Musikverein Vienna Concert Hall

Musikverein Vienna Concert Hall (16)

If you are one of those people who wakes up on the 1st of January every year to watch the televised New Year's Concert featuring the Vienna Philharmonic, it might be time to start planning a trip to the city around Christmastime. 

Of course, keep in mind that if you want to ensure that you get a seat in the Musikverein, the splendid auditorium where the concert is held, you will have to request tickets a year in advance. We do not wish to discourage you in any way, but due to the huge demand for the event, tickets are allocated by lottery.

Although, in the nineteenth century, the Vienna Philharmonic performed works by Johann Strauss Jr. during the composer's lifetime, the true origin of New Year's Concert dates from 1929, when Clement Krauss began conducting concerts, the repertoire of which focused exclusively on waltzes and marches from the Strauss dynasty, in particular Johann Strauss Jr., who earned the nickname The Waltz King.

It was in 1939, when the concert was held on the 31st of December, that the event began to take on a symbolic importance as the cheerful yet profound pieces by the Strauss dynasty lifted the spirits of those in attendance while emphasizing their national pride, which had been tarnished in 1938 when the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, came into operation.

The concerts, which began to be celebrated on the 1st of January, 1941, remained a point of reference for Vienna throughout World War II, and received the title of "New Year's Concert" in 1946. The concert's chief promoter, Clement Krauss, continued to lead the orchestra until his death in 1954, apart from a two-year parenthesis in which Josef Krips took the baton.

On the death of Krauss the difficult question of finding a worthy successor came arose. Despite some controversy the work was entrusted to Willi Boskovsky, and it wasn't long before those responsible knew they had made the right decision. Boskovsky, a man of great charisma, symbolized for many the very essence of an orchestra leader and, like Johann Strauss Jr., often took up his violin to join the rest of the orchestra at critical moments during the concert.  Boskovsky took over managerial responsibilities from 1955 to 1979, when he had to resign his post due to ill health.

By the early 1980's the television broadcasts that had turned the New Year's Concert in to a major worldwide event had been consolidated. Today the concert is broadcast to more than 50 countries.

The baton was then passed to a director of international prestige, Loran Maazel, who led the orchestra from 1980 to 1986. At this point the musicians decided it would be a good idea for the Vienna Philharmonic to invite a guest conductor every year, a decision that has definitely given an added boost to the concert.

This has been the case until the present day, and the Musikverein has played host to directors of the stature of Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti and Zubin Mehta. The ongoing success of the concert would seem to suggest that the public still have many years ahead of them in which to enjoy Viennese musical icons such as The Blue Danube and the famous Radetzky March, composed in 1848 by Johann Strauss (father) in honour of the Austrian general Joseph Wenzel Radetzky who, through a series of victories, saved the military might of Austria in northern Italy during the 1848-49 revolution. This piece became very popular as an expression of Austrian nationalism. 

Currently, the Radetzky March owes its popularity to the fact that it is the final piece to be played in the Vienna New Year's Concert. During this final piece the director usually turns to lead the audience as they clap to the beat.

The building, as you can see, features a monumental façade in historicist style. It was created by Theophil Hansen between 1867 and 1869. It features a mixture of styles, with terracotta statues, capitals and balustrades adding to its monumentality. 

In addition to hosting concerts, it is also the headquarters of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Society of Friends of Music.

The building's interior houses various concert halls, the most important being the Groser Musikvereinsaal, or Great Music Hall. The building surprises the visitors with its combination of styles: on the one hand purely classical, while on the other modern and innovative, featuring materials such as wood, metal and stone as well as designer furniture.

The concert hall, one of the most beautiful and richly decorated in Vienna, has excellent acoustics and a capacity for more than 2,000 people, 1744 seated and 300 standing. It is rectangular in shape and measures approximately 49 metres long, about 19 metres wide and a little over 17 metres high.

The ceiling features beautiful paintings by August Eisenmenger depicting Apollo and the nine muses of dance, music, singing, poetry... Surrounded by allegorical figures.

No less beautiful are the sculptures by Franz Melnitzky above the organ and the sixteen elegant caryatids dispersed throughout the hall.

It would be wonderful if you could admire all this beauty during a concert, but if not, you also have the option of taking a guided tour, which takes about 45 minutes. You can also take home a nice souvenir from the gift shop.

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