wine taverns known as ”Heurigen”, as well as at unexpected venues such as the jazz club Porgy & Bess, Schönbrunn’s Palmenhaus and the Technisches Museum. Regardless of the location, artists and audiences alike are invited to overcome the borders in their heads and risk a fresh look at the Viennese musical tradition.
Music and literature at the Loisium. From the middle of the vineyards rises the aluminium façade of American architect Steven Holl’s cube that is the Visitors’ Center Loisium. Opened in 2003, the stunning structure serves as a signal that the old wine-growing town of Langenlois is adept at linking the modern and the traditional. This theme is also taken up by the Loisiarte music and literature festival.
A perfect climate, ideal soil and a long winegrowing tradition make the Lower Austrian town of Langenlois something of a competence center when it comes to wine. The Loisium Adventure World of Wine invites visitors to experience the fascination of wine with all their senses. The tour leads through the 900-year-old labyrinth of old wine cellars and up to the atmospheric courtyard of a former wine estate before descending underground again.
Since 2006 this has also been the site of the Loisiarte: for four days in March, classical and contemporary music is combined with literature. Every year the festival devotes each event to one of the four points of the compass and features one Austrian composer as that season’s composer in residence, who is also greatly involved in the programming of that festival. Wine-tasting is, of course, a part of each concert, with the focus on a different fine Langenlois wine at each event. And afterwards the restaurant of the adjacent Loisium Hotel serves a special ”Cultural Pleasures” dinner corresponding to the theme of the event.
In the 2011 season the Loisiarte again takes guests to various parts of the world, this year with music and literature from the US, Brazil, Scandinavia and Austria. The composer in residence, Gerd Kühr, presents some of his own compositions and also features two students from his master class, who have composed works especially for the Loisiarte.
wellenklaenge. Lunz am See
From bathing to break-dancing. The crystal-clear waters of Lake Lunz and the forests and mountains of Lower Austria’s Voralpen region provide the backdrop for a festival that devotes itself to transcending all borders between styles and genres.
Evidence for the fact that art and nature can be combined with practical use and pleasure is provided by the Lunz-based artist Hans Kupelwieser with his award-winning floating stage on Lake Lunz.
The seating area, installed on a steep slope on the northern shore of the lake, blends naturally into the natural surroundings and, together with the floating stage, makes up part of the lake’s swimming area. Each evening for three weeks in July, the stage emerges from beneath the lake’s surface and the stepped sundeck is transformed into a covered seating area for the performance. There is something about this calm modernity, which merges so harmoniously into the surrounding scenery, that also contributes to the spirit of the wellenklaenge festival.
It has become a tradition for internationally renowned artists to meet with musicians of the region in the months leading up to the festival to develop the programme that is then presented at the opening concert. What emerges from this process is always new and different, and the only constant throughout the years is the ambition to take full advantage of the possibilities of the lake stage and the surrounding area, whether it is bringing the artists to the stage by boat, having trumpets play fanfares from the diving tower or utilizing the echoes that resound across the lake from the Hetzkogel mountain.
In Lunz, professional musicians meet amateurs, and international stars collaborate with area artists. This has contributed greatly to establishing the festival in the region. Hip hop artists are as much at home on the stage here as American singer-songwriters, the Christian Muthspiel Trio, Tristan Schulze, and the brass ensemble of the Munich Philharmonic. The wellenklaenge festival also features dance performances, breakdance acts, workshops, and readings.
Lunz, with its crystal-clear waters, is so lovely. And wonderfully calm. And with the wellenklaenge it has a small, wonderful, calmly exciting festival.
A festival of flights of fancy, the Donaufestival Krems is regarded as the festival for current artistic positions at the interface of performance and acoustic art, experimentation, pop and subculture.
It must be due to the river and the landscape on both shores, to the coming and going of various peoples in the course of the millennia, that this area possesses a heightened sense of awareness of its own roots and simultaneously an outlook that is open for new ideas. How else can the abundance of festivals in this region be explained, a region also equipped with a clear sense of tradition and an appreciation for encounters across all borders. In the series of festivals held in Austria throughout the year, the donaufestival is one of the first.
