Innsbruck Festival of Early Music: 40th anniversary in 2016

The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music is a festival of historically informed performances of music from the late Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical periods which takes place annually in Innsbruck, Austria. It was founded in 1976.

Innsbruck Festival of Early Music

The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music had its roots in 1963 when the Innsbruck musician Otto Ulf (1907−1993) organized a concert at the Ambras Castle to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Margaret, Countess of Tyrol’s bequest of Tyrol to the Dukes of Austria.

The Ambras Castle concerts continued over the years and in 1972, he initiated an International Summer Academy in the city. The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music itself was established in 1976 with Ulf as its artistic director.

The Belgian conductor and early music specialist René Jacobs had organized the festival’s opera programme from 1991, and was artistic director of the entire festival from 1997 to 2009. In 2010, Alessandro De Marchi succeeded Jacobs as artistic director. Markus Korselt was named the festival’s Managing Director in 2014.

Walther von der Vogelweide meets Oswald von Wolkenstein: Minnesingers (lyric poets) made Innsbruck and Tyrol a hotspot for popular music in the Middle Ages — and early music still delights audiences in Innsbruck today.

Ambras Castle

Visitors can enjoy the beautiful sounds of early music and the language of yesteryear during the Innsbruck Evening Concerts. This concert series runs from October to June and features music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Composers in Innsbruck

Innsbruck was a magnet for musicians. Patrons of the arts, such as the Habsburgs and other wealthy families, attracted many great masters to the city and wonderful melodies were created here. South Tyrolean Renaissance composer Leonhard Lechner worked here following the great creative minds of the Middle Ages.

Several Flemish composers, such as Heinrich Isaac, Jacobus Regnart and Alexander Utendal, also made their careers in Innsbruck. As did their Italian counterparts Antonio Cesti and Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani.

composer Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani
composer Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani
The works of these composers are performed during the Innsbruck Evening Concerts alongside well-known pieces from the rest of Europe that were created during the same period — a great way to compare the level in Innsbruck at the time. Renowned international ensembles delight audiences and take you on a journey to the artistic golden age of this holiday destination.


Magnificent opera was performed at the first theatrehouse in German-speaking Europe. The instrumental ensemble in Innsbruck at the time later went on to form the famous pre-Classical Mannheim orchestra. The mid-twentieth century saw a revival of this tradition and Early Music was once again performed in magnificent halls and churches.

In the year 1963, to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Tyrolean apartenage to Austria, the Innsbruck musician Prof. Otto Ulf (1907 — 1993) presented the first Ambras Castle Concert and every August since 1976 Innsbruck with its Festwochen has been a mecca for Early Music fans.

Famous conductors such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, John Eliot Gardiner and Alan Curtis have performed here, opera stars such as Jennifer Larmore and the counter-tenor Derek Lee Ragin have enthralled audiences, musicians such as Jordi Savall and Sigiswald Kuijken have given spellbinding concerts in Innsbruck.

From 1992 to 2009 the conductor and counter-tenor René Jacobs has been director of opera at the festival, in 1997 he became its Artistic Director.

the conductor and counter-tenor René Jacobs
The conductor and counter-tenor René Jacobs
Under its auspices he has performed more than twenty operas, among them pieces by Pietro Antonio Cesti («L´Orontea», «L´Argia»), Claudio Monteverdi («Il ritorno d´Ulisse in patria», «L´incoronazione di Poppea»), Francesco Cavalli («Giasone», «Serse»), Antonio Sartorio («Giulio Cesare in Egitto»), Georg Friedrich Händel («Flavio», «Rinaldo»), Georg Philipp Telemann («Orpheus oder die Wunderbare Beständigkeit der Liebe»), Johann Adolf Hasse («Solimano»), Joseph Haydn («Il mondo della luna»), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart («La finta semplice») and Florian Leopold Gaßmann («L´opera seria»).

Cavalli’s «Eliogabalo» in 2004 and Francesco Conti’s «Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena» 2005 were further highlights in Jacobs' artistic commitment, vivaciously pushing the boundaries of known-repertoire and digging out forgotten works.

Since 2010 Alessandro De Marchi is the new artistic director of the Festival and took over this position from René Jacobs. In the last years he performed with his orchestra Academia Montis Regalis several operas and concerts, among them pieces by Giovanni Pergolesi «L'Olympiade and La serva padrona», Bach «Kaffekantate», Georg Philipp Telemann «Flavius Bertaridus, King of the Lombards», Francesco Provenzale «La Stellidaura vendicante» and Mozart’s «La clemenza di Tito».

