Costa Rica's thriving classical music scene

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Although many travelers head to Costa Rica to experience its exotic and unique culture, the country also boasts a thriving classical music scene.

National Symphony Orchestra

Costa Rica first became an important destination for classical music in 1970, when a visiting American named Gerald Brown created the National Symphony Orchestra. Since its foundation, the National Symphony Orchestra has also been lead by renowned American conductor Irwin Hoffman and currently plays under the leadership of Chosei Komatsu, a Japanese national who previously served as the principal conductor of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

The National Symphony Orchestra, which is composed mostly of Costa Rican musicians, holds its season from April until November. During that time, visitors can head to the National Theater to see concerts every Thursday and Friday night and Saturday afternoon. The orchestra frequently hosts internationally recognized guest soloists and conductors, so travelers should check in advance to see if any special musicians will be playing during their trip.

Classical Music Venues

Fans of choral classical music can visit a performance of the Sura Chamber Choir, which was founded in 1989. The choir consists of talented performers from two of Costa Rica's state universities who frequently perform music ranging from the Renaissance up through contemporary styles.

Other venues that frequently host performances of classical music include the Goethe Institute, the Alliance Francaise, the Costa Rican Art Museum and the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center.

International Festival of Music

The premier event on Costa Rica's classical music calendar, however, is the International Festival of Music, which is held during the last two weeks of August every year. The festival is marked by performances from internationally renowned musicians in venues all over the country, including the National Theater and the Metropolitan Cathedral in the capital city of San Jose.

In 2010, the festival was opened in San Jose by Kirill Gliadkovsky, a famous pianist from Russia. Playing on the grand organ of the Metropolitan Cathedral, Gliadkovsky performed pieces written by esteemed classical composers such as Pachelbel, Clerambault, Handel, Bach, Liszt and Boellman. The pianist was notably joined by his 11-year-old daughter Anastasia for the performance of a movement written by Bach, ultimately earning great cheers and applause from the enthusiastic audience.

In addition to Gliadkovsky, notable performers in the 2010 festival included the Spanish quartet Albeniz, the Korean chamber music group Jeong Ga Ak Hoe, the German-Costa Rican duo of Hanstedt-Schopp, the American a capella group Tenet and the famed Vienna Boys' Choir.