When it comes to the more sophisticated end of the music spectrum, Vienna tends to be associated with older eras. It’s sort of inevitable when denizens of the city included Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, and Beethoven. But the Wien Modern festival belies that impression by showcasing the work of more contemporary composers.
- Annual 30+ day contemporary music festival
- Dozens of premieres & prestigious international performers
- 2020 dates: TBA (was Oct 28 – Nov 30 in 2019)
- See also: Concerts in Vienna
What’s Wien Modern all about?
Put away the period costume and your plastic Mozart figurine. We’re talking more John Cage than Johann Strauss in a celebration of contemporary music that also draws in the visual arts.
First established back in 1988 by Claudio Abbado, Wien Modern sits at the interface between tradition and innovation, the past and the future. At least that’s my impression.
About a month’s worth of concerts and other events gently nudge aside the conventional music scene to give voice to more avant-garde approaches, fearlessly incorporating electronic music, dance, and similar to pronounce classical music as an ongoing process.
As well as featuring the work of some of the best contemporary composers the world has to offer, it also features some of the best performers, such as the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
The previous festival only just finished, so next year’s pleasures have yet to be announced. To whet your appetite, here some highlights from 2019:
The festival motto was “Growth” and featured around 100 individual events, 81 premieres, and 24 venues across 12 of Vienna’s districts. These venues ran the gamut from classical favourites, like the Konzerthaus, to art-flavoured coffee houses, like Café Korb, and more unusual locations, such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
The RSO Vienna (Radio Symphony Orchestra), conducted by Marin Alsop, opened the festival officially on October 31st with a programme that included Jón Leifs’ Hekla, one of the loudest orchestral pieces in history.
As you might imagine, the choice of events covered a broad and eclectic mix.
For example, if you had a day to spare, there was the sew me into a shroud of leaves trilogy by Michael Hersch, which began at 5am and ended at 8pm in the magnificent setting of the State Hall of the Austrian National Library.
If you only had 20 minutes to spare, there was Andreas Eduardo Frank’s Restore Factory Defaults in Studio Molière, just one example from the Minimal Night Music track at the festival.
Another standout event combined innovatory music with tourism, with performances of Theo Nabicht’s The Circle Line Project in the yellow sightseeing tram that encircles Vienna’s old town.
Check the official website for a full schedule of 2020’s events and locations once they become available.
2020 dates & tickets
Wien Modern usually begins in late October and carries on through November. I’ll post precise dates once I get them.
The official website is also the place to purchase individual tickets and festival passes, though some events may be free.