In the last years De Marchi invited conductors such as Giovanni Antonini and his Il Giardino Armonico, Attilio Cremonesi with Café Zimmermann, Christina Pluhar with L’Arpeggiata, Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano, Fabio Biondo with Europa Galante, Riccardo Minasi with Il pomo d’oro and many more.

Artistic Director

Since 2010, Alessandro De Marchi has been the artistic director of the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music. He studied organ and composition at the conservatory of Santa Cecilia in his native Rome and then went on to study harpsichord, basso continuo and chamber music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

Alessandro De Marchi
Alessandro De Marchi
In 1989, he began collaborating with René Jacobs as a harpsichordist and assistant. After completing his studies, Alessandro de Marchi appeared as a harpsichord soloist in concerts and as a recitative accompanist in many international Baroque and Classical opera productions, until he started to pursue a successful career as a conductor.

De Marchi has since become one of the leading experts on the opera repertory of the 17th to the early 19th century and regularly conducts performances at the Hamburgische Staatsoper, at the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden, at the Berliner Staatsoper Unter den Linden, at the Komische Oper Berlin, at the Württembergische Staatsoper Stuttgart, at the Parisian Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, at the Opéra National Lyon, at the Teatro Regio Turin, at the Maggio Musicale Florence, at the Händel-Festspiele Halle, at the Theater an der Wien and at the National Theatre in Prague.

In his native Italy, De Marchi shaped the Academia Montis Regalis into one of the leading period-instrument ensembles. As the ensemble’s first conductor, he is responsible for various opera productions and successful international guest performances.

De Marchi’s connection to the Ambras Castle Concerts and to the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music developed a long time ago. Here, he performed as concert harpsichordist and organist with ensembles including The Rare Fruits Council and together with Attilio Cremonesi.

As a director of musical theatre, he conducted productions of Mozart’s «La clemenza di Tito», «Il re pastore», Pasquini’s «Sant' Agnese», Haydn’s «L'isola disabitata», Pergolesi’s «L'Olimpiade» and «La serva padrona», Bach’s «Coffee Cantata» and Telemann’s «Flavius Bertaridus, König der Langobarden» in Innsbruck.

Sony Classical has so far released four recordings of the Innsbruck Festival under the direction of Alessandro De Marchi: «Flavius Bertaridus, König der Langobarden» by Telemann, «L'Olimpiade» by Pergolesi, a vesper with works by Händel and Caldara and Francesco Provenzale’s opera «La Stellidaura vendicante».

40th Innsbruck Festival of Early Music

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in the summer of 2016, the Innsbruck Early Music Festival has garnered a distinguished international reputation for its ground-breaking work in reviving Baroque opera masterpieces.

the Innsbruck Early Music Festival

All the musical strings from the Renaissance, Baroque and classical periods will vibrate on the occasion of the anniversary: music as a companion through life with festive and contemplative sounds that oscillate between light and dark, joy and sorrow, triumph and grief, between major and minor, comedy and tragedy. «TragiCommedia».

Highlights of 2016 will be the performances of an opera concert featuring countertenor René Jacobs, who shaped the Innsbruck Festival between 1976 and 2009, and returns in 2016. A historic version of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute' will be performed especially for children.

The instruments played back in 1976 will reappear several times in the anniversary programme, the baroque violin, the viola da gamba and the harpsichord. In 2016, these instruments are the focus of special concerts given by violinist Hiro Kurosaki and the viol consort Fretwork.

It’s not every day that you get a chance to celebrate. The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music will be 40 years young in 2016. That calls for a special birthday programme. Taking place from July 19th to August 27th 2016.

Innsbruck Festival of Early Music

All the musical strings from the Renaissance, baroque and classical periods will vibrate on the occasion of the anniversary: music as a companion through life with festive and contemplative sounds that oscillate between light and dark, joy and sorrow, triumph and grief, between major and minor, comedy and tragedy. Tragicommedia.

Three weddings and no funeral in the opera programme. Two young people get married in secret, thereby turning things upside down. Artistic Director Alessandro De Marchi will conduct «Il matrimonio segreto» by Cimarosa, a prime example of the opera buffa.

A wedding is also on the agenda in «Le nozze in sogno», a commedia civile, the setting to music of which was identified by Italian musicologists to be the work of the former Innsbruck court composer Pietro Antonio Cesti.

The carnival opera is about the eternal conflict between the generations, such as preventing a wedding that goes against somebody’s will and bringing about a marriage of love, which the young generation cleverly accomplishes despite the older generation’s efforts.