Easter is barely past when the donaufestival unpacks its surprises each year. The festival organizers give special emphasis to yet unknown artists and works as well as to a large number of productions created especially for the festival, and which can only be experienced here. But the event programme also always features plenty of internationally known stars: Rufus Wainwright presented one of his albums for the first time in Krems, the Melvins gave a legendary performance at the festival, and in 2010 the Peaches introduced their singular brand of techno punk to Austrian audiences. The Peaches also acted as a kind of curator in residence for that festival, participating in the programming and bringing several of their artist friends along to join them at the event in Krems.
Mind-bending psychedelic music and ear-blasting sounds from the noise-rockers Sonic Youth are as much a part of the donaufestival as ”discourse operettas”, music-film projects and experimental theater. In all, the donaufestival guarantees a modern and unconventional programme of events that is a refreshing departure from the mainstream.
Dates: April — May
World music from the Waldviertel. Litschau, Austria’s northernmost city, is the birthplace of the traditional ”Schrammel” music. The area surrounding the Herrensee and the Herrensee theater serves as the location for three days of Austrian folk music, sometimes conventional and occasionally eccentric.
It begins in the morning with a matinee in the festival tent and continues until late in the night: the three-day Schrammel.Klang.Festival, held on historic territory. This is where Kaspar Schrammel was born in 1811, the father of the Schrammel brothers, who created the style of ”Heurigen” and dance music that bears their name. It is thus only natural that the festival presents a wealth of Schrammel music in the classic instrumentation of two violins, clarinet and contra-guitar.
But that is not all: Roland Neuwirth and his Extremschrammeln, Kollegium Kalksburg, jazzy takes on Schrammel music by Wolfgang Puschnig and his band and countless other distinguished musicians who appear in Litschau testify to the lasting vitality of Schrammel music.
And because Schrammel music has long become a worldwide phenomenon, the Schrammel.Klang.Festival also features musicians from Asia and North and South America. But even the most diehard Schrammel fans need a break now and then, and there is no better way to relax than a dip in the refreshing water of the Herrensee. Or a hike in the rolling woodlands that give the region its name: the ”Waldviertel”. But be sure to return in time for lunch at the ”Schrammel Heurigen”, and then restrict your hiking to the ”Schrammel Path” leading to the natural stages surrounding the lake. Instead of the fragrance of the forest your nose will be filled with the smells of bratwurst and poppy-seed cake. Musicians perform on the main stage right on the lake until the small hours of the morning, and because this is, after all, ”Heurigen” and dance music, there is always plenty of wine flowing.
Intern. Chamber Music Festival Lockenhaus
The Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, hailed by the New York Times as one of ”the two most refined music festivals of all”, transforms a village of some one thousand souls in Burgenland into the center of the chamber music world for two weeks each year.
Regarded in the eighteenth century as a specialist genre, ”the music of friends”,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamber_music – citenote-0#citenote-0 chamber music first attained a degree of popular prominence in the Vienna Classical school. In the Romantic period, beginning with the late works of Beethoven, it established itself as the preferred form for musical experimentation, and since that time chamber music has occupied a central position in the works of most composers.
The musicians who come together in Lockenhaus under the direction of Gidon Kremer find there ample space for joint experimentation. Ensembles often form at the festival just to play one composition, or established groups dissolve temporarily and reassemble with newly met musicians. The rehearsals are generally open to the public and offer the audience the chance to follow the development of a work from the first reading to the final performance, while also allowing them to meet the artists outside the concert setting. What will actually be performed at a given concert is only announced twenty-four hours in advance, a peculiarity that audiences have become quite fond of, and one that gives the festival its special workshop character. The concerts offer the classics of the chamber music repertoire as well as contemporary works and ventures into uncharted musical territory. Despite the intimidating diversity of this repertory, Gidon Kremer’s loyal audiences are eager to accept whatever he offers them. Since its founding in 1981 the festival has been organized primarily by the parish priest of Lockenhaus, Josef Herowitsch, with the vital assistance of many local volunteers. This is one reason why this chamber music festival has such a familiar feeling for both artists and listeners. Many joint activities such as barbecues and the now-legendary football match ”artists vs. organizers” underscore the community-like character of the event. With the Lockenhaus Monastery, the early-Baroque Parish Church and Lockenhaus Castle, whose frescos, underground altar niches and crypt make it one of Burgenland’s most important historical monuments, the festival can boast three very attractive performance venues.
