From quirky Rite of Spring arrangements to Mozart meeting breakdance, summer 2013 is set to offer an astonishingly rich variety of classical music. We’ve been working with festivals of all shapes and sizes to try and get to grips with it all, and you can read about a few of the highlights below. Happy browsing!

From Amsterdam to Illinois

Quartett by Luca Francesconi, coming to Holland Festival © Rudy Amisano, Teatro alla Scala
Quartett by Luca Francesconi, coming to Holland Festival
© Rudy Amisano, Teatro alla Scala
Amsterdam may be a hotbed for classical music all year round, but in the summer it really gets pretty crazy, first with the Holland Festival in June and later at Robeco Summer Nights, a marvellous series of top-class events at the Concertgebouw involving numerous fine guest orchestras and performers. Highlights this year include pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout joining Jonathan Nott and the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Joshua Bell with Christoph Eschenbach and the Australian Youth Orchestra, and a stellar line-up of percussionists for Steve Reich’s Drumming. The Holland Festival, on the other hand, is slightly more compact but also more eclectic, and this year contains a remarkable mixture of opera, dance and concert music with a particular emphasis on the new: look out for Shen Wei’s new choreography for The Rite of Spring, as well as Luca Francesconi’s opera Quartett and a Meistersinger from The Netherlands Opera.

Aldeburgh Festival © Mykel Nicolaou
Aldeburgh Festival
© Mykel Nicolaou
Perhaps the most innovative opera performance, however, takes place somewhere a little more remote: this June, Aldeburgh Festival is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth with performances of Peter Grimes not just in concert, but also on the local beach. With a strong cast and Britten authority Steuart Bedford at the helm (in the concert hall), this promises to be a performance to remember and one of the highlights of the Britten 100 year. Other Aldeburgh highlights include a spotlight on the late Jonathan Harvey, and a healthy smattering of early music as well, including Sir John Eliot Gardiner leading two Bach concerts.

The old and the new likewise meet at the Mozartfest Würzburg, which runs from May through to June. Among a wide-ranging programme is a piece entitled Mozart meets Breakdance – although there is plenty for the traditionalist as well, with some top performers including the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées and Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Amsterdam Sinfonietta, in fact, are in for a busy summer: among their other engagements are a concert – again playing Mozart – at Istanbul Music Festival this June. Other stars at this impressive series include a recital from recent Grammy winner Kim Kashkashian, and Maxim Vengerov closing the festival.

Yet again on Bachtrack, however, Valery Gergiev looks busier. The Russian maestro is scheduled to close this year’s Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm this August with not one but two marathon concerts with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra – the first taking on all four of Rodion Shchedrin’s piano concertos, and the second working its way through all three of Stravinsky’s groundbreaking early ballets, The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. In a big festival for conductors, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Daniel Harding both also make appearances, Salonen conducting one of his own pieces, Nyx.

Ravinia Festival
Ravinia Festival
One of the biggest festivals we’re listing is Illinois’ Ravinia Festival, which runs all the way through from early June to September, featuring some remarkable events including a Chicago Symphony Orchestra residency led by James Conlon. Lang Lang will be returning here, fourteen years after his CSO debut here catapulted his career into the realms of superstardom, in concertos from Beethoven and Prokofiev – within a concert whose three other pieces celebrate this year’s key anniversaries, with works by Verdi, Britten and Wagner. But the whole summer looks set to be a feast of high-quality music-making, worth catching in part if you’re heading anywhere remotely near Illinois this summer.

Klavierfestival Ruhr © Mark Wohlrab
Klavierfestival Ruhr
© Mark Wohlrab
For star names, it’s hard to beat the Ruhr Piano Festival in May to July, which turns 25 this year and is celebrating by focusing especially on transcriptions and paraphrases on works by Verdi and Wagner. The usual exceptional line-up of piano stars is gracing their programme – look out for Zimerman, Hamelin, Kissin, Sokolov, Argerich... the list goes on. The Ruhr valley is certainly one of the places to be this summer for piano music – but there is also June to July’s Festival Chopin à Paris, beautifully situated in the Orangerie in the Parc de Bagatelle and yet still within Paris. An eclectic programme of piano music is making sure to celebrate a few other anniversaries this year – it’s also the bicentennary of those important piano figures Charles-Valentin Alkan and Stephen Heller, after all.

In the UK, the Midlands’ two largest music festivals are both set for bumper years in 2013: Cheltenham Music Festival (July) is taking the Britten centenary very seriously, with thirteen events featuring his music in all, along with some top-quality performers. And the Three Choirs Festival (July to August), this year based primarily in Gloucester, features numerous top events focusing on (but not restricted to) choral music with guests including Polyphony and Musica Beata (look out for their bold late-night coupling of Gesualdo and Arvo Pärt). Another major event in the UK is the City of London Festival, whose diverse series of events, running from June to July, revolves around the interrelated themes of conflict and resolution, city walls, and trees. How Like an Angel, a collaboration between vocal ensemble I Fagiolini and the circus group Circa, looks set to be a highlight, situated in the beautiful environs of St Bartholomew-the-Great. Spitalfields Music Summer Festival this June is just as eclectic, combining old with new, music with dance, and much more too.

