This is one of those places that I never thought I'd visit in the flesh, let alone get to a concert there, so to make it on my first time in Vienna, and see my home town band, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, play two concerts there was an unforgettable experience.
Joining up with the CBSO's European tour was a 60th birthday treat, with the highlight being a chance to sample them making music in one of the most famous concert venues in the world. Initial impressions are not necessarily striking: the exterior is not exceptional, and the crowded foyer is not brilliantly signposted, so finding a loo or even where you're supposed to be sitting is not easy. You have to hand in outdoor coats etc., but this is no problem, because the ladies collect in and return your items with remarkable efficiency and good humour. Indeed, I found all the well attired staff to be approachable and ready to help. As for the interior, you may have seen it on the tele, but it still takes your breath away when you see it in the flesh. Even more importantly, the much vaunted acoustics are superb: the sound is warm and keeps its clarity even when the orchestra is going full tilt. I especially enjoyed how the woodwind seem to come through with a beautiful, unforced naturalness.
At the end of the day, for all its merits and history, I wouldn't swap the Musikverein for Birmingham's marvellous Symphony Hall, but the chance to see the CBSO play their socks off to a packed hall in accompaniment to Anne Sophie Mutter in Brahms, and then in Stravinsky's Petrushka, and hear the rapturous applause and cheers of an audience used to listening to the Vienna Phil, was one of the best concert going experiences of my life. All in all, an unforgettable 60th birthday treat!
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