Vienna: how to experience the Capital of Music in 2020

The Austrian capital is hitting all the right notes as it gears up for a year of tuneful celebrations. Monday, 10 February 2020

From Beethoven and Brahms to Mozart and Mahler, Vienna’s musical pedigree stretches back centuries — and in 2020, the Austrian capital begins its self-declared year as the Capital of Music, tying in with the 250th anniversary of former resident Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth.

The Summer Night Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra gets top billing among the musical highlights on offer. Held in the landscaped park of Schönbrunn Palace, and twinned with a show of fireworks and light effects, this is the final word in stirring classic concerts. Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. The finer details of this year’s programme — which is forecast to attract upwards of 100,000 attendees — have yet to be announced, but visitors can expect an exceptional performance in a stellar setting. 

Meanwhile, the must-see retrospective of the year, Beethoven Moves, is dedicated to the life and work of the iconic virtuoso. On display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, it promises to be an insightful look at the pioneering German composer, showcasing artworks greatly influenced by his music, with his symphonies, concertos and sonatas providing the atmospheric soundtrack. There will also be paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, sketchbooks by William Turner, graphic works by Francisco de Goya and sculptures by Auguste Rodin, plus much more. 

But it’s not all classical — the city’s modern music scene is shaping up too, and its new-wave musicians will be tearing it up during a summer of free festivals and concerts. A highlight is the METAStadt Open Air 2020 — a buzzing, four-day party (14-18 July) in a former industrial building turned events space. German rapper Sido is on the bill, alongside British indie band The Kooks.

Musical milestones

Los Angeles
Primavera Sound, the festival that started in Barcelona then spread to Porto, is heading out on a grand US adventure this year, landing in California for its 20th anniversary. The stateside debut will spring up in LA’s State Historic Park, with performances by big hitters in the indie world and smaller cult favourites (Bjork, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead have headlined in previous years). 19-20 September 2020.

Turning 100 in 2020, the Salzburg Festival is a whirl of evening gowns, aperitifs and open-air performances. This event has gained renown with its line-up of performances by classical musical giants; and its centennial will be celebrated with 200 performances of operas, concerts and plays over 44 days, including music by Mozart, Strauss (one of the festival’s founders) and modern-day greats such as Luigi Nono. 20 July-31 August 2020.

Hideout Festival will be celebrating its 10th year in 2020, but while the shindig on Croatia’s Zrce Beach might still be something of a spring chicken compared to the likes of Glastonbury (which turns 50 this summer), it’s carved out a name as one of Europe’s greatest, putting on thrilling dance acts to pumped-up partygoers. There are beach parties, boat parties and secret after-parties — all with the glittering Adriatic just metres away.

Published in the March 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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