Jump on the old musical express in Vienna
DID you know that Vienna claims to be the world centre of music?
The statistics are incredible – an estimated average of 10,000 people per night go to concerts, and there are over 15,000 concerts per year! How did this elegant city achieve this fame?
During the reign of Franz Joseph and his famous beautiful and tragic Empress Sisi, Vienna was the most cultured city in the world. The old city walls had been cleared away and replaced with the Ringstrasse. The wealthy (and there were many, as well as a great many very poor people) built large impressive mansions on the Ringstrasse, as well as the massive, solid Opera, houses of parliament, museums quarter, Hofberg Palace and many more.
The mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire included parts of the former Czechoslovakia, several Balkan countries, Bulgaria, Romania, northern Italy, parts of Russia and Poland, and had a combined population second only to Russia!
As the centre of so much power and influence, wealth and prestige, it attracted artists and musicians from far and near. Rather than list all the musicians of the 19th century who worked there, it would be easier to try and find one who didn’t!
Of course, Vienna favours its own Strauss family and Mozart. 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. He had moved to Vienna when he was aged 22, so you can expect to hear a lot of his work this year.
Vienna is not stuck in the past with its music, the University of Music and Performing Arts has 3000 students. There is also the Bösendorfer piano maker company, which has been making them since 1828 – it takes over one year to make a piano! If you’re interested in musical instruments go to the Neue Berg casemates where there is a museum of historical musical instruments, you can have a tour and even play some of them!
Probably the best known concert is the annual New Year’s Day concert from the golden hall of the Musikverein, played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It is watched by over 50 million people in 90 countries. The Vienna Boys Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben) give concerts in various locations in Vienna, and can be found most Sundays singing Mass in the Hofbergkapelle, in the Imperial Palace. In the huge, solid and elegant Opera House, there are all types of music, including the Musikverein, Mozart Orchestra, and of course world class opera.
In the Karlskirche you can hear Mozart and Vivaldi, as well as the Porgy & Bess Jazz Club. If you like dance, go to the Wiener Symphoniker Tanzquartier for contemporary dance, and in the Peterskirche crypt with its great acoustics, there are piano concertos. The oldest concert hall is the Deutscheordershaus, founded around 1205, and regular chamber music by Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and Beethoven is performed here. The Wiener Residenzorchester play mostly Mozart and Strauss at the Palais Auersperg. The magnificent royal palaces at Hofberg and Schönbrunn are fascinating places to visit. They are huge so allow a minimum of half a day at each one. They also hold concerts on a massive scale.
These are just a few examples – you will find that there are so many venues and so much music of every style (although predominantly “Classic”composers) that you will be sure to find something amazing to listen to. To travel around Vienna, public transport is ideal. The Austrians really know how to make transport easy, comprehensive, safe, frequent, reliable and cheap. The best way is to take a Vienna City Card, available from the tourist offices, or online at www.viennacitycard.at If you buy it online you can start using it as soon as you arrive, you can buy several versions, one, two, three days, etc., and with optional add-ons, for example, airport to city centre train. It gives you unlimited travel on all city centre transport. Prices vary from £17 up to £72. One child goes free with every card holder, and you can use the card for the hop on hop off tour buses, and it gives a great many discounts off tours, shops, restaurants etc.
If you are walking through Vienna, look out for the Bitzinger stands. These are very popular, and economic too, they sell any variety of sausage in a bun or with chips to eat there and then. See www.bitzinger.at The Eis-Greissler shop will sell you a top quality refreshing ice cream, see www.eis-greissler.at and if you want a meal try the classic restaurant Wrenkh, but book in advance at www.wrenkh-wien.at.
It is easy for us to go there, KLM from Inverness and Aberdeen connect seamlessly in Amsterdam for Vienna.
There really is so much to see in magnificent Vienna at any time of year, you will not be disappointed!