A March 2004 trip
to Vienna by Idler
Quote: "My language is understood all over the whole world," wrote Joseph Hadyn. He was speaking, of course, of music, the universal language. It’s spoken fluently in Vienna, the undisputed musical capital of Europe. Spending five days immersed in the sounds and sights of Vienna provided the perfect early spring holiday.
While numerous companies conduct "musical tours" of Vienna, I preferred to put together my own music-themed tour after doing a little research. I was surprised at how easy it was to obtain tickets at prestigious venues (see below) and at how stress-free the entire experience was. Luck was with me, too, as the weather turned gloriously warm and sunny the moment I arrived. I hadn’t expected to need a pair of sunglasses in Austria in mid March!
With the weather luring me outdoors, I spent most days strolling through the city, admiring its architecture and vibrant social scene. When I felt the slightest bit fatigued, I’d use that as a pretext to seek out an agreeable café or coffeehouse and order some whipped-cream-laden beverage accompanied by a piece of pastry.
In the late afternoon, I’d meander back to my hotel, soak a bit in a hot bath, then dress for an evening at the opera or symphony. I'd made no attempt to pack sparingly. No. I wanted to wear something special each evening; one night the crushed velvet ensemble, the next perhaps the black number with the gray beading. I'd accessorize with silk scarves and a sequined evening purse. A pox on practical ‘wash and wear’ garments!
After doing a final check in the full-length mirror, I’d take the wrought-iron lift down to the street and do my little fashion walk to the U-bahn. Click, click, click went my heels on the pavement or up the marble steps of the Staatsoper or Musikverein. I’d check my coat (a pity it was too warm for the fur tippet), then make my way to my box, still having ample time to buy and peruse a program. The hall would slowly fill, and I’d thank my lucky stars I’d remembered my mother-of-pearl opera glasses; they came in quite handy as I scanned the audience for nonexistent acquaintances.
Honey chile, I wasn’t born to this life, but I sure ‘nuff could get used to it!
The Viennese are fairly conservative, and while it’s not necessary to dress to the nines, you won’t feel out of place wearing a fairly formal outfit. Granted, I saw jeans and T-shirts as well, especially at the Kammeroper (mostly among standing room patrons).
Strapped for cash but longing for a cultural fix? Almost all venues offer ample standing room for around 5 Euros. Go ahead – spring for a night at the opera!
Within the Ring, walking is the best way to get around. Vienna is a superb walker’s city, with pedestrian zones and delightful architecture throughout, so do as much strolling as you can manage. You won’t regret it.
Finally, to get "the big picture" of what’s located where around the Ringstraße, simply hop on a Number 1 or 2 tram, going clockwise or anticlockwise around the Ring. With a tourist map spread on my lap to help me identify major buildings, I found this was the best way to quickly get my bearings. Of course, I couldn’t resist hopping on and off a few times in route, but that’s all part of the charm of Vienna: do as you please!
Hotel | "Hotel Altstadt"
This fear flew out the window the moment I stepped into the lobby of the Altstadt. I was early (I tend to be early a lot; it’s a character flaw), but the lovely receptionist didn’t shoot me one of those, "What, you want your room now?" looks.
Instead, she graciously apologized that my room wasn’t ready. Would I care to have a cup of coffee in the lounge while my room was prepared?
Of course I would. I trail behind my elegant hostess into the…
HOLY MOWLY! This is the lounge? Surely, I’ve stumbled into the Viennese equivalent of a Thom Filicia interior. I’m dazzled by the decorating bravado.
I seat myself in an overstuffed chintz armchair. Look around, taking it all in. Pinch myself. I’m still pinching myself when a uniformed staff member brings my coffee. After all of about two minutes have elapsed.
I know what you’re thinking: "This is how nice hotels are run, you ninny. Where have you been staying all these years?" And of course you’d be right, but here’s the kicker: the Altstadt provides all the solicitous care and elegance of a five-star hotel at half the price.
I’ve barely finished my coffee when the receptionist wafts back into the room to inform me that my room is ready. I take the key upstairs and am wrestling with the door when the owner/manager materializes beside me like a welcoming genie. With a deft flick he unlocks the door, brings in my luggage, and shows me the room. It’s a stunner: spacious, vibrant, and with every possible amenity. I’m in heaven!
