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A Temple of Music

Vienna’s venerable Musikverein has been offering world-class classical music for 147 years, featuring prominent artists from Anna Netrebko to Riccardo Muti. And behind the scenes, the staff has its work cut out for it.

Behind the Scenes

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.

Behind the Scenes

  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout Musikverein Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Sebastian Stiphout
  • Cellist Harriet Krijgh, Wiener Musikverein © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Cellist Harriet Krijgh, Wiener Musikverein © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck

Striking the First Chords

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.

Calling it a Day

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.

Magic Moments in the Musikverein

“And then those really special moments are created, those Magic Moments”

Cellistin Harriet Krijgh, Wiener Musikverein © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Cellistin Harriet Krijgh, Wiener Musikverein © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Harriet Krijgh, Cellist

Interview with Harriet Krijgh

Harriet Krijgh is one of today’s most exciting and promising young cellists. The 25-year old musician studied in Vienna and divides her time between Vienna and Utrecht in The Netherlands. One of her musical highlights was a matinee concert at the Great Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. For Harriet it was a dream come true.

austria.info: You grew up near Utrecht and began playing cello at the age of five. When did you come to Vienna to perfect your playing?

Harriet Krijgh: When I was thirteen. That was an important step for me. When I was a child, playing music still very much meant “playing”, but in Vienna I really started to work very hard. That meant missing a lot of the things that other “normal” young people do. I invested everything in the cello.

austria.info: How does the word “Vienna” resonate with a young musician from the Netherlands? 

Harriet Krijgh: Vienna is a somewhat sacred place in the world of music; Vienna is a mecca. I have strong emotional ties to this city. A part of my heart beats here. Especially in the Musikverein, where I always receive an unbelievably warm welcome whenever I perform here. Playing at the Musikverein is something very special. The Viennese audiences have an enormous respect for artists and musicians, something I haven’t experienced in this intensity in any other city.

austria.info: Is there a place outside of Vienna that is something like an “energy place” where you can find inspiration and relax and unwind?

Harriet Krijgh: Oh yes: the Wechselgebirge region, in the southern part of Lower Austria. There is no better place to go to relax than that. The scenery, the people, the peace and quiet you find there – it’s all absolutely wonderful. I’m a complete nature girl: there is nothing I enjoy more than putting on my hiking boots and just disappearing into the woods – into God’s nature. This totally recharges my batteries.

austria.info: What is so special about the Wechselgebirge?

Harriet Krijgh: The woods and the mountains. And, of course, the rustic rural taverns they have there.

austria.info: You have received rave reviews for the technical perfection of your playing and the beauty of your phrasing. What is your personal relationship with music?

Harriet Krijgh: When I play, I always strive to achieve the very, very best. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with technique. When you’re giving a concert and become completely immersed in the music, you forget all about technique. You devote yourself completely to making music. And then these very special moments, these “magic moments”, happen that you can achieve only when you totally give yourself over to the music.

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