Vienna Konzerthaus hits 100

Centenary celebrated with dazzling array of musical intent that covered vast artistic terrain.

Wiener Konzerthaus 370 (photo credit: Wiener Konzerthaus- Lukas Beck)
Wiener Konzerthaus 370
(photo credit: Wiener Konzerthaus- Lukas Beck)
Last weekend, the Konzerthaus in Vienna celebrated its centenary with a dazzling array of musical intent that covered vast artistic terrain, and all delivered with the highest quality.
As the facility’s executive director Matthias Naske noted in his speech, during the official anniversary ceremony: “The Vienna Konzerthaus seeks to confront the diversity of the cultural and social reality of this city, and this country, with artistic equivalents”, and the musical program did not disappoint.
Naske, who also serves as the institution’s artistic director, dished up a lineup that spanned genres and styles with gay abandon. The performance action began on Saturday, in the majestic 1,800 capacity Grosse Saal hall, with Aribert Reimann’s stirring prologue to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the 100-plus member choir do the work justice as well as suitably setting the scene for the symphonic work. Young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel gave the voluminous composition a robust reading.
The main Sunday concert program featured a solo classical piano rendition, by Oleg Maisenberg, of Tchaikovsky’s Meditation Op. 72 No. 5, Scriabin’s Waltz Op. 38 and Debussy’s Feux d’artifice. All three works were delivered with a light romantic touch.
The stylistic domain was stretched almost to snapping point at the Hugo Wolf Quartet concert, in the Schubert Hall, with the foursome presenting a highly varied offering of a work by contemporary Austrian composer Otto M. Zykan, an intriguing reading of a composition by Canadian-born British jazz trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and closed with a fun performance of Antonio Jobim’s ever popular “The Girl from Ipanema.”
The individual concerts were confined to 20 minutes slots, which kept things succinctly to the entertainment point, while also allowing the members of the audiences to get to their show of choice while enjoying a few minutes of the interim musical entertainment taking place in the lobby.
Jazz fans enjoyed the largely bluesy offthe- cuff romp by saxophonist Wofgang Puschnig and Wofgang Muthspiel, while balafon (African xylophone) player Mamadou Diabate and percussionist Karim Sanou added some welcome African colors and textures, not to mentioned bonhomie, to the proceedings. Later in the Grosse Saal Wolfgang Mitterer blew his audience away with some organ pyrotechnics.
Five years ago the Konzerthaus hosted a festival devoted exclusively to Israeli and Jewish music. As the then director Bernhard Keres pointed out at the time, in view of the Jewish contribution to Vienna’s musical and artistic heritage, the cultural theme of choice was only natural. With jazz bassist Avishai Cohen performing at the Konzerthaus last Monday, and stellar Israeli klezmer clarinet player Giora Feidman due to play there in the coming weeks, the venerable Viennese concert venue is clearly staying loyal to that Jewish artistic heritage.