Then he’s gone, and I’m left to my little settling-in ritual. Perhaps you have one of those yourself. It is, to my mind, one of the joys of solo travel. I unpack my things, putting them in the lovely antique wardrobe; I check to see what channels the TV gets; I note with approval the reading lights, the bowl of fresh fruit by the chaise lounge, and the reasonably priced selection of wine in the mini-bar. I putter about, happily, pretending I am at home.
The only problem is that eventually I have to leave.
Another thing to love about the Altstadt: breakfast. Yes, definitely breakfast. One of the most appealing buffets I’ve seen is laid out, with juices, cereals, cold meats and cheeses, yogurt, fruits, breads… it goes on and on. How can one retain one's elegant figure (ahem) with such temptation?
One can’t. Don’t even try.
Just do yourself a favor: stay at the Altstadt when you’re in Vienna.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2004
Hotel Alstadt Vienna
Vienna, Austria 1070
+43 1 522 66 66
Entering the Café Schwarzenberg, I’m greeted by such a kaffeehaus waiter, one who could easily pass for an Austrian version of Jeeves. He attentively waits as I give my order in labored German.
"Ein Einspänner, bitte." I’m encouraged that he seems to understand; no doubt he speaks flawless English but does me the courtesy of allowing me to mangle his language.
"Und... ein… Gemischter Salat." A curt nod, the ghost of a smile, and he glides wordlessly away. I lean back with a sigh.
A coffeehouse is an oasis of peace, a "place for people who want to be alone, but need company to do it," as kaffeehaus wit Alfred Polgar once put it. Much more than a place to drink coffee and eat pastry, a coffeehouse is the perfect place to read the newspaper, meet a lover, write a letter, or even hatch a political plot. Once you've taken a seat, it is yours for as long as you care to stay. The waiter will leave you alone yet is quickly summoned by a glance in his direction.
My salad and Einspänner – espresso mixed with milk and topped with whipped cream. - were both delicious. The waiter served them with a flourish, proud of his skill as he deftly balanced the silver coffee tray in one hand. Coffee in Vienna is invariably accompanied by a glass of water with a silver spoon balanced just so across the top. Always. You can depend on it.
In the booth next to me, a willowy young woman flips open her cell phone and begins a quiet conversation in Russian. I’m shamelessly eavesdropping, as I sip my einspänner, curious to see how much Russian I can remember. This conversation is easy; she’s giving directions to a friend who is coming to meet her. Her next conversation is in low and rapidly spoken French. No conversation is loud in a coffeehouse; instead, there’s a low buzz: the sound of the contented kaffeehaus hive.
The Café Schwarzenberg sits in the heart of old Vienna, smack on the Kärntner Ring. The Imperial Hotel lies just across the street and the opera house is only two blocks away. While it’s a traditional coffee house in every respect, it has made one concession to modern times and offers a separate room for non-smokers.
Outside, the traffic on the Ringstraße reaches its afternoon crescendo. Inside, I "kill time in order not to be killed by it," as Polgar once put it. And order another cup of coffee.
I., Kärntner Ring 17
Attraction | "A tour of the Wiener Staatsoper"
When the opera house was completed in 1869, however, many criticized the exterior, which was likened to a ‘sunken box.’ One of its architects, E. van der Nüll, even committed suicide in the wake of the controversy. In truth, the building does appear inertly massive in comparison with the surrounding architecture, but with an opera house, it’s what’s inside that counts, and what's inside is very splendid indeed.
Hoping to orient myself in the vast structure before attending a performance as well as wanting to learn a little of its history, I took one of the regularly scheduled tours. I was surprised at how many people had come. There are actually two tours, one in German and the other in English. I struck up a conversation with a couple from England. They weren’t opera fans, but, like many of the others taking the tour, had been told the opera house was a ‘must see’ and so had come.
Perhaps in keeping with this general audience, the tour was a fairly broad overview of the history of the opera house and its day-to-day running. The Staatsoper stages an astonishing number of productions a year – about 55 different operas with as many as five different productions held each week. Not surprisingly, the sets and costumes are stored in warehouses elsewhere and brought each day to the Staatsoper in vast shipping vans.
