This summer, why not travel for music? There’s certainly plenty of it about. We have more classical festivals on the site than ever before this year, across the summer and into the autumn too – so we thought we’d compile a virtual tour of them all for you. So take a browse, pack your bags, and enjoy the trip: we think you’ll find plenty to enjoy. And don’t forget that you can create your own tour via our interactive map!

Waves of change in Scandinavia

Olavinna Castle at Savonlinna
Olavinna Castle at Savonlinna
Our tour begins in Finland, home to a remarkable number of top music festivals in August this year. Up on the west coast – by the Gulf of Bothnia, just across from Sweden – you can find the Korsholm Music Festival in the historic town of Vasaa, celebrating its 30th anniversary with a programme entitled “Waves of Change”. Head east for some opera, in the stunningly situated Savonlinna Opera Festival, which this year is welcoming the Mikhailovsky Theatre for a couple of productions, as well as putting on five of their own. Further south, the BRQ Vantaa Festival and Turku Music Festival are also well worth a stop (the latter features more guests from across the Russian border, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra) before heading across the Baltic Sea to Stockholm.

The Baltic Sea Festival at the Berwaldhallen concert hall has a spectacular array of orchestral talent, and the Allhelgonakyrkan Chamber Music Festival, set in a beautiful Stockholm church, will feature some intimate chamber playing: a perfect yin and yang for musical visitors to the city this August. Over in Norway, the Fartein Valen Festival this September is a celebration of the music of this fascinating but little-known 20th-century Norwegian composer, with a series of concerts in his home town of Valevåg and the surrounding area.

Summer nights and Rufus Wainwright

A hop, skip and a two-hour flight later, and you’ll find yourself in Amsterdam for Robeco Summer Nights, the Concertgebouw’s month-long summer series which welcomes leading orchestras and chamber ensembles to perform in this venue’s legendary acoustic. A little further south in the Netherlands will take you to what is surely one of the world’s busiest classical festivals, the Utrecht Early Music Festival. Cramming dozens upon dozens of events into just ten days in late August, the 2013 festival marks 300 years since the Treaty of Utrecht and shines a spotlight on a few lesser-known composers such as Johann Jakob Froberger and Georg Muffat. Performers range from soprano Emma Kirkby to lutenist Hopkinson Smith, and they close with the Huelgas Ensemble, also coming to the BBC Proms this year (on which more later). This summer, there’s only one place to be in central Europe for early music.

Oude Museik Festival in 2010 © Marco Borggreve
Oude Museik Festival in 2010
© Marco Borggreve
Head south again and follow the Rhine into Germany – oh, and travel back in time a month or two – and you can catch any number of the world’s finest pianists at the Ruhr Piano Festival. Running until mid July, the festival still has recitals from Grigory Sokolov and Martha Argerich to come. Further downstream and coming up in September is the Beethovenfest Bonn, set in the great composer’s home town but far from restricted to his music – their programme is remarkably wide-ranging, with contemporary music from the likes of Ensemble Modern and clarinettist Jörg Widmann, as well as that eccentric organist Cameron Carpenter.

Rheingau Festival © Heike Rost
Rheingau Festival
© Heike Rost
Yet further south in Germany, the enormous Rheingau Music Festival is already under way and will be furnishing the region with world-class music all the way through until September. Receiving the prestigious Rheingau Music Prize this year is Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say – he’s featuring at four events in the festival, including a workshop. Over in Austria from mid August, Grafenegg Music Festival is in for a strong year in its stunning Wolkenturm auditorium, with Brett Dean as Composer in Residence and welcoming a host of star performers and orchestras, from the NHK Symphony Orchestra (Japan’s oldest) to the Vienna Philharmonic, and a total of three making the trip from London (the LSO, RPO and Philharmonia).

It’s a little out of the way on our tour, but it’s well worth heading south again from Grafenegg, down to Croatia for a pair of enticing festivals. In late September, the historic town of Varaždin comes alive for Varaždin Baroque Evenings, a series of events celebrating the town’s amazingly rich cultural history through music and other events. They even serve Baroque coffee. Further south and on the Adriatic coast, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival moves into its 64th year this July. This esteemed event, which extends beyond music to include theatre, dance and film as well, has a busy line-up including Rufus Wainwright and the London Sinfonietta.

From Zermatt to Annecy

Combins at Verbier © Aline Paley
Combins at Verbier
© Aline Paley
If you’re quick, you can take a ferry from Dubrovnik and travel across north Italy for the end of the Musica Reale Chamber Music Festival in Tuscany. Then, it’s time to head north to Switzerland, whose excellent selection of festivals is not to be missed this year. Verbier Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary and features the usual astonishing range of performers. We have a separate article on Verbier here, so you can have a detailed read about this one – and look out for a smattering of reviews on Bachtrack as well later this summer.

In late August, a couple of weeks after Verbier concludes, the nearby Zermatt Festival kicks off, located at the foot of the Matterhorn. It combines tuition with top-level performances over the course of three weekends, and the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Schauron Ensemble are among the performers. Linger in Switzerland for a few months for another stunningly situated mountain festival: the Gstaad New Year Music Festival will be a wonderful way to see in 2014.

