Throughout the world Austria is recognized for its rich cultural past and present. This wealth of artistic achievements is represented in architectural monuments like the Stephansdom (Saint Stephen`s Cathedral), Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, the "Goldene Dachl" in Innsbruck, Melk Abbey, the "Loos-Haus" or the "Hundertwasser-Haus". An extensive programme of art exhibitions, theatre, concerts, festivals and folklore events complete the cultural offer. World renowned choirs (Vienna Boys` Choir, Arnold-Schoenberg-Choir) and orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Wiener Symphoniker, the Camerata Academica Salzburg, the Concentus Musicus and the Vienna Art Orchestra act as ambassadors for Austria.
Culture shapes the image of Austria in the world. For the purpose of illustrating the cultural diversity of Austria an active international cultural policy is therefore a vital Austrian interest. More information on this topic is available under International Cultural Policy on this website (see Quicklink on the right).
Austrian literature covers nine centuries. Its first great masterpiece was the "Nibelungenlied" ("The Lay of the Nibelungs"), dating from around 1200. The nineteenth century dramatists still performed today include Franz Grillparzer, Adalbert Stifter and the two writers of popular comedies Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nestroy. More recent Austrian writers of international renown are Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, Robert Musil, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke.
The "Viennese Classicism", the age of Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, is regarded as one of the great achievements of European culture in music. The Age of Biedermeier found its counterpart to these three composers of the Classical period in the person of the Viennese composer Franz Schubert, whose works of chamber music represented a highlight of the Romantic period. The outgoing 19th century was characterised by the works of Anton Bruckner, Hugo Wolf and Johannes Brahms, the epitome of Classical-Romantic music. Gustav Mahler can be regarded as one of the great symphonic composers at the onset of Modernism. The Vienna Operetta had its kings in Johann Strauß and Franz Lehár, the music of the brothers Schrammel is inseperable from the "Heurigen" (i.e. a typical Viennese wine tavern). The "Second Viennese School" with Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern influenced music from the era of Modernism to the fusion music of Josef (Joe) Zawinul and Franz Koglmanns "Third Stream".
After the Second World War Austrian theatre soon reclimbed international levels. The Wiener Burgtheater ranks among the foremost stages in Europe. The Vienna State Opera is regarded as one of the best operas in the world, as is the Wiener Volksoper. The traditional Theater an der Wien has been the house for musicals since 1965 and also serves as site for performances during the annual Vienna Festival. Countless festivals are held around the country, including the Bregenzer Festspiele at Lake Constance, the Schubertiade, the prestigious Salzburg Festival which was founded in 1920 by Max Reinhardt and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the Carinthian Summer, the International Bruckner Festival and the ars electronica in Linz, the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt and the Mörbisch Festival on the Lake.
The Visual Arts and Architecture
The Jugendstil movement, pioneered by Gustav Klimt, flourished in Vienna around the turn of the century. Other important twentieth-century artists from Austria include Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Anton Lehmden, Ernst Fuchs, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus and Arnulf Rainer. The sculptors Fritz Wotruba and Alfred Hrdlicka have also established international reputations. Above all, three names were significant for Austrian architecture in the beginning of the twentieth century: Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann und Adolf Loos. With the Kirche am Steinhof and the Postsparkasse Wagner created the most important buildings of the Wiener Jugendstil. Josef Hoffmann, architect of the over-all work of art "Palais Stoclet" in Brussels, was a co-founderot the Wiener Werkstätte. Modern architecture is influenced among others by Clemens Holzmeister, Gustav Peichl, Hans Hollein and Coop Himmelblau.
The Austrian film has been thriving recently and is receiving international recognition for its ability to deal with issues of social relevance in a differentiated way. After legendary productions during the era of silent films the Jewish persecution under the Nazi regime forced a great number of Austrian film makers, among them Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger and Fred Zinnemann into exile abroad. After the end of the Second World War Austrian film production predominantly consisted of salable films such as mainstream comedies and sentimental films with a regional background. At the end of the 1990s a new generation of Austrian film makers, among them Barbara Albert, Wolfgang Murnberger, Ulrich Seidl, Michael Glawogger and Götz Spielmann, brought a noticeable artistic development resulting in many invitations to International Film Festivals and collecting an impressive series of awards. Special mention can be made in this context of the work of Michael Haneke, whose films have been awarded the “Golden Palm” at the Film Festival in Cannes twice: „The white Ribbon“ and „Amour“. Another highlight of recent years was Stefan Ruzowitzky’s film “The Counterfeiters” that won the 2008 Oscar for "Best Foreign Language Film". Important Austrian Filmfestivals: Viennale, Diagonale, Crossing Europe.