Friday, August 04, 2006


This week I had a chance to visit the Musikverein in Vienna. This hall is of course most famous for their annual New Year's concert with the Vienna Philharmoniker. I was told there are actually three performances of the New Year's concert that happens each year. Only one on New Year's Day is televised across the world. There is a lottery system to get a ticket. So each year right after the concert you can request a ticket either in person or on their website. Last year they had over 60,000 requests for the tickets. Not all 1400 or so seats are available for the lottery ticket system. Some are reserved for sponsors and higher ups. The Musikverein is actually a private entity. Most of their funding comes from their actual ticket sales. 96 percent of the concerts are sold out. There are two halls, the main hall and also the Brahms Hall which present chamber music concerts and seats about 600 people. A Statue of Brahms, who was the music director of the Music society for three years overlooks the small hall. On the landing of the stair way to the two halls, there is a statue of Clara Schumann who played the very first concert of the music society. The Music society also holds a very large collection of manuscripts by Brahms and Schubert. One of the most fascinating aspect of the hall for me was the fact that the great acoustics is achieved by both design and accident. Below where the audience sits, is a very large and tall room. It was initially built to store the chairs of the hall during the Viennese ball which occur each year. However they discovered when the storage room is empty the hall sounds much better since the floor acts as a giant sounding board. In fact, all four walls, the stage floor, and the ceiling are free floating and thus act as vibrating surfaces, or sounding boards. Even the gold sculptures surrounding the hall is hallow inside to accommodate acoustics. The ceiling is hanging from the rafters so that it too can vibrate.

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