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Music in Vienna

Vienna, Austria

Vienna’s musical culture is yours to enjoy in a museum of musical instruments (with clavichords and harpsichords), at a night at the opera (performed 300 nights a year), and in summers in the open air, where free concerts are broadcast on a giant screen.

Complete Video Script

At the Hofburg, the Habsburg winter palace in the town center, Vienna's love of music is beautifully captured in a fine collection of historic instruments.

Vienna was Europe's music capital long before Beethoven called it home. As far back as the 12th century, it was a mecca for musicians. Later Habsburg emperors were generous patrons of music, in fact many were talented musicians and composers themselves.

Palatial rooms are filled with odd medieval noise makers, regal trumpets, famous pianos, and more. Immersed in music history — this portrait is of a 13-year-old Beethoven — visitors can actually hear these precious instruments being played with the accompanying audio guide.

The Clavichord and the Harpsichord were two predecessors to the piano.

For a couple hundred years the Clavichord was the standard keyboard instrument. It’s small, it’s simple, good for domestic intimate settings. The keyboard action is very simple, just a teeter-totter motion. You can do a little dynamic contrast — soft and less soft — and a little vibrato if you like. The Harpsichord makes a bitter and a brighter sound because the strings rather than being hit with a hammer were plucked with a quill. And because a pluck is a pluck the volume was always the same. Around 1700 they developed a more complicated mechanism that when you hit the key it would throw the hammer up to the string and you could strike it softer or louder. They called it the soft loud piano forte. Today we call it the piano.

These days' visitors to Vienna find musical treats wherever they turn. Even if you don't have time or money for a performance, a visit to the opera is a must.

The Vienna State Opera house built in the 1860s's is the pride of the city. Here in the grand entry hall, it's easy to imagine an age when opera was as popular as movies are today. Picture white gloved dandies with their dates. Tours are offered daily.

Guide: We’re standing now in a very elegant intermission room which takes us back into the time of Francioza. The auditorium altogether holds 2,200 places. You have a fantastic view from your seat. You have to imagine that the entire auditorium was damaged in World War II. So this place was terribly hitten by the bombs. The entire auditorium burned down, also the stage area so it had to be completely rebuilt after the war.

We are now on one of the biggest stages in Europe. It’s possible to compare the entire size of the stage to the interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

The Vienna State Opera — with musicians provided by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the pit — is one of the world's top opera houses offering 300 performances a year.

While the orchestra and the opera take the summer off, Vienna's music scene thrives year around. And most summer evenings in front of the City Hall, free concerts are broadcast on a giant screen. Just before the show, people gather to enjoy dinner in the park. It's a lively local scene… sure, there's some schnitzel… but it's mostly "world food" with Vienna at play.

Singles consider this the best pick-up place in town. The city government subsidizes the event believing even those just looking to hook up will pick up an appreciation of a little high culture at the same time.

Tonight, three thousand seats are filled as people who couldn't make it to the original performance enjoy the Vienna State Opera and its orchestra perform the Love Potion by Donizetti for free.