The tour goes through a series of famous rooms, such as the Mahler Room, with its Gobelin tapestries depicting scenes from die Zauberflöte (it was previously called the "Mozart room"), and the Mable Hall, with its stylized modern murals. We took turns crowding before the narrow doorway to the Emperor’s Tea Room to view the sumptuous interior. It can be rented, we were informed for a mere 1,000 euros per hour!
The tour concludes in the house itself, where stagehands were preparing for that evening’s performance. The Staatsoper has one of the largest stages in the world, and one of the most sophisticated as well. Different musical effects can be produced by raising or lowering the orchestra pit, for example. Rather than surtitles, small electronic screens at each seat provide translations of the libretto in English or German.
What is perhaps most impressive, however, is that with over 500 inexpensive stehplatz (standing room places), virtually anyone can afford a night at the opera in Vienna. In Austria, such cultural institutions are not just for the wealthy; they are woven into the fabric of everyday life. It’s that sense of shared cultural traditions that makes Vienna truly special.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2004
Vienna, Austria A-1010
+43 1 514 44 2969
The Haus der Musik is a "tourist attraction" in both the best and worst sense of the term. Aggressively promoted, the Haus der Musik is billed as "the only one of its kind in the world." This may be true, but there may also be a reason for this.
The museum is somewhat bipolar: one half consists of modern interactive ‘experiential’ displays, while the other half, especially the section on the Vienna Philharmonic, is fairly traditional. The visitors who enjoy one section probably won’t enjoy the other, alas.
It is, of course, merely my opinion, but I found most of the interactive displays a pretentious bore. Still, there were a few intriguing displays, most notably "The Virtual Conductor," which allows visitors to electronically "conduct" the Vienna Philharmonic. This is rather amusing, actually, as the amateur conductors invariably botch tempi; when the "orchestra" has had enough, its members begin to berate the would-be conductor.
Unfortunately, this feature was congested with a group of schoolchildren, and I hadn’t a prayer of mounting the rostrum. (Probably just as well, ego-wise!)
Before reaching the Virtual Conductor, however, visitors pass through one dimly-lit chamber after another with bewildering presentations such as the "Brain Opera," the "Mind Forest," and the "Sonosphere." In a darkened, pulsating room, I am invited to reflect upon the sounds heard in the womb. Oh, please. Let’s not.
In another, I try some admittedly clever, but not completely functional interactive displays demonstrating sound perception and other acoustical phenomena. By the time I’ve figured out the instructions, I’m exasperated.
However, this is not to say that some won’t enjoy it. Children, for example, have a blast. Anyone who loves high-tech theory-oriented displays or simply likes to press buttons will no doubt have a high old time.
Now, as for the parts of the museum I did enjoy; well, can you guess? The room containing memorabilia from the Vienna Philharmonic is awe-inspiring; that is, if you care at all about the Vienna Philharmonic. I stood before a display of the batons of famous conductors of the orchestra – Richard Strauss, Toscanini, Furtwängler, Böhm, von Karajan – and felt a true sense of history. I listened to anecdotes told by members of the orchestra relating famous episodes in the orchestra’s history. And I sat in a mini mock-up of the Musikverein’s famous Golden Hall and ‘experienced’ the 2004 New Year’s concert. That alone was worth the admission price.
Another sequence of rooms, each devoted to a famous composers associated with Vienna, was also worthwhile, though few of the documents and artifacts on display are authentic. My favorite room was devoted to Mahler, and I have to say that it was exceptionally well done.
Really, no museum could do complete justice to Vienna’s rich musical history, but this one makes a darn good try.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 26, 2004
Haus der Musik
Considered by many to have the best acoustics in the world, the Großer Musikvereinssaal (also called the Goldener Saal or "Golden Hall") is a splendid place, yet surprisingly intimate in comparison to some of the sterile 20th century halls which have supposedly been built in accordance with acoustical principles.
Back in 1870 when the Musikverein was built, the science of "acoustics" did not yet exist, which makes the hall’s resulting exquisite sound all the more incredible. No one knows the precise secret of the Golden Hall’s magic. Although it’s been used as a model for countless halls on several continents, none to date have successfully replicated it. It is, quite simply, sui generis: a thing unto itself.
