The Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert is not just an Austrian tradition but also one of the country’s famed exports. Every year, the concert is broadcast in more than 90 countries in the world! The impressive setting for the famous event is the no less famous “Golden Hall” of the Wiener Musikverein.
The Musikverein’s Golden Hall
The great hall of the Musikverein, often called Golden Hall, is one of the world’s best concert halls. It has excellent acoustics, but it’s also visually stunning. It’s decorated with exuberant gold ornaments, which have given the concert hall its alternative name. The cool blue of the ceiling fresco by August Eisenmenger provides a well-fitting counterpoint.
The Golden Hall has room for 2,000 people but it’s only one of seven halls that make the Wiener Musikverein into the popular concert location it is.
When the Viennese Music Association moved into its current building in 1870, there were only two halls: the Golden Hall and the slightly smaller Brahms Hall. The latter fits about 600 people and is perfectly set up for chamber music. In 1996 the Gottfried-von-Einem-Saal was added and in 2004, four smaller, underground halls were built for concerts, rehearsals, conferences, workshops and receptions.
The Viennese Music Association
While the Musikverein has been in its current location since 1870, its history reaches even further back. More than 200 years ago the Viennese Music Association was founded with the explicit goal of “promoting music in all its branches”.
The Association first had a concert hall at Tuchlauben, but soon outgrew the 700-seat location. In 1857 the emperor finally approved the demolition of the city walls, making room for the city to expand. What followed was the famous time period where the Ring Boulevard came to life — and with it the Musikverein the way it is known today.
In 1863, the emperor presented the Viennese Music Association with a plot across from the Karlskirche church. The building was designed by Theophil Hansen, a Danish architect and famous representative of the renaissance revival.
Concert hall, music school und archive
The Viennese Music Association pursued three different areas of work. It organised concerts but also founded a music academy, which would become Vienna’s first public music school, and a music archive, which is now one of the most significant music libraries in the world.
The archive is one of the five biggest and most extensive music collections in the world. It holds various objects and documents, from sheet music to musical instruments and sculptures.
The concerts and archive are still handled by the Association, while the music academy was given into the state’s hand in 1909 and ultimately became the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.
Musikverein Concert Programme
The Association has always focused on “classical” music, but that doesn’t exclude contemporary music. The Musikverein has seen many debut performances, among them Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Schönberg’s “Transfigured Night”.
Originally, the Vienna Philharmonic played most of the concerts at the Musikverein, until 1900 saw the foundation of Vienna’s first concert orchestra. Today, that orchestra is known as the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and to this day, it still plays a large number of the approximately 800 concerts per year.
The Musikverein has about 30 so-called concert cycles per season, dedicated to various styles of music. Furthermore, there’s special programmes for kids and young people. Music education starts as young as at 3 years old!
A jewel of the Ring Boulevard era
The Musikverein stems from an era that saw the Ring Boulevard flourish with new splendour — just the era the Grand Ferdinand has dedicated itself to. Visitors can learn more about that time and the architecture of the Musikverein at one of the public guided tours which generally take place daily except for Sunday.
Moreover, it’s not far at all from the Grand Ferdinand to the Musikverein. The concert hall is just around the corner from the hotel, a mere 5-minute walk away. The stroll leads past a part of the splendid Ring Boulevard and after a short time, you’re standing on the Musikverein Square looking up at the imposing concert building.