Lockenhaus is situated in the middle of Geschriebenstein Nature Reserve. The ”Castle Road” connects Lockenhaus Castle to Schlaining Castle, the ruins of Bernstein Castle and Forchtenstein Castle. Together with the nearby thermal spas and the adjoining ”Blaufränkisch land”, with its grand wine culture, Lockenhaus can offer not only a celebrated music festival but also a host of other leisure-time activities.The year 2011 will mark the thirtieth edition of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival. It will also feature the biannual Lockenhaus Academy, founded as a center for the promotion of talented young musicians right next to the former Iron Curtain. Dates: July
From whatever direction the traveler comes, he is greeted at the provincial border by a sign emblazoned with the name ”Styria” in twenty-five languages. This is a sign of a cosmopolitan spirit that is also present at the Steirischer Herbst Festival.
Graz is today a pulsating city in which one of ten inhabitants is a student, and which boasts a young cultural and festival scene. This was not always the case, and Graz was long decried as a city of pensioners, where nineteenth-century imperial civil servants from Vienna went to retire. When at the end of the 1950s a group of painters, architects, and photographers wanted to set up an exhibition hall in one of Graz’s old coffeehouses, their plan initially met with disapproval. But in 1960 they finally achieved their goal: the Forum Stadtpark was founded as a platform for art, architecture, visual arts, film, photography, and music. Its publication ”manuskripte” became a spearhead for a young, progressive body of Austrian literature. The steirischer herbst festival was initiated by the Forum Stadtpark in 1968, and long before everyone was talking about how crucial it was to cross-link the various artistic disciplines, the steirischer herbst had adopted this diversity of artistic expression as the festival’s philosophy.
The borderless and trans-genre quality of the festival is matched by its nomadic character: it sets up its headquarters at a different location each year. In 2010 the young Austrian architecture group ”feld72” constructed the festival center in the Forum Stadtpark using recyclable freight pallets, as an axis thrusting through the Forum and out into the park.
The coffee-house, club, lounge, information desk, academy, casino, and concert hall all act as the main stage of a festival whose programme brings together music, performance, dance, theater, literature, architecture, new media, and theory.
Dates: September – October
A step toward overcoming barriers. Every summer at the beginning of August, Graz becomes one huge stage for a festival of street and puppet theater.
Passengers waiting at the rail station for the train could scarcely believe their eyes when a professional ”station farewell agency” arrived to put on a splendid platform ceremony for them tailored to their wishes: romantic or stoic, complete with tears and handkerchiefs or a manly handshake. This hilarious bit of theater dealt with traditional departure rituals, and in a learning-by-doing process, the basics of the ”art of farewells” was passed on to the audience.
This is only one of the art ”happenings” of a festival that consciously turns unusual locations in the city of Graz and other Styrian communities (Gleisdorf, Weiz, Stainz) into performance venues. Every year for one and a half weeks, street theater, acrobatics, pantomime, puppet theater, children’s theater, dance, and clown acts create space for encounters between audiences and artists from all across Europe, but also among the inhabitants of the various sections of the city.
La Strada helps visitors find out more about this city and its residents and seeks encounters across all borders. This has made the festival a long-time fixture in Graz’s cultural life — a fixture with few fixed points. What has remained since the event’s founding in 1998 is the relationship with the urban surroundings and the people who live here, the uncomplicated and barrier-free access to the performances, the eagerness to experiment, and the enthusiasm and curiosity on the part of the organizers and participating artists.
Dates: July – August
In astrology, Trigon refers to a constellation. Creating connections across time and space is also the motto of the Trigonale, Carinthia’s festival of early music.
Beer-hall tables and benches filling the venerable Renaissance courtyard of the St. Veit town hall, candles burning on the tables and English and Irish beer flowing in rivers: guests at the 2010 Trigonale rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they arrived to hear pub songs of the seventeenth century as they sounded back then in London’s taverns and ale houses. And this would not be the Trigonale if this hearty musical fare were not preceded at the same location by a programme of melancholy odes by Henry Purcell, under the title ”Welcome to all the Pleasures”.
