Musikverein in Vienna

The Musikverein (Music Society) maintains this ornate historic concert hall in the center of Vienna. The one concert I attended here was many years ago, so I have no photos of the inside, but you can easily see what it looks like by watching (for example) the annual televised New Year’s Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In case you missed any of these, several can still be seen on YouTube, such as this one from 2014.

Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942)

On the sidewalk in front of the Musikverein (as by the Theater an der Wien) there are a number of stars commemorating famous composers. The star in this photo honors Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942), one of the many composers who had to flee from the Nazis when they came into power in Germany and later in Austria. Zemlinsky died in poverty in Larchmont, New York, in 1942, leaving a not-quite-finished opera called Der König Kandaules which was not performed until 1996. I have seen it twice, in Cologne and Kaiserslautern. Two of his short operas, Eine florentinische Tragödie (A Florentine Tragedy) and Der Zwerg (The Dwarf), both based on texts by Oscar Wilde, were staged in 2007 by the Frankfurt Opera, where I saw them several times.


Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

If Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) had been born a century later I would probably know him, since as a young man he was the Konzertmeister (concert master) of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra for several years, starting at age 20. As it is, I have seen two of his operas, Neues vom Tage in Cologne and Cardillac in Frankfurt and Bonn. Hindemith himself was not Jewish, but his wife was, so to escape the Nazis they emigrated, first to Switzerland and then to America. During the Nazi period Hindemith’s music was banned as “degenerate” in Germany and Austria.


Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951)

Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) also emigrated to the United States to escape the Nazis. He is known mainly as a leading proponent of twelve-tone music. His melodrama Pierrot Lunaire was recently staged at the Bockenheimer Depot in Frankfurt by the ever-inventive young stage director Dorothea Kirschbaum. I wish I could say I liked Pierrot Lunaire, but unfortunately I don’t seem to be cut out for that sort of thing.


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) never composed any operas, but numerous major works for orchestra. As I have written in one of my Copenhagen posts, the First Symphony by Brahms was one that I was rather ODed on as a child, because it was the only piece of classical music that my grandparents had on old 78 rpm records, so I heard it over and over again and have not gone out of my way to hear it as an adult.


My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2017.

See more posts on Vienna, Austria.

6 thoughts on “Musikverein in Vienna”

  1. So many precious memories! When I was a student we had a socialist government (one that really deserves the name – Bruno Kreisky era). One day it was decided that tickets that had not been sold up to 10 minutes before the start of a performance in a state theater (operas, concert halls, theaters) could be purchased by students for ATS 20 (c. 5 Euros). Sometimes I sat in the best seats. Nathan Milstein, Igor and David Oistrach, Giles, Richter … I was able to experience all of them and yet I was so poor that I could otherwise only afford standing room at the opera.

    1. Great that you could attend such outstanding performances as a student. (Though if they only started selling 10 minutes beforehand it must have been a huge rush to get to your seat.)
      When I was a student in New York I used to get free recital tickets for Carnegie Hall — but only for recitals that weren’t selling well, so the hall wouldn’t be embarrassingly empty. This was known as ‘papering the house.’

  2. Enjoyed reading your blogpost! The stories of some of the composers are so sad and tragic. It certainly is important not to forget what they had to endure while creating such wonderful works.

  3. Wouldn’t that be something special, to go to one of those concerts in Vienna.
    Paul Hindemith wrote a Sonata for Flute and Piano.

  4. Ah, 78s! I remember them not because anyone in my family had them but rather a neighbour did and occasionally he would come round to visit my grandparents and bring his gramophone and 78s for an evening’s entertainment. I remember he used to bring chocolates for us kids. The chocolate, at that point, was infinitely more interesting to me than his 78s.

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