11 of the best classical music festivals you can enjoy online this summer

29 June 2020, 15:58 | Updated: 9 July 2020, 09:14

The best classical music festivals you can enjoy online this summer
The best classical music festivals you can enjoy online this summer. Picture: Getty / Riga Jurmala Festival / VOCES8 Foundation / Classic FM

By Rosie Pentreath

Many festivals have been cancelled due to COVID-19 this year – but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what they have to offer virtually.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has closed concert halls, cut seasons short and led to the cancellation of music events around the world.

But in spite of challenges and set-backs in the classical music world – which are all too real and heartbreaking – disruption from COVID-19 has also inspired creativity and new ways of sharing the joys of music. From balcony baritones and distanced duets, to making music in livings rooms with children, pets and stray housemates in tow, we’ve seen a lot.

And the world’s greatest festivals are no exception. The likes of Glyndebourne and George Enescu International have all jumped online to present new virtual offerings of what they do best this summer. Here are some of our top picks.

Read more: Glyndebourne cancels 2020 festival, but we’re working with them to bring you virtual operas >

  1. VOCES8 Foundation’s ‘Live from London’

    ‘Live from London’ is a new online festival featuring beautiful music from some of the world’s best vocal ensembles, including The Sixteen (The Voices of Classic FM), VOCES8, I Fagiolini, Stile Antico, The Gesualdo Six, Apollo5 and The Swingles.

    Broadcast weekly on Saturdays – from Saturday 1 August – the festival invites audiences to watch stunning concerts filmed at St Anne and St Agnes Church in the heart of London online in HD.

    Some of the ensembles will be coming together to perform for the first time since lockdown, and they will all be revisiting their very favourite repertoire. ‘Tickets’ for the event are not free, and instead the festival aims to raise money for music education initiatives.

    Season passes are £80 (£8 per concert, per household) or single concert tickets are £12.50, with concessions available for students and choirs across the world.

    Visit: voces8.foundation/livefromlondon.

    Live From London

    Live From London

    00:02:08

  2. Ryedale Festival Online Festival 2020

    The UK’s Ryedale Festival has a new online platform. Brilliant musicians are on the bill, including pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, violinist Rachel Podger, organist Anna Lapwood and the Carducci Quartet.

    Eight concerts will be broadcast daily over the course of a week – from Sunday 19 to Sunday 26 July – with musicians playing in Ryedale’s spaces with no audience. You can watch for free, but the festival is inviting people to make a supportive donations.

    Visit: ryedalefestival.com

  3. Virtual Verbier Festival

    Verbier Festival is teaming up with Medici TV to bring its offering to online audiences for free this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    From 16 July to 31 October, audiences can access the festival at ‘VF at Home’ and enjoy video interviews, masterclasses and re-broadcasts of wonderful concerts and rarities from the Festival’s stages over the years – including from pianists Martha Argerich and Yuja Wang, violinist Joshua Bell, and Gautier & Renaud Capuçon.

    The Festival’s Academy will also be available online.

    Visit: www.verbierfestival.com

    Virtual Verbier Festival
    Virtual Verbier Festival. Picture: Getty / Classic FM
  4. Glyndebourne Open House

    Glyndebourne has moved its 2020 festival off the lawns and plush seats of Glyndebourne House, and into YOUR house for ‘Glyndebourne Open House’.

    We recommend you dust off your picnic basket, don your best bow tie, pour the cold fizz – and enjoy the series of Mozart operas included in the online festival from your garden.

    Even better? We partnered with Glyndebourne to bring two instalments of the festival – Jonathan Kent’s adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni last Sunday 31 May, and Nicholas Hytner’s take on Così fan tutte at 5pm this Sunday 6 June – direct to your garden or living room, via our Facebook Page.

    Operas by Samuel Barber (Vanessa), and Handel (Rinaldo), are also being followed by Ravel, Strauss and Britten.

