Every day, my home city stages one to three dozen Vienna concerts. To make things more complicated, the ‘capital of music’ hosts events with varying levels of quality. 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: from Vienna Philharmonic to organ concerts. 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
Between March and June 2019, you are up for a few classical music delicatessen in Vienna: take the Beethoven Triple Concerto and Tchaikovsky symphonies or a Mozart piano concerto at Musikverein as examples. In the run up to Easter, Konzerthaus and Musikverein will stage Bach’s Matthaeuspassion. Check concert calendar.
Right on Easter Sunday morning the Vienna Boys Choir will sing at the Imperial Court Chapel – probably Spring’s best wake up call.
If you want to broaden your choices, there is always Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons which takes place throughout the year. And don’t leave after the first concerto (Spring), just because. The other seasons sound just as brilliant!
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. My top tip: the summer music festival at Grafenegg Castle.
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 2019, acclaimed conductor and Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Vienna Philharmonics. The icing on the cake will come in the shape of acclaimed classical Chinese pianist Yuja Wang. 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.
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 2019 are:
Vienna Boys Choir At Christmas in Vienna Grand Concert
Dates: 20th and 21st December 2019
Location: Wiener Konzerthaus, Lothringer Strasse 20, 1030 Vienna
Dates: from 30th November 2019
Sound of Christmas at the Imperial Capuchin Church
Dates: from 29th November 2019
Location: Kapuzinerkirche, Neuer Markt, 1010 Vienna
Classic Ensemble at St. Peter’s (Advent adaptation)
Dates: from 26th November 2019
Location: Peterskirche, Petersplatz 1, 1010 Vienna
Christmas Trumpet at Malteserkirche
Dates: from 30th November 2019
Location: Malteserkirche, Kärntner Strasse 37, 1010 Vienna
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. You can apply for tickets between 1st and 28th February. 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.
Since Vienna will celebrate the 250th birthday of its 35-year resident Ludwig van Beethoven, we will all be treated to special Beethoven concerts in 2020. See my list of favourites in Beethoven in Vienna.
‘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 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.
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
Viennese Classics at Musikverein
While the world’s classic fans know the Musikverein’s Golden Hall from countless New Year’s Concert broadcasts, the smaller Brahms Hall is massively underrated.
Sitting beneath gently illuminated Greek Renaissance interiors in red, green and gold you enjoy finest chamber musicians and lieder singers in this ‘true little treasure chest’. (This pictures shows the Musikverein’s foyer, click on the link below to see photos of Brahms Hall.) Expect beautiful tunes of Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert.
Dates: throughout the year concert tickets.
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’.
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.
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
My Vienna Concert Highlights 2019
Almost every month, there is a music festival or a 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.
If you’d like to listen to a particular type of music check my favourite local festivals in the Vienna Music Festival guide. To find out about special one-off concerts, visit my monthly highlights for
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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