Vienna’s Golden Hall, the Musikverein, is renowned as one of the world’s best concert acoustics. It’s a shoe-box design with a raised and raked stage, hard plaster walls with much detail, both windows and podiums but also smaller cameos and so much ornamentation, much of it gold. The seating has wooden backs and isn’t stunningly plush. A similar architectural design to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and quite different to a modern concert hall designed on acoustic principles.
We’ve enjoyed the New Year’s Day concerts via the relay on Eurovision, initially as radio, sometimes as high definition television with surround sound, although this seems to be no longer available to the BBC. But the question is what would an orchestra actually sound like to a listener seated in the hall. No matter the only concert available on my schedule is a tourist programme, not being a full on concert meant it was possible to obtain reasonable seats.
And the first impression is LOUD. All that acoustic reflectivity keeps the sound bouncing around, which explains why the reverberation time is greater than two seconds, relatively long for the size of hall. And the Radetsky March at the end of the programme, with timpani, bass drum, audience clapping and stomping, had me leaving the concert with my ears ringing! Second impression is that the bass is uneven, it’s not a surprise given the room dimensions and lively acoustic and is presumably dependent on where you are seated: we were just over half-way back and not quite in the centre of the hall.
And what about the music? To my ear, Andreas Planyavsky (playing a golden flute) was the star of this show; he’s been principal flute with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1999. We heard a respectable performance of one of Mozart’s flute concertos including an interesting cadenza. Sera Gösch, soprano and Sokolin Asllani, baritone, gave us a selection of familiar Mozart arias, the duets were sympathetic and their costumes for the Magic Flute were a nice touch, fitting with the eighteenth century wigs and frock coats worn by the orchestra. He went for fine tone and she went for volume, playing to the hall’s strength and tourist audience.
The rest of the programme was a romp through familiar Mozart, single movements not complete works. Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Rondo alla Turka arranged for orchestra etc. But this was not the Vienna Philharmonic and this was very much a tourist audience of largely far eastern origin, the pre-show announcement was in presumably Korean, Chinese and Japanese plus German and British English. Despite the prohibition, the phones kept snapping throughout although I didn’t see any live streaming.
The costumes concealed at least two female musicians (out of about thirty) - the gender balance of orchestras in Vienna has become a hot topic recently.
Very little visual indication of the 2011 rebuild of the organ, the front pipes being ornamental. The microphones descending from catenaries above the players are presumably a semi-permanent rig.
The programme concluded with the Blue Danube Waltz and the Radetsky March, both of which demonstrated what seems to be a musical speciality of Vienna, the self- directing orchestra with an ornamental conductor. You see it (at a much higher level) with the New Year’s Day concert) but in this Blue Danube (as well as much of the Mozart) the lead was being passed around variously the horns, the front desk strings and the trumpet (who contributed a very jazzy version of the eponymous theme). Leaving the conductor, Ola Rudner, to put on a fine display of “bathroom conducting” in association with one of the second violins. But hey, they got a good audience and we went home happy with the tunes of Vienna ringing in our ears. Literally.
Our dinner before the concert was in the Palmenhaus, mine was a fine portion of cod served on vegetables and with pine nuts; a touch of fusion and not a Wienerschnitzel to be seen.
Musikverein, Vienna: Wiener Mozart concert in historical costumes
Wiener Mozart orchester - Wiener Mozart konzerte
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Aus der Oper „Don Giovanni“, KV 527
Canzonetta des Don Giovanni: Deh, vieni alla finestra
Duettino Zerlina-Don Giovanni: Là ci darem la mano
Arie des Don Giovanni: Finch' han dal vino
Konzert für Flöte Nr. 1, G-Dur, KV 313
1. Satz: Allegro maestoso
3. Satz: Rondeau. Tempo di Menuetto
Aus der Oper „Idomeneo“, KV 366
Arie der Elettra: D’Oreste, d’Ajace
Eine kleine Nachtmusik, KV 525
1. Satz: Allegro
Rondo. Alla turca, KV 331
• • • P A U S E • • •
Aus der Oper „Le nozze di Figaro“, KV 492
Arie des Figaro: Non più andrai
Aus der Oper „Die Entführung aus dem Serail“, KV 384
Arie der Constanze: Martern aller Arten
Symphonie Nr. 40, g-moll, KV 550
1. Satz: Molto Allegro
Aus der Oper „Die Zauberflöte“, KV 620
Arie des Papageno: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja
Duett Papageno - Papagena: Pa – pa
An der schönen blauen Donau – Walzer
Wiener Mozart Orchester
Ola Rudner, Dirigent
Sera Gösch, Sopran
Sokolin Asllani, Bariton
Andreas Planyavsky, Flöte