Millions of people know what the hall looks like, of course, because of the world famous New Year’s Day Concert broadcast each year featuring the Vienna Philharmonic. I’m told that aside from famous statesmen and assorted dignitaries, the average person has about a one-in-a-thousand shot at getting a ticket to this event. There’s a lottery for the available tickets, but it may take several decades to secure a seat – with a little luck.
I’ve been fascinated by concert hall acoustics for a long time, so when I found out that tours are given of the Musikverein, I made a point of joining one. More intimate than the tours given of the State Opera, the Musikverein tour also seems to draw a more knowledgeable audience. Most people who come to Vienna have heard about the Opera, but it is musicians and music lovers who have heard of – indeed revere the Musikverein.
If there were such a thing as a religion based on music (an appealing notion, if you ask me), its chief temple of worship would be the Musikverein. I can write this without feeling I’m exaggerating in the least.
On the afternoon of the tour, I make my way to the box office on Bösendorferstraße. It’s a small place, soon filled with little clusters of people, a few dozen altogether, waiting expectantly. Exactly on the hour, for this is Austria, after all, and events begin as scheduled, the guide made his entrance, explaining that he was giving the tour in both English and German. The majority spoke German, but a smaller group, from the UK, US, Canada, and Asia, provided the rationale for the English tour.
The term "Musikverein" really refers to two things: the building containing the concert halls and the society which owns the building, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of Music Lovers). We owe more than one might imagine to the various musical appreciation societies, as historically they have done much to support and influence the composition and culture of music.
Vienna’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde was and is one of the most influential of these societies. The musical tastes of the 19th-century educated Viennese middle class, the first members of the Musikverein, are still reflected in the way music is programmed and performed today. They shaped what we now consider to be the standard concert repertory and were the first practitioners of the relatively new field of musical criticism.
On the tour, I learned straightaway that I was at the Musikverein on the eve of an historic occasion. The next day was the opening of four new halls, all subterranean. One might well raise an eyebrow at the idea of four new halls, but rest assured these are not "halls" in the massive sense. The largest of the four new halls, the Gläserne Saal , seats no more than 380 people.
The new halls no doubt provide additional performance outlets for the much-in-demand Musikverein, which rents out its various halls when they not being used for the thirty or so concert series sponsored by the society. Around five hundred concerts a year are performed at the Musikverein in a wide range of types, everything from debuts of modern commissioned works to small baroque chamber music ensembles.
The first half of the tour was conducted in the Brahms-Saal, now dedicated to Johannes Brahms, the composer and musical director who played such an important role in the Musikverein. Seating around 600 people, the hall was fully revamped in the 1990’s, faithfully restoring the green and gold decor that formed the original setting. It’s easy to imagine Clara Schumann performing the first piano recital there in 1870. The Brahms-Saal is ideal for that most typical of Viennese musical forms, Leider, as well as solo recitals and chamber music.
Next, the tour entered the Golden Hall, where I felt like Hansel or Gretel stumbling upon the gingerbread house in the forest. But no witch awaited; overhead were serene paintings of the Apollo and the nine Muses; to each side were row upon row of golden caryatids; in the front of the hall, light streamed through windows, illuminating an immense golden pipe organ and the stage. It brought to mind a phrase I’d seen earlier in the week, referring to a painting but equally applicable to this gorgeous setting: "Ein Flimmern und Schimmern überall" - a glimmering and shimmering all around.
Like many public spaces in Vienna, the Golden Hall seems feminine, almost voluptuous. There’s a sense of rhythm, of liveliness, and intimacy, though this, the largest of the halls, holds nearly two thousand people.
I waited somewhat impatiently as the guide gave the the German portion of the tour, wanting to hear what he had to say about the hall’s famous acoustics. He turned out to be wonderfully knowledgeable, and told us what we were well prepared to believe: that no one fully understands why the hall produces such a gorgeous sound. However, there are three elements that determine any hall’s acoustics: shape, size, and materials. In all three, the Golden Hall has turned up trumps.
First, the rectangular shape of the hall has been proven to be the most successful in producing favorable acoustics. This has been borne out in several other famous halls such as Boston Symphony Hall and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, which share the same "shoebox" design as the Musikverein. The relatively narrow shape of these halls produces a large number of sound reflections from the side walls, which then reach each seat in the audience. The high ceilings add to the richness of the reverberation.
