Programmes from the heart of the Musikverein

“Musikverein Close-Up”: From the 2023/24 season onwards, this is the title under which we will present programme focal points that have been developed from the heart of the Musikverein’s history. Unique programmes that refer to events, personalities and works from the history of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and its music collection. In this way, the globally unique history of the Musikverein comes alive, an inspiration for concert programmes, unmistakable, touching and very close to the music.

© Wolf-Dieter Grabner

Music is close to you. And where else would the closeness that music can create be more noticeable than in the Vienna Musikverein? For more than 200 years, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna has had its finger on the pulse of music. The most influential personalities of the music world sought proximity to her, wrote for her and strove to get as close as possible to the audience of the music city with their art. From the very beginning, the Musikverein was intent on linking the precious moment with history. The archive, library and collections of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde document what can be uniquely captured in music. Here, in one of the essential music collections in the world, music history is within reach.

And this unique music history, which took place in the Musikverein, can be experienced once again in the concerts from the 2023/24 season onwards. Under the title “Musikverein Close-Up”, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna is increasingly referring to its special, unique history in its programme focuses. For example, works premiered at the Musikverein or whose original manuscripts are in the Musikverein’s archive will be performed. The programmes will increasingly refer to famous composer personalities who have inscribed themselves in the history of the Musikverein. And so in “Musikverein Close-Up”, the season’s concert programmes and focal points are repeatedly developed not only as loose ideas or from individual ideas but from the identity, the DNA of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, and thus seen: unmistakable. Living history is audible and tangible in concerts in this special place.

In addition to the programme focal points and concerts developed in this way, we would also like to take a new look at the history of the Musikverein in our publications from the coming season. And this in a free, light, essayistic form, but purposefully: “Musikverein Close-Up” as a section in our program booklets will repeatedly invite you to take a closer look at a scene, a testimony, a personality from the rich history of the Musikverein.

Let us give an example of this right now. When Riccardo Muti conducts the Cherubini Youth Orchestra he founded as an “artist in focus”, this is a commitment by the maestro to Luigi Cherubini, whom he so admires. When Muti talks about Cherubini, he never forgets the reference to Johannes Brahms and the Musikverein: because the world-famous Brahms collection of the house proves how much Brahms also appreciated the Italian master. Many volumes of Cherubini’s music, studied closely by Brahms, document this love first-hand. Or think of Beethoven’s Ninth, which Riccardo Muti will conduct two hundred years after its premiere at the Musikverein. The grand anniversary concert combines with a delicious scene from 1824, that deserves a close-up. Already after the rehearsal for the premiere, reports a contemporary witness, “Beethoven stood in the door and embraced all the dilettantes who participated”. These “dilettantes”, however, came from the Musikverein, which powered the orchestra and choir with its strength. Singing music lovers, who would later find themselves in the Singverein, were already present at the premiere of the Ninth. It is a pleasure to look at it, and so much more, such as the Brahms focus with Igor Levit. Of course, the pianist Johannes Brahms also left his mark on the Musikverein. He sat at the grand piano and bequeathed piano works in autographs to the archive, now being brought back to life in sound.

Close conditions wherever you look. Sir Antonio Pappano conducts two of the most famous fragments at the Musikverein: Schubert’s “Unfinished” and Bruckner’s Ninth. The Schubert autograph is in the Musikverein archives, but the Ninth premiere occurred in 1903 in the Musikverein’s Großen Musikvereinssaal. Ten years later, the infamous, scandalous concert with Arnold Schönberg occurred. The poster of this historic event forms the starting point for our Musikverein Festival “Courage!”. A wide range of programmes opens up when you consider how much courage the muse needs. At the same time, the works and constellations of these programs offer a subtle stimulus to take a closer look. What was it like, for example, in the same year 1913, when the “Gurre-Lieder” were premiered at the Musikverein? Who was on stage? How did the audience react? How close was this Schönberg allowed to get to them?

In all this, one can also think a little of Goethe – of the famous verses that speak so beautifully of the obvious: “Do you want to wander on and on?/ Look, the good is so close./ Learn only to seize happiness,/ Because happiness is always there.” Goethe called this poem “memory”. With this in mind, we look forward to sharing one of these memories with you.