“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)
- 2024 date: provisionally June 7th
- Park closes if it reaches capacity so travel early
- Check locally for weather situation etc.
- See also:
(The 2022 concert; press photo © Max Parovsky)
Vienna has a habit of gifting us beautiful settings for unique events. The Summer Night Concert (“Sommernachtskonzert” in German) is a prime example.
Each year, the world-renowned Wiener Philharmoniker gives a free open-air performance in the landscaped park and gardens of Schönbrunn Palace.
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 a light display and, most importantly, one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
That’s the Summer Night Concert. (I wrote about my experience at the 2022 event here.)
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 performance.
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.)
It’s still early for 2024 details, but the previous event saw Yannick Nézet-Séguin (music director at the Metropolitan Opera in New York) conducting and mezzosoprano Elīna Garanča as soloist.
The schedule changes each year. The 2023 concert focused on French Romanticism to Impressionism and featured excerpts from Bizet’s Carmen (I was lucky enough to see Garanča perform the title role at the Staatsoper).
Other highlights included arias from Sapho and Samson and Delilah, Ravel’s Boléro, and Boulanger’s D‘un matin de printemps.
One constant, though, are traditional encores like Wiener Blut by Johann Strauss II.
(The Wiener Philharmoniker, Andris Nelsons, and Gautier Capuçon performing in 2022; press photo © Max Parovsky)
2024 dates, tickets & tips
The Summer Night Concert typically fills an early summer slot. The 2024 date is provisionally June 7th. I await further details: for the record, the last edition began at 8.30pm with gates opening from 5pm.
You always need to get there well before the start time, of course, because entry is free and requires no ticket, with admission on a first come – first served basis; the earlier you arrive, the better view you get. In 2022, we got there an hour early and had good (but not the best) positions.
The gates typically close soon after the concert begins, but sometimes earlier if the park reaches full capacity.
Check the official website for full organisational details, including what you can and can’t take in with you, where you can watch etc.
The site should also have information (and/or social media links) covering the current concert status and access situation on the day should too many people attend or the weather intervene, etc.
If you miss out and wish to catch up on recent concerts, the Philharmoniker tend to bring out a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray soon after each event.
Another option is the small Wiener Philharmoniker Museum built into the Haus der Musik, which had lengthy highlights of the most recent Summer Night Concert playing on a big screen when I last visited.
How to get to the concert
Directions for the palace are here.
Access to the concert site for visitors who are neither VIPs nor with reduced mobility is normally only from the northeast and northwest sides of the park, via the so-called Meidlinger and Hietzinger gates (follow the crowds).
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).
Subway frequency typically increases before and (particularly) after the event, so you should not have a long wait when traveling to and from Schönbrunn.
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Website