It is important, however, that there not be too much reverberation, which is why the best halls are not large by modern standards. The ideal size, acoustically, is a hall holding around two thousand people. In a larger space, the sound takes longer to travel to the walls and ceiling and then back to the audience, which means the reverberation can become pronounced or even distorted. Think of the acoustics of large cathedrals, which are wonderful places to experience organ recitals but dismal places to listen to symphonic music.
In terms of the third element, building materials, it’s well known that carpets and softer materials absorb sound while hard materials such as stone, glass, and wood reflect it. The Golden Hall has a great deal of wood, but there is something rather special about the way this wood is employed. There is a hollow space under the floor of the hall – initially designed to store the seats, which are removed to make way for a dance floor during the winter balls. What was quickly noticed, however, was that when the space below the floor was filled, the sound of the hall dramatically changed – for the worse . In essence, the hollow chamber below the floor acts as a vast resonating chamber, a sort of gigantic violin. Not only that, but the ceiling, which is also made of wood, is hung rather than mounted, which produces a somewhat "elastic" quality to the sound. And there are other factors contributing to the complex, not-completely-understood equation of the Musikverein’s sound. The caryatids, for example, are hollow rather than solid.
Near the end of the tour, the guide told the following story, with considerable panache:
"During World War II, many buildings in Vienna were destroyed. Most of the Opera House lay in ruins. Bombs landed all around this area. But only one hit the Musikverein..."
He paused a moment for dramatic effect.
"It came through the window, up there, and landed on the floor here but did not explode. It caused no structural damage whatsoever. It was a stroke of luck – but perhaps it was more than that. Perhaps it was providence."
Overindulgence? Perhaps. But I’ve never enjoyed practicing restraint. The Viennese musical smorgasbord poses only one difficulty: so much music, so little time.
Happily, I had priorities which helped sort it all out. A month before departing, I’d already booked tickets for four evenings in Vienna. What most surprised me was how inexpensive it was: Three nights at the opera and a concert at the Musikverein ran less than $100. Granted, I didn’t select the most expensive seats, but I didn’t skimp, either. Austria’s generous subsidization of the arts benefits not just its citizens but tourists as well.
While researching events and tickets online, I soon encountered the "services" that specialize in procuring tickets for foreign tourists. It goes without saying a hefty fee is tacked on. Frankly, I don’t see any need for these intermediaries. Almost every major opera house or concert hall in Vienna maintains its own website with links for direct booking. Granted, some of these booking systems operate exclusively in German. Still, by using the BabelFish translator to bolster my rusty elementary German, I navigated my way through these systems without major difficulty.
In short, anyone who’s dealt with the vagaries of Ticketron or trolled for a cheap airline ticket online would probably feel comfortable reserving tickets for musical performances in Vienna. Most of the sites provide a detailed seating chart, with available seats color coded by price, even showing standing room. (The Austrians have my vote for "most egalitarian" for the high number of decent standing room seats they make available.)
However, a bit of knowledge about how the concert halls and opera houses are laid out is useful. One seat might cost 36 Euros while the one directly behind it is 18. This is particularly true for box seats. Why so?
The secret is this: in a box, there are typically two or three expensive seats along the front. Behind that are two or three moderately-priced seats with views partially blocked by the people sitting in front. Even further back in the box are several seats with poor views; in fact, these are little more than standing room seats with plush stools to periodically rest upon. In other cases, an inexpensive seat set among expensive ones might have an obstructed view.
Now, the question is: How picky to be about the view? I’m willing to put up with the inconvenience of occasionally craning a bit to the side to see the entire stage. I’m even happy with standing room if I know I won’t have to remain standing the entire time. It’s more important to me to be able to hear well than have unobstructed sight lines. Given the overall acoustical excellence of Vienna’s concert halls and opera houses, I was content in the first tier, twice in the second row of a box.
One of the more intimate places to attend an opera is the Wiener Kammeroper, a small company specializing in chamber operas. What is refreshing about this company is its no-holds-barred take on baroque and classical works, injecting a dose of modernism into the performances by mixing authentic instruments from the 18th century with daring lighting and staging techniques. The message is clear: this music is timeless.
The Kammeroper also forges boldly ahead with new works as well, staging numerous Austrian premières. Fresh young voices rather than big names are the draw for this relatively young (fifty years old) company.
