Wiener Conzerthaus, the Concert Hall of Vienna, was built in the early XXth century. Its architecture and acoustics are built for 4-thuosand audience and were not only modern but way ahead of their time. The hall was opened in 1913, just before the War. At the opening, the 9th Symphony of Beethoven was played, with its strong address, “Embrace, you millions”, and behind the pulpit there was Richard Straus himself, who wrote the “Celebration Prelude” for the occasion.
Between the wars, the hall was the center of European music life; many of the masterpieces had their first public performance here. After WWII, Wiener Conzerthaus played an important role in cultural revival of Austria, becoming the starting point for expansion of the New Music.
After nearly a hundred years of activity, the hall had a 3-year-long renovation and opened again in 2001 with 4 halls instead of the old 3. The newer hall was designed specially for the performances of modern music.
The young director Christoph Lieben could break the stereotype that says that such a place is mostly for elderly public. During the season, Wiener Conzerthaus has over 750 events, ranging from Baroque and Romantic music to jazz and pop-rock. Over 600 000 people a year, including children and youth, are devoted visitors of Wiener Conzerthaus. It is also home to Wiener Symphoniker, the municipal orchestra of Vienna, honored by the names of many talented conductors and musicians from all over the world. Since 1997, it is conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev from Russia.
De I: Herr Lieben, how could you become the director of such a great hall at such a young age?
Lieben: In 25, I was offered a position of assistant director of my predecessor Alexander Pereira. I was all into the music, visited concerts often, and finally found a job here as assistant manager. I had to learn a lot, first in the area of marketing, to negotiate artist pay, to speak with hundreds new people every day. I was young and energetic and worked 20 hours a day. Then my predecessor was invited to Zurich Opera, and I was offered his place – “Why not Lieben? At least he knows the hall specifications”, they said.
And after I staged the first concert, they saw they made the right choice, they said, “he is a strong guy”. It was during the reconstruction so we had difficulties. No-one knew a bit about reconstruction of concert halls, and there was a lack of money.
De I: Which illusions you had to part with in the process of reconstruction?
Lieben: Many, mostly those connected with seeming independence from governmental organizations and persons in power. We respect administration, we pay taxes, we rely on social and medical help, and the state should not make interaction with it complicated.
De I: Which performance do you really treasure?
Lieben: In my memory there are many great concerts, but I do not make idols out of them. Now my strongest impressions are from the visit to Moscow and the Red Square, from nice Russian food and introduction to great Russian musicians.
De I: What have you done so that you can say, “this is what I live for”?
Lieben: Every night, a lot of people listen to the great music that I love. And this makes all of us happier. This is the wonder I live for. I am proud not because of success of every single project of ours, but that I can communicate these projects into a whole. A concert hall has its sound, which I treat as a single personality, and the performance should be so enchanting that people would dream of returning back here again and again. People should really enjoy, this is why I spent 2 years to decide problems so far from artistic: make call center easier to reach, make tickets easier available, organize coffee sales during breaks… Vienna is the capital of classical music, and I need to prove that people should prefer our concert hall.
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST #02.