It is not only the unconventional performance venues in St. Veit and vicinity that make the Trigonale such a special event, but also the astonishing creativity of the festival’s programmers. The private library at the Baroque Ebenthal Castle, for example, which contains the world-famous ”Ebenthal Lute Tablatures”, was chosen as the venue for a recital featuring this very instrument, and audiences congregate for a midnight concert in the mystical atmosphere of the church of Tanzenberg. In view of this much open-mindedness and imagination on the part of the festival organizers it is no surprise that, because of numerous works commissioned by the festival, there is also plenty of contemporary music to be heard at the Trigonale.
Refined culture in a paradisiacal setting, as a bucolic answer to the Salzburg Festival, the Attersee Klassik festival brings outstanding cultural offerings to one of Europe’s most scenically beautiful areas.
The Attergau region with the Attersee was long cut off from the rest of the country, jealously guarded by the Habsburgs, who watched over the rich salt deposits here before the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the first travellers ”discovered” the Salzkammergut. This marked the beginning of the history of the Salzkammergut as a favoured summer resort for well-to-do Viennese as well as for many artists.
Gustav Mahler spent many summers on the Attersee, as did Johannes Brahms. Gustav Klimt immortalized the lake and the villages on its shores in many of his paintings, and Heimito von Doderer wrote parts of his famous novel ”The Strudelhof Steps” here.
The Attersee has to this day remained popular with writers, painters, and musicians. Each summer some of the loveliest locations around the lake serve as performance venues for the Attersee Klassik festival, such as Kammer Palace, which Gustav Klimt painted on several occasions, and the privately owned Berghof, whose guests included Brahms and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who read from his ”Rosenkavalier” here for the first time to a small group of friends.
The list of artists who appear at this festival each year during the months of July and August is impressive. Conductors such as Mariss Jansons and Riccardo Muti and singers like Barbara Bonney and Thomas Hampson have performed here, as have such jazz and pop stars as Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea. Numerous prominent Austrian authors, including Peter Turrini, Christoph Ransmayr and Barbara Frischmuth, also read from their works here.
Dates: July and August
The finest in cultural events in one of Europe’s loveliest regions: this is what the Gmunden Festival has been offering visitors for the past twenty years.
The 2010 season was the year of the ”Philosophical Festival”, which adroitly wedded pleasure with reflection. In the Monastery Hall of Traunkirchen, a former Jesuit library, writers and scientists lectured on the Seven Deadly Sins. The author and essayist Franz Schuh chose Gluttony as the topic for his talk, the quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger spoke on Sloth, and the literary scholar Christa Gürtler explored the subject of Lust. The Sins were accompanied by jazz music infused with elements of Chinese, Mongolian and Indian traditional music, played by the duo Xu Fengxia and Paul Zauner.
This is one example of the fusions in the programming and trans-genre orientation that has characterized the festival since its founding in 1987. From June to September, classical and contemporary music, dance, lied recitals, plays, readings, films, exhibitions, and discussions are offered in the city of Gmunden, in the Salzkammergut, and in the region surrounding the Traunsee.
The famous Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, who lived intermittently in Gmunden as well as lovingly restoring several farms in the region, and who often wrote in glowing terms of the Upper Austrian landscape in his works, has since 1999 been a focal point of the festival. In addition, in 2007 the Gmunden Festival began presenting a ”festival within the festival”, in which a great Austrian writer is honoured each year with a series of events. Featured writers thus far have included Peter Handke, Christoph Ransmayr, Friederike Mayröcker and Ernst Jandl.
Dates: June to September
The SommerSzene Salzburg aims at moving people and opening up fields of the future by presenting the most important trends in international stage art.
”Did you have enough drinking water, food and fuel on board during the flight?” It was with questions like this one that the artistic duo of Julius Deutschbauer and Gerhard Spring confronted visitors at the 2010 Salzburg Festival as part of their ”Sound of Migration” project. And they transformed the festival’s high society into a luxurious camp for foreigners. This was one of the projects presented at the SommerSzene 2010, which has lost none of its argumentative spirit since its beginnings in the late 1960s.
Founded initially as a platform for local artists, the SommerSzene evolved into an international avant-garde festival in the 1970s and ‘80s. The SommerSzene operates its own theater in Salzburg’s historic city center, the Republic, which offers space throughout the entire year for productions by young regional, national and international artists. In addition, the apap (advancing performing arts project) was created as a network of organizations committed to nurturing emerging artists.
