Running this year through September 9, the festival is held at the Schloss Grafenegg, the castle of the Metternich family about an hour outside Vienna. The event is the brainchild of Tonk‹nstler manager Johannes Neubert and composer HK Gruber; it is run by the castle's owner, Tassilo Metternich-Sšndor (who is, in fact, a direct descendant of the Prince Metternich who helped shape post-Napoleonic Europe), with veteran pianist Rudolf Buchbinder serving as artistic director.
Buchbinder and Metternich-Sšndor are aiming high: the inaugural Grafenegg Festival is presenting such formidable artists as the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev (tonight and tomorrow, the latter with Buchbinder as the soloist in Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto), the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, and the Czech Philharmonic under Zdenek Mšcal. The energetic period-instrument enemble Il Giardino Armonico will be on hand, with director Giovanni Antonini working his spectacular way with some Vivaldi recorder concertos. Recitalists include pianists Alfred Brendel and Arcadi Volodos and tenor Ian Bostridge; the composer-in-residence is Krzyzstof Penderecki.
The Tonk‹nstler Orchestra will be Grafenegg's house band. (While it is known to many in the anglophone world, through recordings and tours, as the Vienna Tonk‹nstler, the ensemble is in fact the state orchestra of the Lower Austria region, with regular seasons in both the regional capital, St. P‹lten, and the national capital.) Beginning in 2008, the Tonk‹nstler will be in residence at Grafenegg from late June through the late August festival, giving at least one concert per week.
The concert venues at Schloss Grafenegg include the Reitschule (the castle's former riding school) and the Wolkenturm (literally, "pillar of clouds") a brand-new open-air arena designed to accommodate about 2,000 listeners without any amplification. For this year, the Meierhof (once the estate's administration building) is being used as an inclement-weather venue; a new indoor Auditorium seating 1,200 is under construction with a projected opening of spring 2008. Acoustic design for both of the new venues (the Wolkenturm and the Auditorium) is by M‹ller-BBM of Munich, which has worked on such venues as the Philharmonie in Essen (Germany), the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden and the rebuilt Teatro La Fenice in Venice.
More information on the Grafenegg Music Festival, including a complete schedule and program, is available at www.grafenegg.com.