My home city stages one to three dozen Vienna concerts every day. To make things more complicated, the ‘capital of music’ hosts events with varying levels of quality. At this point you may start to choose selectively. Let’s assume you are after quality music events and would like to avoid tourist traps.
To facilitate your choice I’m sharing a list of great and good concerts below; some are even for free. Where there are caveats I will say so. In fact, there can be a fine line between a concert popular with tourists, and a tourist trap.
As a guideline, use this checklist to find a fantastic Vienna concert that is worth its money.
Seasonal Vienna Concerts
In the run up to Christmas classical music gets special vibes through trumpets, choirs, and clearly Christmas Carols. Many of them take place in our sumptuous baroque churches and at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. (There is a BIG difference to department store Christmas crooners!) To give you examples, the best concerts and chamber music events in 2018 are:
Vienna Boys Choir At Christmas in Vienna Grand Concert
Dates: 20th and 21st December 2018
Location: Wiener Konzerthaus, Lothringer Strasse 20, 1030 Vienna
Tickets: book tickets
Dates: various between 30th November and 23rd December 2018
Magic Trumpet at St. Anne’s Church Vienna
Dates: various between ;
Location: St. Anne’s Church, Annagasse 3B, 1010 Vienna
Classic Ensemble at St. Peter’s (Advent adaptation)
Location: Peterskirche, Petersplatz 1, 1010 Vienna
Christmas Concert and Oratory
Date: 16th December 2018
Location: Wiener Konzerthaus, Lothringer Strasse 20, 1030 Vienna
Tickets: book tickets
Christmas Trumpet at Malteserkirche
Location: Malteserkirche, Kärntner Strasse 37, 1010 Vienna
International soloists Soprano Diana Jacklin and Violinist Hartmut Ometzberger perform A Light at Christmastime. Diana and Hartmut are the only voice and violin duo in the world (!) Hear their Christmas story through music and with candlelight in one of Vienna’s most beautiful small baroque churches. I’ve been there and loved the intimate yet festive atmosphere.
Location: St. Anne’s Church (heated), Annagasse 3B 1010 Vienna; just off Kärtnerstrasse
Tickets: EUR 25 (children under 18 years: EUR 10); get tickets onsite, 30 min before concert starts; to reserve tickets, call 0043 699 18040102;
The first thing to remember is that Vienna’s new year’s eve concerts are rare prey for MANY locals and travellers. In general, they cover both classical and contemporary music. Many contemporary concerts are free and form part of Vienna’s big street festival ‘Silvesterpfad’, while the classical concerts take place in warm concert halls. If you want to properly arrange the evening before you travel you can book some classical concerts together with a dinner package. Learn more about New Year’s Eve concerts in Vienna.
New Year’s Day Concerts and feedback on the Vienna New Year Concert
New Year’s Day is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual New Year’s Concert, which is broadcast all over the world. Since the New Year’s concert is so popular that tickets are sold via an online draw. Registration takes place during a few weeks in January. If you weren’t lucky at the ballots, you can buy tickets via third party ticket providers. Because it takes various parties to ensure tickets are available after the drawing, prices are quite elevated for this level of classical experience.
To find out whether ticket prices are worth the expense I have spoken with a local Viennese and with a traveller who attended the concert. Read their feedback in Vienna New Year Concert. For obtaining practical tips, find out more in Vienna New Year’s Concert ticket information.
Right on Easter Sunday morning the Vienna Boys Choir sings at the Imperial Court Chapel. While Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons take place throughout the year, I particularly love listening to them in the spring. In April, two unique musical events will take place in the Golden Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonics: Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish (7th and 8th April 2018) and Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous symphony Ode To Joy (22nd April 2018).
Summer is a tricky time for serious music fans in Vienna: Many local classical orchestras and venues take a summer break in July and August. While all-year-round Vienna concerts continue at elegant town palaces such as Wiener Kursalon, Palais Auersperg and Palais Palffy they are often considered tourist traps.
With this in mind, consider alternative options such as church concerts and summer operettas, as well as quality music festivals.
