The Musikverein (literaly "musical association") in Vienna is a building which belongs to the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde). Built in the 19th century by the architect Theophil Hansen, it quickly became one of the greatest venues for classical music concerts, on an international level.
The Musikverein is made up of several concert halls. The main one is called the Großer Musikvereinssaal, and is characterized by its golden and ivory tones. More than two thousand people, 1,744 seated and 300 standing, come together as one audience.
Theophil Hansen (1813–1891) went to work enthusiastically. Competition with the Court Opera gave wings to his imagination and fortified him on his way towards a new style, “Strict Historicism”. In contrast to the architects of the earlier Romantic Historicism, including Sicardsburg and van der Nüll, he studied the architecture of the High Renaissance. Consequently he went further and let himself be led back from the “Neo Renaissance” to classical antiquity.
Here, Hansen was literally at home since before the Danish-born architect came to Vienna he had studied in Athens for eight years and also worked there as an architect. His stay in Athens had a profound impact on him. Inspired by Ancient Greece, Hansen became the advocate of, as he liked to call it himself, a “Greek Renaissance”. Hansen’s love of Greece can be seen every step of the way in the Musikverein building.
The caryatids in the main concert hall, the Ionic columns and the temple roof in the Brahms-Saal, Apollo and the Muses as the focal point on the ceiling of the main concert hall and Orpheus on the pediment of the front facade – these are all reminiscences of Greece like the colour of the building, a consummate example of classical polychrome.
Hansen created a truly classical atmosphere for the performance of “classical works”. The music lovers could be proud of their new building. In 1870, three years after construction was begun, they were in joyous mood as they formulated the document for the laying of the keystone: “This building is, and should remain, dedicated to the learning and mastery of the art of music: a work of art in itself, a home of music, a credit to the city and the empire.”
The Musikverein, by Joachim Reiber
"There are many music societies but only one Musikverein. Music lovers throughout the world know it as the centre of Viennese musical culture, as the focus of the international concert circuit and as the Eldorado of classical music.
"The Musikverein - a resonant name, a scintillating idea. Strictly speaking, it has a twofold meaning: the concert hall on Vienna's Karlsplatz and the society to which this building belongs, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of Music Lovers) in Vienna. Two different things which belong inseparably together. What would the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde be without its magnificent concert hall and what would the concert hall be without the society?
"One name encapsulates the interplay between these two elements and brings both together: the Musikverein."
Excerpts from the booklet Musikverein. Text written by Dr. Joachim Reiber. This booklet you can order in the Musikverein Online-Shop or directly in the Musikverein. View the Musikverein official website here.