Frankly, I really don’t care to see yet another production of La Bohème, no matter how beautifully done. I’d rather see something new, even if it isn’t an unmitigated success. This was the case with the Kammeroper’s production of Ballo.mortale, several short pieces by Monteverdi - Il lamento d’Arianna, Combatimento di Tancredi et Clorinda, and Ballo delle ingrate – woven together into a loose narrative.
It was performed with great verve but, alas, a few scenes were overindulgently extended. However, I will long remember the scene in which the Turkish warrior maiden Clorinda is dressed for battle by her attendants. It was beautifully done. The ensemble singing was particularly strong throughout the production, which pleased me as I’ve always enjoyed ensembles more than arias.
My second night at the opera was at the Wien Staatsoper. I had seen the company years and years ago when they made a rare appearance at Washington’s Kennedy Center. I still hope to see them perform one of my favorite operas, Der Rosenkavalier someday; it was a source of considerable frustration to learn they were performing it two nights after I had to return to the States. I "made do" with a performance of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, known almost universally for its signature aria "Fi-ga-ro! Figaro-Figaro-Figaro….Feee-Gaaah-ROOOW!.
Yeah, that one.
Much to my delight, the Figaro in question performed this with such freshness that all seemed new again.
The entire evening was a delight. First there was the pleasure of entering the opera house and ascending that famous staircase, pausing for a moment at the top to take it all in. When I entered my box, I was greeted by what seemed at first to be a rather querulous elderly Viennese woman, but when she heard my accent, she broke into flawless English: "Where are you from?" It turned out she’d lived for twenty years not far from where I live in Maryland and that she had dual Austrian/U.S. citizenship. We were soon thick as thieves, indulging in political gossip. I urged her to exercise her voting rights to help oust that awful man (her words, mind you) from office.
At the head of the grand staircase, Staatsoper
I rounded out my Viennese operatic experience at the Volksoper, which specializes in operettas and musicals. I opted not to see "My Fair Lady" or "West Side Story," but to see instead an operetta called Der Opernball ("The Opera Ball") by Richard Heuberger. The Volksoper lived up to its reputation as a thoroughly polished and entertaining company. I’d recommend it to those who aren’t terribly sure if they’d like opera or not. What’s not to like about a gorgeous opera house, sprightly music performed by a crack orchestra, a procession of stunning sets and costumes, and a thoroughly engaging cast?
Admittedly, one slight setback is that there were no surtitles or translation screens as provided at the Staatsoper. Since the plot was fairly intricate, it was hard at first to follow, but soon I caught on: the plot was essentially an inverted Cosí Fan Tutte, only this time the women were testing the fidelity of their husbands rather than vice versa. It was pure Viennese froth, replete with a flirtatious parlor maid (who steals the show), a heartless roué, and a scene in which confusion predictably reigns at a masked ball. If Der Opernball were edible, it would be a Mozartkügel, one of those sweet confections beloved by the Viennese and relished by countless tourists.
But without question, the most memorable performance was at the Musikverein. I had decided to take my chances at a performance by the Musikgymnasium Wien (the Vienna Music School), which is under the patronage of the Vienna Philharmonic. Needless to say, this is no ordinary music school.
There is also no more enthusiastic an audience than one composed of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. I was a little apprehensive, I admit, that the performance might be on the amateurish side, but this apprehension vanished within seconds of the opening bars of Dvorák’s "Carnival Overture." In fact, I’ll risk sounding like an utter rustic by admitting my jaw dropped open and stayed open for most of the piece.
It was that sound. Never have I heard anything like it, the sound in that hall. Its immediate effect was a sort of galvanic JOLT, sans electrical wiring. Then I was swimming, floating, whirling in a sea of sound. Words can’t describe it.
I had picked this concert for one particular work, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. Years ago, listening to this piece had been part of a nightly ritual which sustained me through a difficult semester of college. Then I had moved on. I’d never heard the piece in concert.
But there I was at the Musikverein, twenty-eight years later, tears streaming down my face as I listened to a gifted young pianist, Maria Raduta, peforming this marvellous work. I felt I had come full circle.
Bruno Walter once wrote, "Conducting here [at the Musikverein] for the first time was for me an unforgettable experience. Before then I had not known how beautiful music could be."
I know just how he felt.