Contemporary dance is the centerpiece of the SommerSzene Salzburg. Theater, music, film, visual arts, and performances round out the program, which with its cross-border character and artistic risk-taking strives to help audiences break out of their conventional ways of thinking.
Whether it is a mushrooming excursion together with contemporary composers or the traditional ”pilgrimage”, which in the course of one day leads to the various performance venues: this festival of contemporary music follows unconventional paths.
One would have scarcely recognized Friedrich Cerha among the group of mushroom hunters. Wearing a suit and moccasins, the renowned Austrian composer stomps unperturbed through the undergrowth and talks about his passion for mushrooming and music. After sufficient mushrooms have been found for the group’s lunch, the entourage heads for Hotel Grafenast, at 1,330 metres above sea level, to hear the zither virtuoso Martin Malaun. The mushroom outing is only one of the unusual events of the Klangspuren Festival of Contemporary Music, in Schwaz, Tyrol.
Another honoured tradition is the ”pilgrimage”, which leads guests to six locations in the course of one day, where contemporary sounds ring from different village and parish churches. In 2010 the journey took music lovers from Seefeld’s small lakeside chapel to Innsbruck Cathedral. Traditionally, the festival is a movable feast itself, making guest appearances at locations like the assembly hall of Innsbruck’s School of Political Science and Sociology and the atmospheric Franciscan monastery in Schwaz.
No less flexible is the festival’s programming. In 2011, the eighteenth edition of the festival, the musical spotlight will be trained on new music in Spain. The fact that the Klangspuren festival has become an indispensible fixture on the international contemporary-music scene can be attributed to the ten-day International Ensemble Modern Academy, which has taken place in conjunction with Klangspuren Schwaz since 2004. Year after year, the participation of such outstanding figures as Helmut Lachenmann, Steve Reich, György Kurtág, and Wolfgang Rihm motivates over 100 young musicians from all over the world to apply for this master class.
Music from all genres on the village square and a picturesque village backdrop and urban, cosmopolitan music await visitors to the Bezau Beatz festival, in the Bregenzerwald town of Bezau.
Modern wood-frame construction — recently featured at New York’s Museum of Modern Art — as well as farms, an intact environment, and glorious scenery are to be found in Vorarlberg’s Bregenzerwald. It is this special mixture of traditional and modern elements that provides the ideal breeding ground for a wide array of cultural initiatives and exquisite festivals in this rural area.
One of these events is Bezau Beatz, where every Tuesday evening for a month in the summer, listeners on the village square are treated to music from all over the world, including pop, classical, jazz, rock, avant-garde and sounds from the region. Alfred Vogel, musician and energetic festival organizer, says: ”We honour the old and welcome the new; we remain true to ourselves and our homeland.” Stars of today like the Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio meet greats of tomorrow, and the village square resonates with the sound of drums from Ghana, Caribbean world music, and Alpine brass bands.
An excursion out into the magnificent Alpine surroundings of Bezau is an absolute must. Festival director Alfred Vogel recommends the Berggasthof Sonderdach, located at the halfway station of the Bezau mountain cableway, which is said to serve the world’s best ”Kässpätzle”.
Dates: July – August
Dance connects — transcending physical, cultural, linguistic, and gender-related borders. And dance is hipper than ever. Evidence of this is offered at the annual Bregenz Spring Festival.
The play of light and shadows, improvised and predetermined sequences, videotaped pictures and music, and above all the chemistry of movement between the young dancer Clemmie Sveass and the 67-year-old Ralf Harster made the production by the ”alpha group”, under the direction of Darrel Toulon, one of the most touching events of Bregenz Spring in recent years. It is moments like these that draw bigger and bigger crowds every March to Bregenz, where the Bregenz Spring festival acts as the glittering kick-off to the cultural season in the Lake Constance region. World and Austrian premieres of works by internationally renowned choreographers, and ensembles from Spain, the Netherlands, France, China, numerous African countries, and Austria present contemporary dance in all its manifold expressive forms. The 2010 edition of Bregenz Spring was the most successful in the festival’s history and helped to cement its position as one of the most important dance festivals in the German-speaking world. Especially acclaimed were the performances by the Compañía María Pagés — one of the world’s leading flamenco ensembles — the Nederlands Dans Theater II, and the Flemish/Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. The 25th edition of Bregenz Spring will open on 18 March 2011 with the Australian Dance Theater.
Dates: March —June