    Visit: www.glyndebourne.com/openhouse

    Glyndebourne Open House festival launched last Sunday with the Open House Opening Night’ production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro
    Glyndebourne Open House festival launched last Sunday with the Open House Opening Night’ production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Picture: Getty
  5. Grange Park Opera Surrey’s Found Season

    “Having, sadly, lost the 2020 Season we’ve created a Found Season...” says Grange Park Opera, Surrey on its website. Instead of donning frocks and finery in Surrey, opera fans are invited to jump online (finery is still very much an option, of course) and watch 15 exciting performances streamed over six weeks.

    Expect appearances from artists like Sir Bryn Terfel, Sir Simon Keenlyside, and Joseph Calleja – and a bonus appearance from the legend that is Joanna Lumley doing the honour of virtually cutting the ribbon for opening night (watch below).

    Visit: www.grangeparkopera.co.uk

  6. Riga Jurmala Academy Online

    Riga Jurmala Festival launched in the Latvian cities of Riga and Jūrmala last year (2019). Pianist Yuja Wang and guitarist MILOŠ were on the bill of the inaugural festival, with similarly unmissable artists slated for 2020.

    Sadly, coronavirus meant the festival’s second outing – which was going to see the launch of the Riga Jurmala Festival Academy as well – has had to be postponed. The Academy is launching full steam ahead, but just online instead, this summer.

    Masterclasses between professional musicians and students will be taking place live on the Riga Jurmala Academy’s Facebook Page, free for anyone to watch. Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra violinists Tobias Steymans and Julita Smoleń, and piccolo player Natalie Schwaabe, are among the top musicians leading the online sessions, as well as pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

    Visit: www.facebook.com/rigajurmalaacademy

    Riga Jurmala Academy, featuring masterclasses from leading orchestral musicians, has launched online
    Riga Jurmala Academy, featuring masterclasses from leading orchestral musicians, has launched online. Picture: Riga Jurmala Festival
  7. Gstaad Menuhin Festival Online Academy

    The Gstaad Menuhin Festival was sadly cancelled earlier in the year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But good news for festival fans is that the festival’s Academy is available online.

    Past concert highlights, backstage interviews and exclusive masterclasses can all be accessed for a taste of the beautiful Swiss Alps and their stunning venues can be experienced from the comfort of your own home.

    Visit: www.gstaaddigitalfestival.ch

  8. George Enescu Festival In Your Home

    For 2020, due to COVID-19, the George Enescu International Festival ‘went online’ and hosted live streams between 18 March and the end of April in place of its usual concert hall setting in Romania.

    The Internet is a beautiful thing and, luckily for us, highlights from the virtual festival are still available for on-demand viewing.

    Visit: www.festivalenescu.ro

  9. Cambridge Summer Music Virtual Festival

    Another summer festival gone virtual this year is Cambridge Summer Music Festival, with archived performances available to view online and more updates available on its social media channels.

    The festival was founded in 1979 as an organ recital series and it has since expanded to include vocal and instrumental music, from intimate solo and chamber performances to concerts of works for massed choir and orchestra.

    Visit: www.cambridgesummermusic.co.uk

  10. Bergen International Festival 2020

    Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Bergen International Festival – usually an annual highlight in Norway’s cultural calendar (Yo-Yo Ma, Hilary Hahn, Kathryn Stott and Steven Isserlis were just four of the big names on the classical bill in 2019) – has moved its 2020 edition online, and is offering more than 50 events online, free of charge.

    Music, opera, theatre, dance, and visual art of various genres are on offer, and they have this handy guide of how you can ‘attend’ from home.

    Visit: www.fib.no

    Opening Concert

    Opening Concert

    01:20:13

  11. The Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival

    Tanglewood is among the internationally renowned festivals that have moved online out of necessity this year. Expect ‘headline’ slots from the likes of pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth.

    You can watch archive performances for free, and pay for the new performances – until 23 August.

    Visit: www.bso.org