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Music

Latvia is a land of music. Nearly one of every two of its residents has studied at a music school, sings in a chorus or plays a musical instrument. This means there is a busy concert and festival schedule in Latvia: from opera productions to early music festivals, to the Song Festival, to jazz concerts, world music performances and events featuring every genre of contemporary music.

  • "Kokle" players
  • The First Rock Café
  • The Latvian musicians' walk of fame in Liepaja

Music lovers in Latvia often have a tough choice to make - which performances to see - especially if major and interesting events are taking place simultaneously. It is not only in the summer months that there is an abundance of musical events – when weekends are abuzz with concerts, festivals, musical theatre productions in every corner of Latvia – but also in the autumn, winter and spring, when Latvia is filled with the sound of music in harmony with the rhythm of nature and seasonal patterns.

In early June, the Latvian National Opera closes its season with an Opera Festival where you have another chance to watch the new productions of the preceding season or savour the golden classics of the opera world. The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, in turn, invites music lovers to enjoy the summer and music in Liepāja: you can hear a special summer programme there in July at the Liepājas vasara (Liepāja Summer) festival. 

Also during the summer, the Dome Cathedral in Riga and Liepāja ( in September) host international organ music festivals which often surprise listeners with the acoustic capabilities of this ancient and rare musical instrument. There is also a unique annual event in Latvia called Dabas koncertzāle (Nature’s Concert Hall), a synthesis of music, science and art over several hours outdoors, which aims to bring human senses closer to nature via the medium of a specific object. Thus, this year for example, those interested were invited to participate in artistic meditations involving travertine. 

In early June the traditional Early Music Festival is held in Riga and at the Rundāle Palace where the best performers from Latvia and the world offer Gregorian chanting and Renaissance and Baroque music. Additionally in mid-July, fans of contemporary music from all over Eastern Europe make their way to the coastal town of Salacgrīva to take in performances by some of the world’s top and up-and-coming pop and rock acts, as well as the sun, the sea and the creative freedom brought by the largest music festival in the Baltics, Positivus. The middle of July also abounds with jazz events: that is when the summer session of the international Rīgas Ritmi festival culminates in an extravagant spectacle and the international Saulkrasti Jazz Festival opens. Another weekend has to be spent in the western capital of Latvia, the birthplace of the wind and Latvian rock music, Liepāja, where the Summer Sound Liepāja has been held for the second time now, featuring many world-renowned pop acts. In early August another beautiful Latvian town, Sigulda, invites you to the Opera Fest, which is taking place for the 18th time this year. The middle of August has to be reserved for Liepāja once again: this is when the Fontaine Festival, organised by the free-thinking Dane Louis Fontaine, takes place, usually attracting an equally free-thinking audience and guest artists from exotic places. In late August in Riga the Spīķeri Festival takes place in the refurbished warehouse district of Spīķeri: a high-quality musical mix that involves both treasures of Latvian chamber music and improvisations on American standards.

Yet besides festivals, which significantly enrich the musical taste of Latvia, everyday life also offers plenty of concerts and concert series. For example, the creative and young Sinfonietta Riga orchestra offers its faithful listeners and amused friends performances ranging from the Baroque to the extremes of contemporary acoustic arts. It is a musical collective of the highest class which annually manages to produce about six large-format premiers, more than 20 concert programmes and participate in all the major musical events in Latvia.

In the autumn season the large film festivals in Riga face stiff competition from the Autumn Chamber Music Festival, Winterfest, organised by the Hermann Braun Foundation and the European Christmas festival. The biannual Viennese Classics festival takes place in February, featuring pieces by Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart. Also in February, Saxophonia, an international saxophone music festival, brings fans together. Whereas in March, Liepāja plays host to the international Pianism Stars festival, which usually attracts the world’s best pianists.

The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra opens its new season in October: in 2010 it will be with Gustav Mahler’s Second symphony, conducted by Karel Mark Chichon, and a premier of Ēriks Ešenvalds’s “Fanfaras”.