“A bit of music in the garden” takes on another dimension in the Viennese summer. The “music” is a live performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; the “garden” is the landscaped park of Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Welcome to the annual Summer Night Concert.
- Free, open-air Sommernachtskonzert in the palace grounds
- Classical music programme with a world-class conductor and soloist(s)
- 2022 date: TBA (May or June in previous years)
- See also: Classical concerts in Vienna | The Festival of Joy
Vienna has a habit of throwing up beautiful settings for unique events. The Summer Night C
Each year, the world-renowned Wiener Philharmoniker gives a free open-air performance in the Schönbrunn Palace gardens.
Picture a huge stage standing among sculpted flower beds and lawns, a golden Imperial palace on one side, the majestic Neptune fountain on the other. Then add lights, fireworks and, most importantly, one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
That’s the Summer Night C
The tradition began in 2004 as a “concert for Europe”, conducted by none other than Bobby McFerrin, and has since gone global: TV stations around the world broadcast the event.
The programme usually features more accessible classical pieces, with the occasional surprise: perhaps my favourite moment was a rendition of the Imperial March from Star Wars.
(Apparently the Philharmoniker are a fan of that particular piece. In 2020, they performed with its composer, John Williams, and made a special request that the march be included in the programme.)
The last event only just finished so I await news of 2022.
The theme for 2021 was “Fernweh”, which translates as wanderlust (also a German word) or the desire to travel. Rather apt.
Daniel Harding – principal conductor and artistic leader of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra – wielded the all-important baton. Harding first conducted the Philharmoniker back in 2004. Star soloist was pianist, Igor Levit, who has also performed with the orchestra in the recent past.
The programme included works by Verdi, Rachmaninow, Bernstein, Elgar, Sibelius, Debussy and Holst.
2022 dates and tickets
The Summer Night Concert typically fills an early summer slot: expect May or June. Watch this space for details or check the official website (see below).
In normal years, the concert begins around 8.15 / 8.30pm. You need to get there much earlier, of course, because entry is always free and requires no ticket, with admission on a first come – first served basis; the earlier you arrive, the better view you get. The gates close once the park reaches full capacity.
The last two events had no public access to the concert; only invited guests attended, for obvious reasons. Hopefully all will be back to “normal” in 2022.
Two ways for you to catch up on recent concerts:
- See the 2020 concert on a giant screen on July 12th, 2021, as part of the open-air film festival on Vienna’s Rathausplatz
- The Philharmoniker tend to bring out a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray soon after each event
How to get to the concert
Directions for the palace are here. Access to the concert site for able-bodied non-VIP visitors is only from the northeast and northwest ends of the park, via the so-called Meidlinger and Hietzinger gates.
If using public transport, take the U4 subway line to either Schönbrunn station (close to the Meidlinger gate entrance) or Hietzing station (close to the, um, Hietzinger gate entrance). This subway line gets busy, though, so check the link above for alternatives.
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Website
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