2023 Lucerne Festival

Summer is the season of festivals, and that’s true for the Concertgebouw Orchestra too. Every year, starting in mid-August, it goes on a tour of the big European music festivals. One of its highlights is the visit to Lucerne, for the Lucerne Festival. It has been a regular part of the “festival tour” for 35 years now.
Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouworkest in Luzern, 1988 (image: Peter Fischli/Lucerne Festival).
Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouworkest in Luzern, 1988 (image: Peter Fischli/Lucerne Festival).

This year the Concertgebouw Orchestra will play Mahler’s Seventh Symphony on 27 August in Lucerne, led by honorary guest conductor Iván Fischer.

In 1972 the orchestra made its first guest appearance at the Swiss music festival, called the Internationale Musikfestwochen Luzern at the time (and Lucerne Festival since 2000). It played three concerts, conducted by Bernard Haitink, Rafael Kubelík and Eugen Jochum respectively. This was followed by concerts conducted by Haitink in 1973 and 1983.

Haitink Luzern 1983
Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Lucerne in 1983 (photo: Stephen Wicki/Lucerne Festival).

Pop star

In 1988 the orchestra returned and was met with great success playing under the baton of then Chief Conductor Riccardo Chailly. On 2 September 1989, the Het Parool newspaper headline read “The traveling circus of mega-star Chailly”, continuing with, “As well as being met with rousing applause, bravos are called out. The orchestra responds with two encores. […] The reticent Swiss public is much taken by the orchestra, led by the new conductor with the appearance of a pop star. A Japanese fan coos excitedly when she sees Chailly standing in the dressing room afterwards. Yes, it really is him.”

Since then, the orchestra has enjoyed a standing invitation to the annual Lucerne Festival.

Second home

Violinist Anna de Vey Mestdagh writes in Preludium (Dutch) that she and her fellow orchestra musicians always look forward to the concerts in Lucerne: “After Amsterdam, this picturesque town nestled in the mountains has gradually become our second home, a place where we would secretly like to live after we retire.”

Luzern koperblazers
Brass players at the Kultur- und Kongresszentrum in Lucerne (photo: Peter Tollenaar).

Swiss Friends of the Concertgebouworkest 

Over the years, the orchestra has built up a loyal Swiss audience and in 2007 a national Society of Friends was founded. This Swiss Friends of the Concertgebouw Orchestra enables promising young talents in Switzerland to participate in masterclasses by given by orchestra members during their stay in Switzerland. They have also donated numerous instruments to the orchestra over the past ten years. During the Lucerne Festival, the Swiss host the traditional Apéro Riche for the musicians, staff and Global Friends of the orchestra. A festive buffet after the concert, which reinforces the bond between the musicians and their Swiss Friends.

masterclass Vincent Cortvrint
Masterclass in Switzerland by Vincent Cortvrint (photo: Peter Tollenaar). 

Festival tour

This year, the traditional summer tour is visiting Berlin, Ljubljana and Grafenegg as well as Lucerne. For many years now, the Concertgebouw Orchestra has been visiting important European music venues and classical music festivals every summer in the period around the end of August and the beginning of September. In this way it stays in touch with the many music lovers throughout Europe and with the other orchestras that perform there.

For the musicians it is a perfect way to warm up for the new season before the concert series begin. They are popular summer guests at the Berliner Festspiele, the Kölner Sommerfestival, the Salzburger Festspiele and the Ljubljana Festival, among others. The Concertgebouw Orchestra has also performed often at the BBC Proms in London and the Edinburgh International Festival.

Some concerts take place in the open air; during the Grafenegg Festival, the Wolkenturm open-air stage invariably provides a spectacular backdrop.