Material that was simply made for BAROQUE OPERA: YOUNG. Following various trials, Tamino and Pamina, too, are a happy couple in W. A. Mozart’s Singspiel «The Magic Flute», performed as part of the 2016 Festival in a historical version for small ensemble as a children’s opera. The three weddings are juxtaposed with a life saved at the last moment.

In C. W. Gluck’s opera «Alceste», first performed in Vienna in 1767, the king’s wife is ready to die in his stead. But the god Apollo brings her back to life from the realm of the dead and reunites her with her husband. The ancient tragicomedy set to music by Gluck will be conducted by René Jacobs, who shaped the Innsbruck Festival between 1976 and 2009, and returns in 2016.

Jacobs was also the one who sang the first notes in the first ever Festival concert in 1976: a cantata by the Viennese court musician Antonio Caldara. Accordingly, the 2016 Festival summer will open with cantatas by Caldara, sung by countertenor Valer Sabadus (19 July).

The entire programme of the first Festival concert, which also included works by Bach, Handel and Couperin, will be presented again in the anniversary year on 24 August exactly.

The composers featured in that first concert in 1976 reappear several times in the anniversary programme, as do the instruments played back then: the baroque violin, the viola da gamba and the harpsichord.

In 2016, these instruments are the focus of special concerts given by violinist Hiro Kurosaki, harpsichordists Christophe Rousset and Andreas Staier, the viol consort Fretwork as well as the gambists from Les Talens Lyriques.

violinist Hiro Kurosaki
violinist Hiro Kurosaki
The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music will celebrate together with artists who have left their mark here, such as Giovanni Antonini, Howard Arman, Alfredo Bernardini, Amandine Beyer, Donato di Stefano, Renato Girolami and Lawrence Zazzo.

«Partly serious, partly jesting odes». Just as in Telemann’s collection of songs, the music presented during the anniversary Festival will oscillate between sparkling wit and solemn earnestness: the Hamburg Ratsmusik ensemble with «Fortuna scherzosa», Barokksolistene with «The early joke», Il Giardino Armonico with «The Death of Reason», Zefiro with Mozart’s «Gran Partita», the «Coronation Mass» under the direction of De Marchi, lutenist Thomas Dunford with «Dowland's joys and sorrows» and Wolfgang Mitterer playing music on the Ebert organ in the «Schwarzmander» church.

Hotel tips

The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music recommends following hotels:

  1. Austria Trend Hotel Congress Innsbruck
    Rennweg 12a
    6020 Innsbruck
    T: +43 512 2115
  2. Hotel Innsbruck
    Innrain 3
    A-6020 Innsbruck
    T: +43 512 59 86 80
  3. Hotel Sailer
    Adamgasse 8
    A-6020 Innsbruck
    T: +43 512 5363
  4. Lanserhof Lans
    Kochholzweg 153
    6072 Lans bei Innsbruck
    T: +43 512 386 660
  5. Parkhotel Igls
    Igler Straße 51
    A-6080 Innsbruck/Igls
    T: +43 512 377 305


Innsbruck Festival of Early Music:
Herzog-Friedrich-Straße 21/1
6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Tel: +43 512 571 032

Office hours: Monday to Friday from 9 am. to 12.30 pm If you are not a member of the Friends of Art you can order your tickets here: +43 1 88 088.

Learn more about Innsbruck Festival of Early Music at the official website

Contrary to frequent misconception, early music is not just about research and highly academic performance. It is as much about enjoying music and having fun as music of any other period, as some more unconventional items on this year’s event list will prove.

For audience members whose passion extends from the music of the Renaissance and Baroque into more a contemporary terrain, an intriguing late-night event might spike their curiosity: a trio of seasoned early music practitioners meets a Hamburg-based musician touring the world with dance music ranging from house to techno.

If dancing the summer night away to this more exotic mix isn’t for you, perhaps the Norwegian Barokksolistene can tempt you to an evening of merry mood in the Landestheater. The musicians are not only masters of their instruments, they are also brilliant entertainers and will enchant their audience with light comedy and musical delights.

In line with the thought of making music accessible, the festival puts on church services that include early music. It also offers a number of lunch concerts serving tasty authentic sound and taking the music right into the city for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re a fan of early music, whether you have tickets for the festival’s big events or not.

2016's celebrations will tempt both the enthusiasts and the curious to make that trip to Tyrol, and with such varied events in a number of historic locations, there is bound to be something for everyone.

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