Lucerne Festival

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Lucerne Festival
Logo for Lucerne Festival.png
GenreClassical music
Location(s)Lucerne, Switzerland
Years active2004–present
Music of Switzerland
General topics
Specific forms
Media and performance
Music awards
Music charts
Music festivals
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem"Swiss Psalm"
Regional music
Local forms
Related areas

The Lucerne Festival is a series of classical music festivals based in Lucerne, Switzerland.[1][2] Founded in 1938, it currently produces three festivals per year, attracting some 110,000 visitors annually[3] taking place since 2004 primarily at the Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre (KKL) designed by Jean Nouvel.[4] Each festival features resident orchestras and soloists alongside guest performances from international ensembles and artists, in 2019 including the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, Bernard Haitink, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Sir Simon Rattle.


The festival started with the so-called "Concert de Gala" in the gardens of Richard Wagner's villa at Tribschen in 1938 conducted by Arturo Toscanini, who had formed an orchestra with members of different orchestras and soloists from around Europe.[4] With the rise of the Nazi regime several major performers and conductors, including Toscanini, Fritz Busch, Adolf Busch, and Bruno Walter decided not to perform in the traditional German and Austrian music festivals such as the Bayreuth Festival and Salzburg festival.[4] In the 1940s the Swiss Festival Orchestra (Schweizerische Festspielorchester) was founded from members of the elite Swiss orchestras, which became a central part of the festival known since 1943 as the Internationalen Musikfestwochen Luzern (IMF). In 2000 it was renamed as the Lucerne Festival and is currently part of the European Festivals Association.

The Summer Festival[edit]

The largest festival is the Summer Festival (Lucerne Festival im Sommer), taking place in August und September and featuring over 100 events. Since 2003 it has been launched by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Claudio Abbado's "orchestra of friends" consisting of internationally acclaimed soloists, chamber musicians, teachers, and members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, as well as of the Filarmonica della Scala; since 2016 its music director has been Riccardo Chailly. Also founded in 2003 was the Lucerne Festival Academy,[5] which was established by the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez to bring together young musicians from around the world to perform music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Wolfgang Rihm has been Artistic Director since 2016 and from 2016 to 2018 Matthias Pintscher worked with him as Principal Conductor. International artists are also invited to be artistes étoiles and composers-in-residence. The Summer Festival is organized around an annual theme; recent topics have been "Identity", "Childhood" and "Power".

Alongside the resident orchestra and academy, three additional institutions contribute further to the festival's annual activity. Lucerne Festival Young is responsible for programming classical music performances to youngsters, including "Young Performance" (2014-2017). Lucerne Festival Alumni [6] is a network that represents musicians who have graduated from the Academy since 2003 and supports them as they launch their careers and organize performances of contemporary classical music around the world.

Other Festival Activities[edit]

The Easter Festival (Lucerne Festival zu Ostern) was founded in 1988 and took place each spring over a nine-day period two weeks before Easter and lasting until Palm Sunday, with a special focus given to sacred music. Performances were held in churches throughout Lucerne, as well as in the KKL and included annual guest performances by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir. Additionally, Bernard Haitink together with the Lucerne Festival Strings led annual master classes for young conductors. The Easter Festival was ended after the 2019 edition.

The Piano Festival was founded in 1998 and took place every November over a nine-day period. It showcased keyboard virtuosos and emerging stars in a mixture of recitals, orchestral concerts, and chamber music. The ancillary "Piano Off-Stage!" program presented a series of jazz events in a range of Lucerne's bars and restaurants. The Piano Festival was ended after the 2019 edition.

Lucerne Festival Ark Nova is an inflatable mobile concert hall, developed by Arata Isozaki and Anish Kapoor in 2011 to contribute to the cultural reconstructions taking place in Japan following the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Starting in 2020, and replacing the Easter and Piano Festival, Lucerne Festival inaugurated a new series of extended musical weekends, one each in the spring and the fall, which focus on distinguished artists or which investigate specific thematic contexts. These special weekends involve unusual programming concepts and event formats. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural Spring Musical Weekend, which was to have focused on the artistry of Teodor Currentzis and his musicAeterna ensembles, had to be canceled.


  1. ^ Kimmelman, Michael. "Lucerne Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  2. ^ Tom Service (18 August 2009). "How Lucerne changes music-lovers' lives". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  3. ^ Festival, Lucerne. "Lucerne Festival | Festival Introduction". Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "History". Lucerne Festival. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  5. ^ FESTIVAL, LUCERNE. "The Academy". Lucerne Festival.
  6. ^ FESTIVAL, LUCERNE. "Project and Programs". Lucerne Festival.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°02′56″N 8°18′23″E / 47.04889°N 8.30639°E / 47.04889; 8.30639