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the Musikverein

Finally, a long-awaited update…essentially, Vienna is absolutely gorgeous, and 13 Dartmouth students, 1 professor, 2 flats, 1 city, 5 day/overnight trips, 10 weeks, and 35 concerts make for one incredible adventure.

the cast

from left to right – top row: Avery, Danielle, Jason, Drew, Amy, Anna; bottom row: Matt, Shannon, Richard, Steve, Paul

The thirteen of us all music students at Dartmouth – some majors, some minors, some double majors, some just-for-funsies… Our (other) majors range from math to anthro to neuroscience to math & social sciences to music. Of the thirteen, eleven are ’13s (sophomores), two are ’12s (juniors). There are two clarinets, one tuba, one horn, one cello, one piano, 3 voice, one guitar, and one violin. We’re in the DSO, the DWS, the Barbary Coast, the Brovertones. Some of our favorites are Mahler, John Mayer, Strauss, Jack Johnson, Beethoven, Rebecca Black, and John Thrower. We are all completely in love with music.

the place:

the Staatsoper

Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. The city is made up of 23 districts that spiral out from the Inner City (the First District), at the center of which is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The First District was originally walled in, but when the wall came down and the city was expanded, the Ringstrasse (Ring Street) was constructed in its place. The Second through Ninth districts follow, surrounded by the Gürtel (the Belt, an analogous street to Ring Street), and finally the Tenth through Twenty-Third districts, with the Danube River slashing through the city. IES, the organization with which Dartmouth teamed up for this FSP, has its headquarters in the First District, a couple of blocks away from St. Stephen’s; our flats are in the Fifth District, about 15 minutes away from IES by U-Bahn (subway).

The wall surrounding the first district came down during the second half of the 18th century, so all the buildings outside of the first district only date from then (although many are neo-Baroque or neo-Gothic – the Viennese are traditionalists!). There are museums and churches and coffee shops and concert halls everywhere; while we haven’t had much time this first week to explore the city, a favorite coffee shop is Wolfbauer, down the street from IES.

The concert halls really deserve a post unto themselves, but so far we’ve been to three: the Staatsoper (opera house), the Musikverein (analogous to Symphony Hall), and the Theater an der Wien (a small – but no less ornate – opera house and concert facility). The Staatsoper was built at the edge of the first district, just as the wall was coming down, so the architects didn’t know what the street level would be. As it turned out, the Staatsoper is flush with the street, instead of dramatically elevated – much to the chagrin and horror of the Viennese, who worship the arts so much that they spend as much money in arts and music programs as the US does on its military. During World War II, the Staatsoper was bombed, and nothing was left but the front facade; everything else is a post-1945 reconstruction (in the style of the original, of course).

what we’re doing here:

the chandelier in the Staatsoper

What else would one do on a study abroad trip to Vienna? We are taking three classes here: History of Music in Central Europe, taught by local professor John Moraitis; Performance Analysis, taught by Dartmouth professor and FSP director Steve Swayne; and private lessons on our respective instruments, taught by local faculty. We are also, as I mentioned, going to thirty-five concerts in ten weeks, including operas and orchestral, chamber, and solo performances. This first week alone, we’ve been to five performances: Elektra on Sunday, Mahler 2 on Monday, Beethoven 3 and two clarinet concerti on Tuesday, Early Modern Music on Wednesday, and a percussion ensemble on Thursday. Yes, it’s exhausting!

I’ll be writing more about our first week in a separate post, but for now, I’m thinking of New England’s cold and wet weather as I’m enjoying the sunny banks of the beautiful blue Danube.

Auf Wiedersehen!

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