Summer Night Concert Schönbrunn Palace
By the time Wien swings into warmer weather, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra goes open air. During its free annual concert in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, thousands of music fans celebrate on the lawns. In 2017, acclaimed conductor and pianist Christoph Eschenbach will lead the Vienna Philharmonics. The icing on the cake will come in the shape of international star soprano Renee Fleming. Expect a spectacular show with top quality classical music and fireworks.
Location: Schönbrunn Palace, palace gardens, in front of Neptune fountain; Schönbrunner Schloss- strasse 47 1130 Vienna,
Tickets: free admission.
Access the Vienna concerts calendar for Summer Music Events in Vienna.
Open Air Concerts at Grafenegg Castle
West of Vienna, Grafenegg Castle in the Danube’s Wachau Valley is an insider spot for lovers of classical and jazz music. Each summer top musicians and orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform at this 19th century romantic castle.
Between 22nd June and 10th September 2017, the ‘Cloud Tower’ auditorium will air sounds of famous classical composers.
Time: Summernight Gala – 16th and 17th June; Summer Concerts – 25th June to 13th August; Grafenegg Festival – 19th August to 11th September
Location: Grafenegg Castle; Schlosstrasse 10, 3485 Grafenegg
Tickets: visit website
Transfer: A private car and driver can take you straight to the concerts in around one hour, and pick you up. Get in touch for help.
Concerts Throughout The Year
To begin with, music from ensembles can connect you more deeply with tunes and composers. For example, the quartet at the crypt of St. Peter’s pulls literally all their strings to revive the world’s best classical music – and they do it masterfully. ‘The fingering on some of the pieces was like the birds singing.’ (source: TripAdvisor). In fact, many of this ensemble’s musicians have excellent track records. Prepare for signature pieces of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Vivaldi and more by Classic Ensemble Vienna. To get the full story, read my review in Vienna Secret Classical Music.
Dates: weekends and certain weekdays throughout the year; 8.00 pm
Mozart Piano Sonatas At St. Peter’s
In a similar fashion to the classic ensemble above, you can indulge in an even more focused way in Vienna’s music: On Saturdays and Sundays, the same church St. Peter opens its crypt to a small group of Mozart fans. Amidst a simple but elegant setting, international pianists perform Mozart piano sonatas solo on a Steinway piano. Since Vienna’s master composer performed regularly in churches the environment provides an authentic setting.
Addtionally, the crypt’s acoustics are great and the atmosphere serene. The concerts start in the early evening and last just 45 minutes – great for busy travellers and families.
Dates: throughout the year
While more Mozart is served in this concert series prepare for an utterly different experience. Beneath the richly decorated dome of St. Charles Borromeo, aka Karlskirche, 40 musicians and a choir create a monumental sound cloud made of Wolfgang Amadeus’ famous Requiem. In that case, it’s all about the spectacular side of art and music, as you will experience in this sumptuous church packed with colourful frescoes.
In the past years the Mozart requiem has turned into one of the most popular Vienna concerts. Every Saturday, the musicians of the Orchestra 1756 (Mozart’s year of birth) play on historical instruments, replicating the ambiente of the Requiem’s premiere in the 18th century. Because of the quality of this concert you will likely be in the company of other travellers avoiding Mozart ‘varieté shows’.
Dates: from 11th March
Mozart And Beethoven Quartets
Vienna Concerts. Never underestimate the power of four instruments. Since Mozart wrote 23 pieces for string quartets, and Beethoven 17, this concert series pays tribute to a key classical music format. Beneath the colourful baroque frescoes and pink marble columns of St. Anne’s Church musicians of renowned local orchestras spread pure bliss with two of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s most elegant chamber music.
Dates: from 19th September
Vienna Concerts. Sometimes I imagine my own boy could sing like a Wiener Sängerknabe. Surely the choir boys of this 500-year-old institution have exceptional voices, which are regularly heard in Wien. While most expect the Wiener Sängerknaben to sing Mozart, Haydn, Bruckner and Schubert, the Vienna Boys Choir also excels in modern choir music. In spite of their extensive world tours, you will likely meet them when in Vienna as the Sängerknaben split into four different choir groups.
