The Musikverein concert hall has hosted the stars of classical music for 149 years. Its sound enjoys an excellent reputation with musicians and audiences around the world.
Leave it to Austrians to build one of the world's best concert halls more or less by accident. Vienna's Musikverein was constructed before architects had precise knowledge of acoustics, yet the concert space has optimal sound conditions. You haven't heard Netrebko or Riccardo Muti until you've heard them at the “Golden Hall.”
For the love of music
The Musikverein is home to the "Society of Music Lovers," an association dedicated to the promotion of classical music since 1812. Their passion shows. International stars like Harnoncourt, Barenboim, and Argerich share the stage with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic.
Only as good as it sounds
In a city famous for classical music, the Musikverein carries a special responsibility. Viennese audiences demand an inspired program and excellence from musicians and venues. The Golden Hall, which holds about 2,000 people, more than lives up to expectations. Its unconventional rectangular layout ensures two conditions for great sound: quick reverberation and broad sound scattering.
A highlight at the Musikverein is the annual New Year's Concert. 50 million people follow the performance, making it is the world's most popular classical concert. With this many eyes and ears on the Musikverein, there is no room for error.
“And then those really special moments are created, those Magic Moments”
Walter Deibler, head usher at Vienna’s Musikverein (the “Society of Music Lovers”), is a bastion of calm surrounded by turmoil. A torrential downpour is dousing downtown Vienna, and within a very short time two to three thousand people with umbrellas and dripping coats stream into the Musikverein’s foyer. This alone presents a challenge for the staff here, but today a number of other things go awry as well: a patron in a wheelchair holds a ticket for a seat that is not wheelchair-accessible, two cost-conscious concert-goers refuse to pay the fee of 1.70 euros to check their coats and begin arguing with the cloakroom attendants in the foyer, and a subscription-holding couple stands in front of the entrance to the Great Hall of the Musikverein without tickets – they left them at home.
Walter Deibler is not fazed by any of this. There is nothing that this 53-year-old has not seen in his twenty-five years at the Musikverein. With the imperturbability of a grand seigneur, Deibler quickly and smoothly gets everything back on an even keel: the Liszt fan in the wheelchair is given a different seat with a much better view of the stage, two replacement tickets are printed out for the subscription holders, and Deibler appeases the two carping visitors by the cloakroom with a forbearance that even Mahatma Gandhi would have admired.
“There is no doubt for me that I have a dream job,” says Walter Deibler, accompanying a patron up to the Musikverein’s famous “Golden Hall”. “I have met people here whom one would not meet as just an ordinary person.” Cecilia Bartoli, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Seiji Ozawa, Riccardo Muti, Anna Netrebko – Deibler knew or knows them all, the celebrities of the world of classical music who are constantly coming and going at the Musikverein.
7.29 p.m.: Conductor Martin Haselböck has slipped into his tails, and at the edge of the stage of the “Golden Hall” he checks again that his bow tie is straight. Some 2,000 concert-goers await his entrance; the musicians of the “Orchester Wiener Akademie” – an ensemble of international renown – have taken their seats. When Maestro Haselböck strides to the conductor’s podium at precisely half past seven and shakes the hand of the concertmaster, there is a surge of applause from the audience. Haselböck takes a microphone and gives a brief introduction: the “Wiener Akademie”, he says, “is the only orchestra in the world that plays the works of Franz Liszt on original instruments.” The conductor explains that in this way, he – along with the ensemble that he founded – attempts to do justice to Hungary’s national composer. Haselböck lays the microphone aside and picks up his baton. The concert begins. The programme kicks off with Liszt’s orchestral version of his “Mephisto Waltz No. 1”, one of the composer’s best-known works. Then organist Christian Schmitt takes the stage. In perfect ensemble with Haselböck and his orchestra, the organ virtuoso launches into the “Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale Ad nos, ad salutarem undam”, and at the piece’s powerful climax the crystal chandeliers in the “Golden Hall” seem to tremble gently. When the work concludes, the audience responds with thunderous applause.
Cellist Harriet Krijgh, Wiener MusikvereinVienna
11.05 p.m.: exhausted, head usher Walter Deibler falls into his office chair. His summary of the evening: everything turned out fine – once again. The last cloakroom attendant has just left the Musikverein, and now it is about time for Deibler to go home as well. How will the native Viennese spend the rest of the evening? “With a glass of wine,” he says. “Perhaps I will even put on a Liszt CD.” After all, Deibler scarcely heard a note of the concert in the Great Hall.