The world’s greatest musicians perform in a huge golden concert hall in Vienna. To see inside, you can buy a ticket to the next performance, or…simply take the in-house tour of the Musikverein.
- Visit, for example, the two main concert halls in all their decorative glory
- Description of the acoustic elements of the main hall is surprisingly interesting
- Only takes 35-40 minutes
- English tours available most days
- See also: The Musikverein | Concerts in Vienna
Inside the Musikverein
Stand outside the entrance to the Musikverein and you can feel music rising out of the ground. It swirls around you, driven by the spirits of those who waved a baton or caressed the keys or strings of an instrument in this hallowed building: Bernstein, Mahler, von Karajan, Liszt, Brahms, Strauss, and all the rest.
(Also, the rehearsal rooms are actually in the basement below you.)
A concert ticket gets you inside the Musikverein. But another alternative is the in-house tour, which takes you to the entrance foyer, a rehearsal room, and the two main concert halls.
My tour began in the largest of the four rehearsal rooms, which also double as small concert halls. Built in 2004, the rooms are considerably younger than the main 19th-century complex and already communicate the location’s high level of professionalism. For example, performers can adjust mounted plates on the wall to fine-tune the acoustics.
Golden ceilings, arches and domes dominate the entrance foyer, where statues of Johann Sebastian Bach and Christoph Willibald Gluck hint further at the prestige and aspirations of the location.
Gold is a popular colour at the Musikverein and omnipresent in the two concert halls that complete the short tour.
The Brahms Hall has seating for 600, ochre columns, and a ceiling where barely a space remains untouched by paintbrush and gold paint. The effect is a glorious mix of Hellenic and Renaissance styles.
Brahms filled the post of artistic director of the Musikverein in the 1870s, and his bust sits off to one side of the hall. Elsewhere in the building, you also see a bust of Clara Schumann, who gave the very first performance in this room back in 1870.
Impressive though that Brahms Hall is, it’s merely the appetiser to the main course that is the Großer Musikvereinssaal, the famous concert hall that fits around 2000 people inside.
Huge golden caryatids lead up via columned arches to the fabulous ceiling, where Apollo and the nine muses look down over giant chandeliers onto the audience below. Busts of great composers line the sides; Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and their ilk.
Performing at the Musikverein must be a double-edged sword. The inspirational setting might drive you to new heights. But I can imagine feeling some pressure from the spirits of those giants of classical music (past and present) who share the stage with you.
The guide touched mostly on the history and functionality of the areas we passed through, with the odd anecdote thrown in for good measure, such as how soldiers used to warm up the main hall before a concert by marching around it at pace.
The guide also offers fascinating insights into all the elements that contribute to the listening experience for concert goers. For example, those gold caryatids are hollow to support more resonance. And the organ pipes you see are a fake façade that allows changes to the real organ behind without altering the hall’s acoustics.
Tickets and visitor information
Tours usually run on several days in the week, with an English-language tour available. Book your tour ticket direct from the box office or at the Musikverein website. For the record, my tour lasted about 35 minutes.
How to get to the Musikverein
See the main Musikverein article for travel tips.
Incidentally, the Musikverein’s neighbour has recently been restored to its full prestigious glory. The Künstlerhaus houses, among other institutions, the Albertina Modern museum. This newest addition to Vienna’s museal landscape features contemporary and (surprise) modern art.
Address: Musikvereinsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna