Vienna Celebrates Music

By Susan Hallett Created: November 20, 2012 Last Updated: March 29, 2013
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The Vienna State Opera, one of the leading and most famous opera houses in the world. (Copyright Wien Tourismus/Christian Stemper)

The Vienna State Opera, one of the leading and most famous opera houses in the world. (Copyright Wien Tourismus/Christian Stemper)

Through time, the thread that has held the Viennese micro-world together seems to have been music.

As my flight started to descend on our approach to Vienna’s newly enlarged and redesigned airport, I heard the sound of music. I heard classical music every morning at my hotel when I turned on the television to get a weather report, and music was in the air as I walked past private apartments in the Inner Stadt or First District, windows flung open for fresh air.

It seems that music is not only heard at concert venues, such as the Wiener Musikverein, home of the Viennese Philharmonic, the Viennese State Opera, and the Kammeroper, but also in the open air in parks and in palace gardens, clubs, and churches and cathedrals.

Strains of Strauss, Mozart and Brahms also come from coffee houses, many of which have a pianist playing in the afternoon.

Music seems to epitomize the spirit of optimism that pervades Vienna. As I walked in the First District of central Vienna on my visit to the city last month, I came upon a gentleman reading a newspaper on the sidewalk beside a café, not an uncommon sight in Vienna.

He was alone, sitting opposite a huge stack of musical instruments, keeping an eye on them. There were masses of cased flutes, horns, violins, violas, clarinets, and even a cornet.

I asked him where the concert was to be, for it seemed obvious that all these instruments were gathered for a concert. He told me that he was from the Academy at Shotton Hall, a secondary school for students in England, and that the school’s music department was in Vienna to play at Peterskirche, a Baroque Roman Catholic parish church located on Petersplatz in central Vienna.

The next day, a violin and viola concert that included music by Bartok and Dvorak was scheduled in the crypt of the same church.

The French novelist Paul Bourget wrote that Rome is for priests, Florence for tourists, and Siena for connoisseurs. I would like to add that Vienna is the city for lovers of art and music. In 1910, Vienna was the world’s fifth largest city, with a population of 2 million. It was then—and some might say still is—the cultural capital of Europe.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience is to attend the Vienna State Opera and perhaps have a glass of bubbly, called “Sekt” in Austria, at intermission. Tickets, however, are on the pricey side. For Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” which I attended with my brother, the price for tickets in what I call “the gods” was 83 euros, or around $110 each.

In contrast, the price for a ticket to a concert featuring works by Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bruch, and Saint Saens in the Festsaal of the Justizpalast Wien in mid-November was around $27, while for students it was half that.

If your tastes run more to contemporary music, throughout November the Viennese are being treated to an entire month of jazz and blues with some of the world’s leading artists playing at 10 of the city’s most popular jazz and blues clubs, such as the legendary Jazzland in the old town and Miles Smiles in the Eighth District.

Nov. 3–18 also saw the 8th KlezMore Festival Vienna, which featured a broad range of Klezmer music, from the classic sound to much more radical versions.

For information about Vienna, visit,, or

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings and Doctor’s Review among many others. Email:

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