Experience Germany’s Unmatched Tradition of Classical Music

Categories: Entertainment

Berliner Philharmoniker
Berliner Philharmoniker

[ source: Flickr]

Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Germany is famous the world over for its unmatched tradition of classical music. One reason for this is simple: Germans have a deep-rooted, centuries-old appreciation for the social value of the arts—and music in particular—and because of this appreciation, they are much more willing than citizens of other countries to support healthy levels of government funding for the arts. A comparison with the United States offers a striking contrast. In Europe, publicly funded cultural institutions are used to educate young people, and this helps to maintain a high level of interest in the arts and to ensure that German artists can make a living, tapping into Germany's rich tradition of classical music. By contrast, Americans are much less willing to support education in the arts, and music in particular, which has drastically reduced the pool of future artists and musicians. The results of this discrepancy are dramatic: Germany has 23 times more full-time symphony orchestras per capita than the United States, and approximately 28 times more full-time opera houses. As William Osbourne points out, If America averaged the same ratios per capita as Germany, it would have 485 full-time, year-round orchestras instead of about 20. If New York City had the same number of orchestras per capita as Munich (Munich vacation rentals | Munich travel guide) it would have about 45. If New York City had the same number of full-time operas as Berlin (Berlin vacation rentals | Berlin travel guide) per capita it would have six. [cited from Marketplace of Ideas: But First, The Bill; A Personal Commentary on American and European Cultural Funding]

In light of Germany's tradition of classical musical, why not spend part of your vacation by attending a concert or two at one of Germany’s many music festivals? They are not limited to classical music, and there are a number of family-friendly concerts to consider as you plan your trip. Below is a partial list of festivals, with upcoming concert dates, information, and relevant websites for the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, and Saxony. Check back soon for an updated listing of festivals elsewhere in Germany.

Music Festivals in Berlin

Citadel Music Festival

Open-air concerts with famous rock and pop bands at the Spandau Citadel.

In Spirit – Jazz Summer at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche)

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church invites listeners to experience jazz as a spiritual experience. Concerts and talks take place every Friday evening.

Open-Air Classical Summer (Klassiksommer) at the Kulturbrauerei

A series of concerts featuring renowned orchestras like the Berlin Symphony and the Film Orchestra of Babelsberg present masterworks of classical music on five summer evenings. Every performance is crowned with a fireworks display!

Berlin Palace Concerts (Berliner Residenz Konzerte)

This year’s concerts feature works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Frederick the Great himself. Supplement your festive evening with a candle-lit meal, a boat-tour, or a tour of the castle.

  • Where: Charlottenburg Castle, Great Orangery (Große Orangerie)
  • When: March-December, 2009, up to six times weekly.
  • Website (English): www.concerts-berlin.com/english/

Concerts at Glienicke Castle

Musicians from renowned orchestras offer weekend concerts by soloists and chamber ensembles.

Pearls of the Classical Period (Perlen der Klassik): Concerts at Castles in Berlin and Brandenburg

Since 1999 this concert series has earned an outstanding reputation. It’s always a special experience to enjoy classical music performed in historical settings—especially smaller, intimate spaces.

(Note: other concerts in this series are being held in Bavaria from Aug 13, 2009-Jan 6, 2010 and in Baden-Württemberg from Nov 6-8, 2009. See the website above for details.)

Music Festivals in Brandenburg

The Music Festival at Sanssouci Castle in Potsdam (Potsdam vacation rentals | Potsdam travel guide) (Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci)

The Postdam Night of Castles (Potsdamer Schlössernacht)

Stroll through the park of Sanssouci Castle like the kings of Prussia and enjoy concerts and dance performances in a romantic nocturnal atmosphere in the splendidly illuminated park.

Baroque Summer Opera at Sanssouci Castle (Barocker Opernsommer Sanssouci)

There’s still time to experience the second highpoint of the Baroque Summer Opera at Sanssouci Castle: a new production of Una festa teatrale, by Carl Heinrich Graun, one of Frederick the Great’s closest musical advisers.

  • When: August 28, September 5-6, October 17-18, 2009
  • Where: Castle Theater (Schlosstheater), New Palace (Neues Palais), Potsdam
  • Website: www.spsg.de/index_6684_de.html

Winter Opera in Potsdam (Potsdamer Winteroper)

Enjoy first-rate opera performances in one of Europe‘s most beautiful historic theaters, the castle theater in the New Palace at Sanssouci Castle. The two operas featured this year are The Fall of the House of Usher by Philip Glass, and Joseph Haydn’s humorous “L'infedeltà delusa” (Love makes you ingenious).

Chorin’s Summer of Music (Choriner Musiksommer)

The interplay of music, architecture and nature forms the unique charm of Chorin’s Summer of Music: 16 weekend concerts, spanning a wide musical spectrum, by renowned orchestras, choirs, soloists and conductors.

The International Festival of Young Opera Singers at Rheinsberg (Rheinsberg vacation rentals | Rheinsberg travel guide) Castle (Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg)

This festival attracts up to 20,000 visitors a year to open-air concerts at Rheinsberg Castle.

The Finsterwalde (Finsterwalde vacation rentals | Finsterwalde travel guide) Singing Festival (Finsterwalder Sängerfest)

Mindful of the wise proverb, You can peacefully settle down where people sing, Finsterwalders celebrate their singing festival every other year with soloists, choirs, music groups and more than 100,000 guests from all over Europe.

Music at Caputh Castle (Caputher Musiken)

Baroque chamber music, the ensemble Yira-Yira, which specializes in Argentinian Tango music, a shadow play with music for children, and a special Christmas concert are among the musical treats to be enjoyed at Caputh Castle.

The Spreewald Nights of Light (Spreewälder Lichtnächte)

The Havelland Music Festival (Havelländische Musikfestspiele)

The Havelland Music Festival offers music lovers the chance to gather with famous artists from all over the world. Programs include piano music , chamber music, vocal performances, jazz, and of course orchestral concerts. The festival also includes an international piano competition!

  • Where: Klessen Castle, Reckahn Castle, Nennhausen Castle, Ribbeck Castle, and other locations (each approximately 1hr. west of Berlin by car).
  • When: September 13-December 13, 2009; piano competition runs from November 6-8
  • Website: www.havellaendische-musikfestspiele.de/programm.html

The Cottbus (Cottbus vacation rentals | Cottbus travel guide) Film Festival (Filmfestival Cottbus)

Cottbus hosts the leading festival of contemporary East European cinema. Feature films, short films, children’s films, the 19th Annual Filmfestival Cottbus has everything a movie-buff could wish for.

Music Festivals in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Music Festival of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Choose from 110 first-class concerts at Germany’s third-largest music festival.

Music Festivals in Saxony

Dresden (Dresden vacation rentals | Dresden travel guide) Music Festival

The program for 2010 will be published in October, 2009. Ticket sales begin at all major outlets on November 2, 2009. A taste of what awaits you comes on March 8, 2010, when Cecilia Bartoli will sing in the Frauenkirche!

About this Article

John Tanke

This travel guide has been written by John Tanke.

Dr. Tanke studied English and German at U.C. Berkeley, the Universität Göttingen, and Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1993. He has worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and Union College, and more recently as a content writer/editor for Cengage Learning.

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