Annecy Classic Festival © Yannick Perrin
Annecy Classic Festival
© Yannick Perrin
A brisk stroll across some mountains will take you to Annecy Classic Festival in south-east France, which has a residency for the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring in a marvellous range of music both Russian and not Russian. Soloists include Khatia Buniatishvili and Gidon Kremer. On the southern French coast, meanwhile, the Festival International de Piano de La Roque d’Anthéron will rival the Ruhr Piano Festival for impressive pianism: it kicks off with Kissin and later has Sokolov, Marc-André Hamelin and many more. Daniel Barenboim is conducting his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as well, and the featured pianist for that concert is Karim Said, who has recently been impressing our reviewers in London. Over by the Spanish border, the spotlight is on the cello for the Festival Pablo Casals de Prades in early August.

Catch a flight up to London at the end of the Festival Pablo Casals, and you’ll find yourself slap bang in the middle of the BBC Proms. The line-up this year is very strong, whether you’re a Tchaikovsky fan (they’re doing a symphony cycle) or a Granville Bantock enthusiast (no, really), but you’ll probably be happiest if you’re a Wagnerite: over half his completed operas are receiving full concert performances. Read more about the Proms in our highlights article here.

There’s much, much more going on around the UK to tell you about – so much that we’ve given it all a separate article, which you can read here – but it’s worth mentioning the two other highest-profile festivals quickly. Edinburgh International Festival is in for a particularly big year for music, opera and dance – as well as much else, of course – with highlights including two landmark musical works danced by Scottish Ballet and a whole concert of music by Frank Zappa, John Cage and Edgard Varèse from Ensemble musikFabrik. A close look through this schedule is recommended, though. And Manchester International Festival also contains several great classical events, with an appearance from Martha Argerich, a spotlight on John Tavener, and director Peter Sellars’ take on some Shostakovich. But find out about UK festivals in more detail in our special UK festivals guide.

Across the Irish Sea, the Kilkenny Arts Festival is celebrating its 40th year this August and looks set to feature as much excellent music-making as ever. Appearances from Dawn Upshaw and Barry Douglas’ Camerata Ireland with Alison Balsom stand out among the music picks, though there’s much across the artistic board to get excited about, including a visit from The Globe Theatre.

Kilkenny Arts Festival 2012 © Ross Costigan
Kilkenny Arts Festival 2012
© Ross Costigan

Across the seas

When planning your journey across the Atlantic, we recommend aiming for Massachusetts, where you will find the Aston Magna Music Festival – it’s a year older than the Kilkenny Festival, turning 41 this month. In fact, it’s the oldest festival of its kind in America, being devoted to period-instrument performance. This year there is chamber music by Bach, madrigals by Giaches de Wert and Monteverdi, and (moving a little further forward in time) a whole concert of music from Thomas Jefferson’s library. The Boston Early Music Festival may have finished for the year, but there’s plenty more early music in Massachusetts this summer.

We recommend heading north from there across the Canadian border – the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival has much to offer. Celebrating 20 years of music-making, this year’s festival will be looking back over its entire history – each year in the past, it has featured a pair of composers – and giving past audience members the chance to discuss favourite moments from the past they would like to see or hear again. An original concept, surely worth a trip to this scenic region in the Maritimes.

Sultans of String, coming to Stratford Summer Music
Sultans of String, coming to Stratford Summer Music
Over in Montreal, the Bach Festival this November will contain a seriously impressive selection of international performers including Concerto Köln and pianist Alexandre Tharaud – and it’s closing with the more local, but still world-class, talent of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and Kent Nagano, performing Bach’s B minor Mass. Continuing our journey west in southern Canada, Stratford Summer Music in Ontario will also be worth a visit this month. Young Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki is one of a number of headliners – look out for R. Murray Schafer’s Music for Wilderness Lake for twelve trombonists too, plus a visit from the Sultans of String – and it’s another marvellous festival location, with numerous outdoor events making ample use of the beautiful surrounding area.

It’s quite a trip from Ontario to California – you could stop off in Chicago for the huge Ravinia Festival, though – but a coastal tour heading north in the Golden State is the perfect way for our festival tour to conclude. Festival Mozaic, in and around San Luis Obispo, runs in mid July and has everything from world premières to Baroque music (plus a concert entitled “Classical Musicians Doing Un-Classical Things” – we can only imagine what). The Carmel Bach Festival is a huge undertaking nestled in a pine forest and featuring numerous large-scale pieces from Bach and beyond. And you can conclude the tour this August with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, bringing yourself right up to date with Marin Alsop and the Kronos Quartet in a programme of groundbreaking new music.

We appreciate that this hasn’t been the easiest of tours to navigate, and skipping a few locations out is probably going to a necessity. But we’re sure there will be something within all of this – if you’re counting, that’s 45 festivals – that will grab your imagination. Happy travelling.

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