Destinations, The Arts

Dresden: Opulent City of Music

June 12, 2016
Dresden, Germany

In beautiful Dresden, there’s music in the air. Photo: Geolina163 via Wikipedia CC

Dresden, the enchanting city on the River Elbe, has long been a center of exceptional music. Home to superb musical ensembles, world-renowned opera, numerous music festivals and prestigious music academies, Dresden has drawn music lovers for centuries. You may have even heard of a few…like Handel, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann and Strauss. With its abundant roster of concerts and events, Dresden offers an embarrassment of musical riches.

Dresden’s passion for music stretches back to the middle ages. There are records of skilled musicians and choirs in Dresden in the 14th century, and the Saxon State Orchestra and Opera were founded in 1548. As seat of the opulent Court of Saxony, Dresden attracted many of history’s most celebrated composers, conductors and performers, who have been inspired by the city’s culture of musical brilliance.

Dresden Staatskapelle

The justifiably-renowned Staatskapelle Dresden. Photo: staatskapelle-dresden.de

Dresden Orchestral Music

Dresden is home to fifteen orchestras and musical ensembles.

The Staatskapelle Dresden, one of world’s oldest orchestras, performs at the Semper Opera. Regarded as one of Europe’s finest music ensembles, the orchestra has been helmed by famed conductors including Weber, Wagner, Karl Böhm, Giuseppe Sinopoli and its current Chief Conductor: Christian Thielemann. The Staatskapelle has premiered many classic works, including several by Richard Strauss.

The Dresden Philharmonic is another outstanding orchestra that features top-notch conductors and soloists. The ensemble performs at several Dresden venues, including historic theaters, churches and Baroque palaces.

The Dresden Sinfoniker is an excellent ensemble that is focused on Contemporary Classical Music.

Among Dresden’s many musical ensembles are groups specializing in Early and Baroque music, chamber concerts, Big Band…even an accordion orchestra.

Dresden is home to four celebrated music academies, which not only provide a steady stream of excellent musicians to the city’s ensembles, but also offer outstanding, inexpensive concerts. For a roster of their performances and events, check the websites for the University of Music Carl Maria von Weber, the Saxon State School of Music, the Heinrich Schütz Conservatory, and the College of Church Music.

Semperopera, Dresden

Inside the legendary Semperopera Theater. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Opera in Dresden

Opera has deep roots in Dresden. In fact, the first German opera premiered there in 1627. In 1667 Dresden opened its first opera house, thought to be the first opera venue north of the Alps.

Dresden’s Semper Opera is a legendary theater and one of the world’s finest temples of music. For centuries the house has hosted acclaimed conductors (Weber and Wagner served as opera directors), singers and produced operatic world premieres. The Staatskapelle Dresden is the theater’s resident orchestra. A visit to the Semper Opera is a must – for a grand operatic performance, a concert, or simply to tour the sumptuous theater.

If you prefer your opera on the lighter side, visit the Staatsoperette Dresden. The theater presents light operas, operettas and musical theater, from Mozart to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They also produce the Johann Strauss Festival every May.

Frauenkirche, Dresden

The historic Frauenkirche, setting for inspired music. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Dresden’s Heavenly Sacred Music

In addition to religious services (which usually include exceptional music), Dresden’s historic churches present many concerts. It’s a thrill to hear great music in these stunning settings. The famed Frauenkirche and Kreuzkirche offer performances, as does the Lukaskirche and Annenkirche

The BACHzyklus (Bach Cycle) at the Frauenkirche has become a staple of the city’s musical calendar.

Kreuzchor, Dresden

The famed Kreuzchor, performing in the historic home, the Kreuzkirche. Photo: kreuzchor.de

Dresden Choral Music

Dresden has a long tradition of superb choirs, and it is home to 26 choral groups. Undoubtedly the most celebrated is the Dresden Kreuzchor (Choir of the Holy Cross), which celebrates its 800th anniversary in 2016. Other notable groups include the choirs of the Dresden Philharmonic and Frauenkirche, the Saxon Vocal Ensemble, the Dresden Kammerchor (Chamber Choir) and other groups focused on a variety of musical genres.

Dresden offers more than just classical and sacred music. Lovers of Jazz, Pop and Rock will find plenty of concerts and events in theaters and clubs throughout the city. Check this list of Dresden music venues.

For complete listings of Dresden’s concerts and events, see Musik Dresden (German only, so you’ll need a translating browser).

Dixieland Festival, Dreseden

The festive International Dixieland Festival brings music to the streets on old town Dresden. Photo: Sven Döring via dresden.de

Dresden Music Festivals

Dresden and the surrounding area host many annual music festivals, showcasing stellar talent in a variety of musical genres.

For three weeks every summer the Dresden Music Festival presents orchestras, soloists and ensembles from around the world. The festival programming highlights a different theme each year. In addition to orchestral and chamber concerts, the festival offers performances of jazz and world music in a range of venues in Dresden.

Lovers of Jazz will enjoy Jazztage Dresden, which presents concerts by international stars of Jazz. The popular Dresden International Dixieland Festival offers jazz, blues and swing in grand concerts, intimate club sets and open-air events. The festival concludes with an exuberant Dizzieland parade through Dresden’s old town.

Dresden’s other notable music festivals include the Heinrich Schütz Musikfest, the Robert Schumann Festival, the Moritzburg Festival celebrating chamber music, the Drum & Bass Festival, and the International Children’s Choir Festival. A full list of Dresden’s music festivals can be found here.

I had the pleasure of exploring Dresden with tour guide Cosima Curth. A local, Cosima is an expert in Dresden’s culture and history, and provides tours in English, German, French and Spanish.

Dresden, Germany

Baroque splendor: Dresden’s old town. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

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