The “Golden Musikvereinssaal“
The golden church of my youth.” So described the author Peter Altenberg the Wiener Musikvereinssaal, and the large hall of the Wiener Musikverein (Vienna Music Society) is golden indeed. So golden and sumptuous in fact that, after the opening on January 6th, 1870, the critic Eduard Hanslick posed the question whether it wasn’t “too glittery and grandiose for a concert hall”.
“This room is itself music!” The Viennese critic Carl Eduard Schelle on the golden Musikvereinssaal upon its opening in January 1870.
Performances with the best acoustics
Nevertheless, the grand external appearance shouldn’t distract from the real quality of the Wiener Musikvereinssaal: its acoustics are among the best in the world. For over 200 years the Wiener Musikverein has been successfully fulfilling its commitment to hosting performances of classical music, as well as offering a place to modern music, a role which, however, has not always been free of conflict: in 1913 Arnold Schönberg conducted a concert of contemporary music which has gone down in history as the “Watschenkonzert” (“slap concert”). Parts of the audience were so incensed by the expressionistic music that they came to blows.
This incident remains exceptional, but the Musikverein nevertheless still generates emotions, especially when it comes to the world-famous Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s Concert) by the Vienna Philharmonic.
It first took place in 1939, a celebration of music in dark times. Since 1959 the concert has been broadcast worldwide from the large hall of the Wiener Musikverein: today 45 million people in over 70 countries watch this New Year’s Day music event on television. For the Viennese the Neujahrskonzert is as much a part of the turn of the year as the Donauwalzer (Blue Danube Waltz) is to New Year’s Eve. Many of them even forgo long New Year’s Eve parties, or a sleep-in, so that they can be part of it – at least via their TV screens. Tickets cost several hundred Euros each and are drawn in a raffle – golden music from the golden hall…
Text: Nina Lucia Groß, Fotos: Christine Wurnig, Bild Musiker: 56. Kaffeesiederball/Christian Husar – 1381, Bild Saal: Wien Tourismus/Lois Lammerhuber