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10 cities every classical music artist should once visit

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Top Classical Music Cities - iMusician

Music can take you places — emotionally and geographically, too. The provenance of both compositions and their authors has massively helped shape music, its genres, and styles.

In this article, we’re diving into classical music, visiting classical destinations that have played an essential role in the history and development of the genre (and are beautiful places to visit, too).

Would you care to join us for a short journey through some of the world's most significant classical music cities?

1. Vienna, Austria

Making the decision as to what city would come on top of the list was easy. Vienna, the Austrian capital that radiates beauty, coziness, and elegance, has often been regarded as the world’s capital city of classical music. Vienna has a deep, long-lasting musical heritage and has been home, a creative crib, or a place of inspirational epiphany for plentiful globally-renowned composers over the centuries.

While personalities like Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss I, or Johann Strauss II (also known as the Father and the Son) originated in Vienna, names like Mozart, Haydn,Brahms, Bruckner, or Ludwig van Beethoven (among many others) were associated with the city as avid travelers, coming in to be captivated by its remarkable musical environment.

Classical music in Vienna did not conclude at the end of the 19th century (Johann Strauss II died in 1899). In fact, the city remains significant within the classical genre to this day. Besides honoring famous composers and musicians who spent parts of their lives in the city via monuments and past residences, Vienna continues to celebrate classical music through today’s artists, lavish events, and musical institutions.

It is home to one of the finest classical music orchestras in the world, the Vienna Philharmonic, which has held the Vienna New Year's Concert annually since 1939. It is now considered one of the most significant classical music events worldwide. What’s more, every year, it is broadcast on TV and radio in more than 90 countries worldwide. However, the performance has a fraught history, as it was originally put together as "part of the Nazi regime's propaganda".

In addition to the New Year's Concert, there are also other events in the city in honor of the genre, such as the annual Viennese Ball, the Summer Night Concert Schönbrunn (also held by Vienna Philharmonic), or the AMADEUS Festival Vienna.

Vienna - iMusician

2. Salzburg, Austria

Let’s stay in Austria for a little while. Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a prolific and highly influential composer of the Classical period. As a child prodigy, Mozart started composing at the age of five, producing more than 800 works during his short-lived career and life.

However, the city of Salzburg significantly influenced the field of music long before Mozart was born. In 1617, the opera ‘Orfeo’ Claudio Monteverdi was performed at a local Steintheater Hellbrunn, becoming the first opera performance outside Italy.

Salzburg is also the residency of two crucial classical music festivals — the Salzburg Festival, established in 1920, focusing primarily on Mozart’s operas, and the Salzburg Easter Festival, created by Herbert by Karajam in 1969 and mainly featuring the Berlin Philharmonic.

Salzburg - iMusician

3. Leipzig, Germany

Leipzig is primarily renowned as the city where Johann Sebastian Bach (originally from Eisenach) spent the last 27 years of his life, working as the choir director at St. Thomas Church. However, Leipzig is more significant than just Bach’s residency.

It’s the place where Robert Schumann, one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era, met his wife, Clara Wieck, who went on to become one of the most regarded pianists of the era.

On top of that, in 1843, the composer Felix Mendelsohn Bartholdy established a Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, now the oldest university of music in Germany (the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig).

Leipzig - iMusician

4. Prague, Czechia

Prague has been one of the most cultural cities in Europe continuously throughout its history. It became the capital of the Roman Empire in the 14th century under Emperor Charles IV and flourished again as a center of humanism in the 16th century during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II.

The city’s significance also grew with regard to classical music. Prague’s cultural society played an essential role in Mozart’s career, leading him to premier important works there, such as Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito, and eulogize the city in his Symphony No. 38 (also known as Prague Symphony).

Additionally, the city has been linked to some of the most renowned Czech composers who traveled there for boundless inspiration. Bedřich Smetana commemorated Prague in his set of six symphonic poems called Má Vlast (My Fatherland). Meanwhile, Antonín Dvořák laid the foundations of his career in the city before becoming an internationally acclaimed composer (and director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York).

