• Musikverein Vienna

    Viennese Music Then and Now

    Vienna has long had a reputation as a city of music. Over time, as the city evolved, so has its music. Musicians Gustav Mahler and Marianne Mendt come from different eras and different genres, but they have one thing in common: their love of Vienna.

    Gustav Mahler

    „Unfortunately, I am Viennese through and through …“ wrote Gustav Mahler in New York, in 1910. The sentence reflects Mahler’s ambivalent emotions about Vienna – the city which has significantly influenced his work, even though his time as Court Opera director was not exactly free of problems. Let’s take a look at some of the most important moments that shaped the creative life of Gustav Mahler in Vienna.

    Gustav Mahler potrait of the composer

    Gründerzeit in Vienna: In the Footsteps of Gustav Mahler

    In 1875, a highly gifted boy from Bohemia demonstrated incredible talent in interpreting Liszt on the piano. The young man moved from Bohemia to Vienna to continue his musical education at the conservatory of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. At the time, Vienna was flourishing, at the height of the Gründerzeit era, and had become the cultural melting pot of the Danube Monarchy in arts, music and literature.

    Mahler cemented his place in the circles of Vienna’s intellectual Bourgeoisie with his marriage to Alma Schindler, herself a highly talented musician, in the Karlskirche in Vienna. His appointment to the post of director of the Court Opera, today's Vienna State Opera, marks the beginning of a new epoch in Vienna’s music history. At the House of Music, one can learn a lot about the fraught relationship between Mahler and his coworkers at the court opera. 

    Gustav Mahler composing paper

    Discovering a New World

    Finally, a contract with the Metropolitan Opera in New York proved to be too tempting and Mahler’s engagement as director of the Court Opera ended after ten years. His departure from the opera house and the actual departure from Vienna from the train station Wien Westbahnhof in December 1907, turned into a veritable spectacle. More than 200 friends of the great master came to bid him farewell at the start of his journey to the New World. Among them were artists such as Carl Moll, Gustav Klimt, Alban Berg, Arnold Schönberg and many more.

    Mahler’s high workload soon took its toll. When he conducted his last concert in New York, he already was fatally ill. Despite all their efforts, neither doctors in New York, Paris or Vienna were able to help him. Only a few days after his return to Vienna, Gustav Mahler passed away from endocarditis on the 28th of May, 1911, at the Sanatorium Loew in Vienna. Unlike many other great musicians, he is not buried at the Wiener Zentralfriedhof, but the small Grinzinger Friedhof, which lies in the district of Grinzing, well known for its beautiful vineyards and wine taverns.

    They had already been standing there when we arrived and, flowers in their hands, tears in their eyes, they climbed into our Coupé, covered it, the seats, the floor with flowers. As the train set in motion, Gustav Klimt voiced what was on everyone’s mind: ‘It is over!‘

    Gustav Mahler composing paper
    Alma Mahler

    Marianne Mendt, mother of Austropop and Viennese Jazz

    Like many Viennese artists, Marianne Mendt comes from a family of musicians - even her grandfather was a bandmaster. It is no wonder she already showed talent as a singer in her childhood. Today, Marianne Mendt is among the best known and busiest Austrian artists and musicians.

    MUK exterior view Bräunerstrasse, Vienna

    Marianne Mendt, who, according to many of her colleagues, is a „waschechte Wienerin” (a genuine Viennese), was trained as a singer at the Vienna Conservatory. When you picture Vienna after the first few decades of World War II, you know Marianne’s childhood cannot have been easy. Born in 1945, she experienced hardship but also witnessed the reconstruction of the country.

    In the early sixties, she graduated from the Vienna conservatory. At her parent’s request, she also completed an education at the Business Academy. Her parents fear that their daughter might struggle financially in the future proved unfounded. Marianne Mendt soon delighted audiences with her early performances at Vienna’s posh nightclubs, such as the Splendid Bar and the Eden Bar.

    This opened many doors to the international art and music scene. With her band “The Internationals,” she toured all of Europe as a singer and bass player.

    The 225th anniversary of the "Theater in der Josefstadt" - exterior view

    In the Footsteps of Marianne Mendt


    Back in Vienna, she landed a huge hit with „Wie a Glock’n“ sung in Viennese dialect. With this one song, Marianne revived the almost forgotten genre of the “Wienerlied” (Viennese song), which was exclusively sung in dialect. It is no exaggeration when people call her the mother of Austropop.

    She is generally regarded as the forerunner of well-known performers such as Wolfgang Ambros, Ludwig Hirsch, Rainhard Fendrich, Falco and many others. 

    Her success on stage, for example at the Theater an der Wien, Theater in der Josefstadt and the Raimundtheater, as well as on-screen, earned her many awards for her creative work. She also began to support Austrian Jazz.

    In 2004, she founded the MM Musikwerkstatt, to provide young jazz musicians with a platform. Each May, the MM Jazzfestival in St. Pölten attracts the best musicians from Austria’s Jazz scene.

    The Sounds of Austria

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