Access the concert calendars of three different locations in Vienna on the Vienna Boys Choir page.
Johann Strauss Music
Every now and then I put on a Strauss CD for Sunday breakfast. And I do get emotional in Austrian Airlines when hearing the Blue Danube Waltz while landing in Vienna. But where would I listen to live Strauss music in Wien, without falling into a tourist trap? The truth is, you’ll need to be VERY selective with picking the right venue and orchestra. If you ask me as a Viennese the best place to enjoy Strauss music is watching an operetta at Volksoper Vienna. To explore not just the best music venues but also Strauss places in Vienna read my Johann Strauss Vienna Guide.
Thanks to its acoustics and beauty, our landmark St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the best places for classical Vienna concerts. Equally important, the music ensembles are good quality. Sometimes the acclaimed ensemble of the Vienna University of Music and the Arts performs there as well.
If you are lucky your trip dates will coincide with one of the cathedral concerts in the attic. In any case, expect regular Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concerts during the summer and early autumn of 2017. By all means visit the Advent and Christmas concerts if you are around. Learn more in Stephansdom.
Free Organ Concerts
Besides Sunday masses, some Viennese churches regularly stage organ concerts, such as the Church of the Augustines, the University Church and Church St. Peter. Additionally, the concert series at Schottenkirche combines organ with piano, violin or a voice soloist. Although these concerts are generally free most guests make a small donation.
Since free organ concerts take place infrequently, it’s worth starting your research upfront. Watch out for amazing organ music from Wolfgang A. Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert. In order to facilitate your search visit the website of the Association of Viennese Organ concerts.
Vivaldi At Karlskirche
Mozart Music ‘Sotto Fresco’
Other than churches, the local monastery where Mozart lived and composed for a few weeks provides atmospheric location. Beneath fresco-decorated ceilings four string players perform Viennese chamber music and string quartets. Due to the picturesque settings the concert is very popular with tourists. Compared to Vienna concerts in a church it is more expensive, and the acoustics are so so. If you don’t mind intimate settings the concert room seating around 50 will appeal to you.
Dates: almost daily;
‘It’s the special sound’, say some. ‘It’s the world class conductors’, say others. As a matter of fact, the Philharmonics attract thousands of music connoisseurs each year. Not to mention the millions of TV spectators watching their New Year’s Concert each 1st January. Is it worth getting tickets at Musikverein? How to reliably get Vienna New Year’s Concert tickets when you haven’t won the online drawing? Despite a few hurdles it is not impossible for a prepared traveller to experience this orchestra live. For this reason, I’m sharing my special guide on the most elusive of Vienna attractions, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. For practical advice, visit Vienna New Years Concert ticket information.
Vienna Jazz Festival
Locations: various across Vienna, from the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Konzerthaus to open air concerts at City Hall square to Hundertwasser-designed incineration plant.
Programme and Tickets: visit website
Wien Modern is the ultimate Vienna festival for contemporary music. Uniquely for Vienna, the event provides an international platform for contemporary music, supported by dance, performance, visual arts, film and video. Each festival is related to a theme. In 2017, for example, ‘Images In Your Head’ approached visuals and music through orchestra music, electronic music, film, workshops and performances. In general, you can choose between 50 events at 16 locations.
Dates: 28th October to 30th November 2018
My Vienna Concert Highlights 2017
Almost every month, there is one special one off concert that you shouldn’t miss. Some of them take place at the Vienna Musikverein, the illustrious home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Access these Vienna concerts tips in
January: Things to do in Vienna, January
February: Things to do in Vienna, February
March: Things to do in Vienna, March
April: Things to do in Vienna, April
May: Things to do in Vienna, May
June: Things to do in Vienna, June
July: Things to do in Vienna, July
August: Things to do in Vienna, August
September: Things to do in Vienna, September
October: Things to do in Vienna, October
November: Things to do in Vienna, November
December: Things to do in Vienna, December
For most classical Vienna concerts there is no need for ‘black tie’ dressing unless you attend the New Year’s Concert. Specific dress codes for certain concerts, if any, will be indicated when you buy the tickets.
Vienna Concerts: What Other Visitors Have Asked
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