It’s almost time: On the 30th of October Wien Modern begins, featuring 55  premieres or first performances in 21 locations throughout Vienna. Heinz Rögl provides an overview of the sweeping program.

On the 21st of October Wien Modern and the artistic director Bernhard Günther held a press conference in the painting gallery of the Academy for Performing Arts in Vienna. There, together with prominent participants of this years festival, he presented the details of the upcoming events.

This Sunday Wien Modern will begin with a scenic production for a young audience (Georg Friedrich Haas: “The Little I am Me”) at the Dschungel Theatre in Vienna. The actual opening concert will then take place in the Konzerthaus  on the 3rd of November where the RSO Vienna will perform works from Krzysztof Penderecki, the new trombone concert from Georg Friedrich Haas and the Vierten Symphonie von Jorge E. López.

Georg Friedrich Haas (c) Substantia Jones
Georg Friedrich Haas (c) Substantia Jones

And then Vienna will spend an entire month under the spell of new music. Wien Modern is one of the worlds largest festivals of its kind with 55 premieres and first performances in 21 concert locations highlighting the current state of contemporary music and its Viennese history. It wouldn’t be Bernhard Günther, who was the first mica-music austria contributor for new music and author and publisher of the mica encyclopedia “Music From Austria” (which formed the foundation of the mica-music databank) if he didn’t also present a new publication. At the second program presentation of the event he will present, next to the handy catalog, two more massive volumes of essays as well as an “From A-Z” compilation of all of the artists, interpreters and composers presented at this years festival.

Bernhard Günther (c) Nafez Rerhuf
Bernhard Günther (c) Nafez Rerhuf

With events in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and the central cemetary, music from countless Viennese and Vienna-based composers – from Mahler and Schönberg to Jorge. E. López, Pierluigi Billone and many others – this years program is decidedly Viennese and generation spanning. A complete and well arranged overview of the complete program can be found at the festivals website:

Eva Reiter (c) Nafez Rerhuf
Eva Reiter (c) Nafez Rerhuf

The Erste Bank award winner Eva Reiter will be performing as soloist at a “Late Night” in Electro Gönner. Another solo presentation, Georg Nussbaum’s painao installation “Eine Winterreise” will be presented in the foyer of the Concert House. The installation consists of an ice covered piano which plays itself. A 2Winterreise” will be played on the piano, frozen during the vulcanic winter of the “year without summer” 1816, until the strings are eventually melted free. The parisian Quatuor Diotima will perform – as the composer once requested the Kolisch Quartet to do – the four string quartets from Arnold Schönberg followed by Beethovens later Quartets. The performance will take place in the Mozart Hall of the Cocnert Hosue as well as in the Brahms – and Glass hall of the Musikverein.


The IGNM project “Comprovise” will be presenting a sort of “festival in a festival”. The program, developed and organised by Tiziana Bertoncini, Thomas Lehn, Nina Polaschegg und Bruno Strobl, will be centred on composed and improvised contemporary music. It’s all about the interaction between planned and spontaneous music creation.

This focus will be maintained over three concert evenings and eight concerts. They will be expanded with lectures, podium and artist discussions.


mica – musicaustria and Wien Modern once again cooperate with a mica-focus titled “I just can’t read that map! —about guides for listening to new music and the value of musical naiveté” Explanations of music frequently can’t avoid using metaphors. Mapping the unmappable. But is that even possible with new music? Philip Röggla will moderate a discussion on this topic together with Karlheinz Essl, Margit Painsi und Mia Zabelka on Monday, the 14. 11. at 17.00

Those who are sceptical about new music are frequently advised to listen to it once. That suggestion actually implies an entire process of acclimatisation, acquaintance and understanding. Aids for this process aren’t rare in serious music. Programs, introductory lectures, and artists concepts are frequently provided as part of the events in order to help audience members understand the performances. Unfortunately these aids frequently come up short. Since compositions will use random processes, and improvisations look to work around formulas, in the end no single performance resembles another.

It is worth it to ask: do such guides make it easier to discover unknown new music? Can the naïveté of open ears make it possible to hear music like no other before? Or is an informed listening needed to navigate through the variety?

These questions are addressed for mica – musicaustria und Wien Modern by a performing composition professor (Karlheinz Essl) and a composing performer (Mia Zabelka) together with the music psychologist Margit Painsi.

Heinz Rögle (adapted from the German by Dave Dempsey)