Accordions, Bach galore and a masked ball

Legendary cellist Pablo Casals established a chamber music festival in the Pyrenees in 1950 to commemorate 200 years since the death of Bach. The Festival Pablo Casals de Prades is still going strong, this year marking 40 since Casals’ death. And among the beautiful line-up of chamber music scheduled are two works by Casals himself.

Montalcino Square, Musica Reale Chamber Music Festival
Montalcino Square, Musica Reale Chamber Music Festival
Pablo Casals de Prades is just one of numerous festivals coming up which focus on chamber music in beautiful settings: the Montreal Chamber Music Festival in May is a prominent example, this year welcoming the Emerson Quartet alongside others to St George’s Church. Another is the Musica Reale Chamber Music Festival Tuscany, which combines dreamy countryside scenery with stellar performances, courtesy of members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and rising pianist Gloria Campaner. Also beautifully located is the Festival d’Auvers-sur-Oise, which takes place in June in the north-west reaches of Paris, at a spot where Van Gogh once found inspiration; their programme for this year ranges from piano recitals to a closing Mozart Requiem. Annecy Classic Festival is further south in France and likewise combines some stunning surroundings with seriously impressive international talent – Denis Masuev in a concert of jazz improvisations looks like one not to miss. If the south of France isn’t quite warm enough for you, Festival Mozaic has been taking place in the stunning town of San Luis Obispo, California since 1971, and combines a strong chamber series with orchestral concerts and a “fringe” series as well.

Just as remarkable is a Richard Strauss Festival themed around humour – not a common occurrence, after all, but worth catching, especially with its gorgeous programme of late-Romantic music set in the mountain town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where Strauss spent his final years. Gregynog Festival is also attractively situated, at 80 this year Wales’ oldest music festival; it mixes early music with new works, often in the form of commissions. Most of it takes place on the magnificent Gregynog Estate, but it ventures further afield as well into neighbouring historic locales. The palacial settings of the Potsdam Sanssouci Festival are also steeped in history, and the gardens and courts play host to music old and new this June.

There are plenty of Rites of Spring going on over the summer, as one might expect in its centenary year, but there’s only one performance to our knowledge of the work in arrangement for piano and accordion. You will have to head to the Korsholm Music Festival on the west coast of Finland this August to hear it, but there’s plenty in the festival’s programme to make the trip well worth your while, not to mention an idyllic setting in this beautiful rural area. Finland, in fact, is spoilt for music festivals in August, with Turku Music Festival further south, who are also welcoming Gergiev and his Mariinsky Orchestra, and BRQ Vantaa too, a festival established by the Finnish Baroque Orchestra which focuses on period performance.

Oregon Bach Festival © RR Jones
Oregon Bach Festival
© RR Jones
BRQ Vantaa is one of a number of Baroque-specific festivals, and we’re listing three more which concentrate specifically on Bach. The Carmel Bach Festival is the perfect way to focus on this ever-fascinating composer in California, while further up the west coast, the Oregon Bach Festival combines a large number of Bach events with a nod to the year’s anniversary trinity of Verdi, Wagner and Britten. In the UK, Tilford Bach Festival offers the opportunity to combine a Bach pilgrimage with a cricket one, being situated in the “second home of cricket”.

There are many more festivals taking place around the UK and Ireland this summer, from the MBNA Chester Music Festival, an artist-led initiative which this year features a new in-house ensemble; to Bradfield Festival in the Peak District, celebrating its 200th anniversary this year with some top performers; to Ulverston International Music Festival, again featuring some seriously impressive star power this year. Cork International Choral Festival, taking place in early May, has a superb-looking opener in the form of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time.

Plenty of opera festivals as well will ensure that you’re not wanting for sung drama this summer, whether you make the trip to Grange Park Opera (whose programme includes Eugene Onegin, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and André Messager’s Fortunio), or Opera Holland Park (including Cav and Pag, The Pearl Fishers, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s I gioielli della Madonna), or Munich Opera Festival (Wagner and Verdi galore, plus Jörg Widmann’s Babylon and George Benjamin’s Written on Skin). With just three events but a plethora of stars, the Klassik am Dom festival in Linz is well worth a look for all fans of quality singing. But for sheer spectacle, the Versailles Festival is probably impossible to beat: in addition to numerous top-quality concerts, ballets and operas (including, of course, some Lully), there is even a masked ball to keep the revellers satisfied.

If you’re after more detail, then information on all these festivals and more can be found at our dedicated Festivals page. You can even browse our interactive map. Whatever you’re after from classical music, we’re sure it will be a summer to remember.