A house of music in the city of music: Vienna’s Haus der Musik is a rather unique experience, like a cross between a musical history museum and a hommage to Stanley Kubrick.
- Presents Vienna’s great composers
- Also tackles the wider concept of “sound” with futuristic displays
- Includes the Wiener Philharmoniker museum
- Full of interactive exhibits (good for kids, too)
- Highlight: conduct the Philharmoniker
- All information in German and English
- See also:
The House of Music
The museum takes you on two journeys.
The first takes you through some of the greats of classical music in Vienna.
One floor, for example, presents the story of the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra (whose founder lived in this very house) with numerous items of memorabilia. On my visit, you could watch extended passages from the orchestra’s most recent New Year’s Concert and Summer Night Concert.
Another floor dedicates a room each to various famous composers associated with the city: Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss (II) and Mahler.
(Poor Brahms. And poor Bruckner. Though they do get their own little display cabinets.)
The second journey examines the concept of sound with a range of interactive experiences.
One floor, for example, is almost futuristic in design, exploring the meaning, science, perception and creation of sounds in a series of audiovisual and VR environments.
So what caught my eye (and ear)?
If you like musical memorabilia, prepare for a feast.
The Haus der Musik’s composer rooms feature, for example, biographical details and documents, instruments from the time and (mainly copies of) original sheet music.
And many personal items belonging to conductors and musical geniuses serve to build direct connections to the past. For example:
- Batons belonging to Richard Strauss, Herbert von Karajan, and others (some clearly wielded with dramatic emphasis, going by the damage)
- Leonard Bernstein’s tailcoat
- Brahms’ reading glasses and ink pen – imagine what notes must have tumbled out of its nib
- Talking of glasses, how about a pair of Schubert’s and a pair belonging to Strauss?
- The original conductor’s score for the Marriage of Figaro with Mahler’s handwritten annotations from 1897
- The entrance door to Beethoven’s last home
- A fascinating copy of the title page to the manuscript copy of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (Eroica). He crossed out the original dedication to Napoleon with some vehemence
(Conduct the Wiener Philharmoniker; press photo © Hanna Pribitzer)
Some of the Haus der Musik’s interactive elements are particularly enjoyable. For example:
- Create your own unique waltz by rolling four virtual dice four times each
- One set of stairs in the house doubles as a piano, where each step plays a note. You can’t help but try it out
- Conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra virtually to one of six well-known pieces
For reasons I can’t explain, I absolutely loved this. Waving the baton furiously as one of the world’s greatest orchestras played The Radetzky March.
Too furiously it seems. The orchestra stopped after a few moments, and one disappointed musician stood up to admonish me for conducting like I was wielding a light sabre.
(Trace the development of Beethoven’s hearing loss; press photo © Hanna Pribitzer)
- A VR experience where you create your own CLONG (sound creature) and then relax beneath a CLONG-filled soundscape
- A 3-part installation that guides you through a timeline of Beethoven’s loss of hearing, with touchscreens, audio, and the medical background, too
- Let Mozart put your name to music: he defined musical associations with each letter of the alphabet
And sound fills the Haus der Musik almost everywhere, whether the twitterings of birds or the famous compositions of those giants of classical music.
Tickets & visitor tips
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
Some things to note:
- The Haus der Musik also hosts various concerts, so look out for those
- All information displays, exhibit labels, screen text etc. are in both German and English
- The museum has a free cloakroom for bags and coats (but you can make a voluntary donation). The staff always seem remarkably friendly and helpful, too
- Various delights fill the Haus der Musik shop. As well as the expected (CDs, books, etc.), be prepared for the likes of musical socks and cufflinks, or musical pasta shapes
- Some of the popular interactive elements are, well, popular. During busy seasons, you may have to wait to wave your baton at the first violin of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. At such times, I suggest you go early (or late: at the time of writing, the museum stays open until 10pm)
How to get to the Haus der Musik
The Haus der Musik is very central, not far from the common tourist routes.
Subway: just a short walk from Karlsplatz station (U1, U2 and U4 lines – look for the Oper exits), Stadtpark (U4) and Stephansplatz (U1 and U3).
Tram/bus: take trams 2, 71 or D around the Ring to Schwarzenbergplatz, then simply walk down Schwarzenbergstraße. Or bus 2A to Schwarzenbergplatz or Kärntner Straße
Address: Seilerstätte 30, 1010 Vienna | Website