Other names associated with Prague include Leoš Janáček, Bohuslav Martinů, or Zdeněk Fibich, most of whom are celebrated through the Prague Spring International Music Festival, held annually since 1946.

Prague - iMusician

5. London, The UK

London has served as a professional crib for many English composers, including Henry Purcell (who was also born there), Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. On top of that, it became a temporary residence or adopted home for several foreign composers.

Mozart composed his first-ever symphony there, while George Frideric Handel (originally from Halle, Germany) was the leading figure of British classical music in the early 18th century. Other composers like Mendelssohn, Bartók, and Haydn, too, spent significant time in London, with the latter commemorating the city in his series of London Symphonies.

Although today, classical music in London is rather in the shadows of popular music, the city remains significant for the genre. For one, many educational establishments offering classical music courses are located there, including the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music. Each year, classical fans can also enjoy BBC Proms, an eight-week summer festival of daily classical music concerts held predominantly in the world-famous Royal Albert Hall.

London - iMusician

6. New York, the USA

New York became the center of European classical music during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the formation of the New York Philharmonic in 1842 helping to establish the city’s reputation. During the next century and a half, New York became home and refuge for many American and foreign composers.

The New York Native Edward McDowell was an influential figure in the late 19th century, followed by Charles Griffes. The best-known New York composer and American classical composer of any kind was George Gershwin, whose work has been profoundly adapted for use in film and television.

We should also not forget about Bernstein, Dvořák, Iver, Varèse, and Bartók, all of whom spent essential parts of their professional careers in New York.

New York - iMusician

7. Bergen, Norway

Bergen might be a surprising choice, but it’s both a beautiful city and the birthplace of Norway’s most renowned composer, Edward Grieg. Grieg was one of the leading figures of the Romantic era and received acclaim, particularly for his use of Norwegian folk music in his compositions.

Grieg’s presence can be felt throughout the entirety of Bergen. There are numerous statues that depict his image, as well as many cultural buildings named after him. These include the city's largest concert hall (Grieg Hall), the music school (Grieg Academy), and the professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor).

Bergen - iMusician

8. Naples, Italy

Naples is famous for many things, including pizza Margherita, its 500 churches, Maradona, and music! The city was a crucial center for opera composers, particularly in the 18th century, helping to reshape the genre into the form we know today.

Some prominent figures were Domenico Scarlatti, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Nicola Porpora, and Gioacchino Rossini, who also became famous as one of the artistic directors of the renowned Teatro di San Carlo located in Naples.

Naples - iMusician

9. Milan, Italy

While Naples was an influential center of opera, Milan was the absolute heart of it. The grand opera house, Teatro Alla Scala (also known as just ‘La Scala’), first opened in 1778 and soon became a magnet for leading figures in opera and ballet both in and outside Italy.

The composer Giuseppe Verdi, who dominated the Italian opera music scene in the 19th century, not only performed but also passed away in Milan. To this day, his memory is present in his Casa Verdi, which is located in the city and currently serves as a foundation, gallery, and music venue.

Milan - iMusician

10. Paris, France

We already had the world’s capital of classical music. Now it’s time for the city of arts, alias Paris. The history of music in Paris traces back to the 12th century when a school of polyphony was established at Notre Dame and continued through the popularity of Trobadours and the Renaissance era.

The Baroque era was influenced by composers such as Lully and Rameau, best known for their operas, Charpentier and Couperin. By the late 19th century, Paris became an important center for symphony, ballet, and operatic music, attracting great masterminds from both all around France and the world.

This includes composers like Verdi, Chopin, Liszt, and Offenbach, who all traveled to Paris to shape the local culture and society, or French native Berlioz, Massenet, Debussy, and Satie.

Paris - iMusician

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