The Rich History of the Musikverein

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The Rich History of the Musikverein

The Rich History of the Musikverein

Adored by music lovers from around the globe, the Musikverein is a fabulous concert hall in the Innere Stadt district of Vienna and is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Inside the magnificent building is the Great Hall (or Großer Saal), widely considered to be one of the finest concert halls in the world, thanks to its superb acoustics. The spectacular hall hasn’t been changed since it was originally constructed centuries ago, and shares the long, tall and narrow shoebox shape of other highly acclaimed music halls, such as Berlin's Konzerthaus.

Musikverein

Location of the Musikverein

The Musikverein is situated on Dumbastraße/Bösendorferstraße, behind the Hotel Imperial and close to the Ringstraße boulevard and the Wien River. But because Bösendorferstraße is such a small, relatively unknown street, most people think of the concert hall as being located between Karlsplatz and Kärntner Ring, part of the Ringstraße loop.

Construction of the Musikverein

Building of the Musikverein was made possible thanks to a historic decree passed by Emperor Franz Joseph. He ordered the removal of Vienna’s city walls in 1857, so a modern and sophisticated boulevard (which would become known as the Ringstraße) could be built in its place.

The old Musikverein (known then as the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde) had outgrown its previous home in central Vienna and was given a piece of land opposite Karlskirche by the Emperor in 1863. To make the most of this gift, an ambitious plan was created to construct a marvellous building that would be regarded as the architectural highlight of Ringstraße.

Musikverein at night

Musikverein’s Design

Several prominent architects, including Eduard van der Nüll, August Siccard von Siccardsburg and Theophil Hansen were invited to submit their designs. Van der Nüll and Siccardsburg, the designers behind the incredible State Opera, declined the invitation, leaving Hansen to prove his worth.

Being presented with the challenge of competing with the great minds that designed the State Opera ignited Hansen’s imagination and pushed him to explore a new stylistic approach he hadn’t attempted before. This would transform into a style known as Strict Historicism. 

In a total contrast to the architects of earlier Romantic Historicism, amongst which were Siccardsburg and van der Nüll, Hansen’s design showcased High Renaissance. Having studied in Athens for eight years before he moved to Vienna in 1846, Hansen was very confident with this style, leading him to become an exponent of what is known as the “Greek Renaissance”, a style which is clearly evident in almost every aspect of the Musikverein’s design.

Greek reflections can be seen in everything from the caryatids of the Great Hall, the quintessential columns and the temple roof of the Brahms Saal to Apollo’s feature on the Great Hall’s ceiling and Orpheus’ highlight on the portal tympanum of the front facade. The colour scheme of the Musikverein is also Greek-inspired, being a perfect example of the use of various colours of classical antiquity. All these features together create a wonderfully classical ambience in which talented performers would go on to share their talents for centuries.

The Great Hall

The iconic Great Hall is 49m long, 19m wide and 18m high, with seating for 1,744 guests and standing room for 300. Its astounding acoustics are due to Hansen’s sharp intuition alone, as he was unable to rely on any studies of architectural acoustics. The room’s shoebox-style proportions, alongside its boxes and sculptures, allow the early and numerous sound reflections that make it the ideal venue for musical performances. So much so that the Vienna New Year’s concert is held there every December. 

An age-old pipe organ built by Friedrich Ladegast was part of the original equipment setup used in the first organ recital held in 1872 by Anton Bruckner. The organ used within the concert hall today was installed in 1907 and rebuilt in 2011.

 Concert at Musikverein

Credit: Andreas Praefcke [CC BY 3.0]

Renovations of the Musikverein

The Musikverein underwent considerable renovations in 1911, following the instructions of Hansen’s pupil, Ludwig Richter. Almost a century later in 2001, four new halls were created underneath the Musikverein — the largest building project by the Gesellschaft since the original Musikverein was constructed. Austrian architect Wilhelm Holzbauer and Dieter Irresberger were in charge of the project’s aesthetic concept, giving a new lease of life to the stylistic elements of the building, combining them with simple materials to create a modern, minimalist look.

Named after the primary building material they feature, the Glass Hall, Metal Hall, Stone Hall and Wood Hall present programmes that focus on the next generation of artists. Within these walls, actors, authors and musicians give lectures on the arts, tell personal life stories and read from their own works.

Concerts at the Musikverein

If you want to experience the majesty of the Musikverein yourself, sign up for one of our Musikverein concerts:

Vienna Mozart Orchestra in Musikverein

Travel back in time to the Baroque age, as you soak up the sounds of Mozart in the captivating atmosphere of Vienna’s Musikerein. During the incredible evening, you’ll get to watch internationally acclaimed musicians, dressed in authentic historical costumes and wigs, play the famous works composed by one of the best classical composers of all time.

Click here to buy your ticket.

VIP Package: Vienna Mozart Orchestra in Musikverein

If you’re celebrating an extra special occasion, turn it up a notch and have an incredible evening with our Mozart Orchestra in Musikverein VIP package. During this spectacular event, you’ll be treated to a gourmet four-course meal at the Michelin-star Restaurant Opus before taking an authentic fiaker ride to Musikverein. Then you’ll settle into the best seats from where you’ll enjoy an amazing performance by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, after which you’ll have the chance to meet the performers backstage. 

Click here to buy your ticket.

Guided tour

As well as attending a classical concert, you can also visit the Musikverein by joining a 45-minute guided tour. These tours are held every day of the week, except Sundays, and give you the opportunity to learn about various aspects of the iconic building, aside from its musical influence.

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