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City feeling

A sea of heavenly sounds

Classical music isn’t really for me! Until recently, that used to be my standard comment. Despite the fact that I live right here in the city of Mozart, I had basically never been to a real concert. Until last Sunday. A musical experience I definitely do not regret one bit.

On a normal Sunday, I’d probably still be asleep. Today, however, I have something special in mind. My destination: the Grosses Festspielhaus. That’s where Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg will be presenting their third Sunday Matinee. In total, the orchestra will be performing five times in this particular concert series. Each performance sold out down to the very last seat. On the way up to the entrance, I meander my way between all of the taxis which are pulling up in front. Ladies sporting oversized diamond chokers are accompanied by their spouses. Each beautifully coiffed hairdo higher than the last, each shirt pressed to even greater perfection. Not a wrinkle in sight. That said, between all of the bling, there is no shortage of sneakers, jeggings and basic T-shirts either. “A cool blend”, I think to myself, as I wobble on my high heels past the throngs of people and into the foyer.

The Mozarteum Orchestra as Cultural Ambassador

After handing over my coat to the cloakroom attendant, I steer a course for the patrons’ lounge on the first floor. As I step in there, I am rather surprised that all the chairs are occupied and over 100 eyes are pointed right at me. Careful to keep the heels of my shoes off the floor as much as possible, I sneak across to the bar over on the left side of the room. A rather stout gentleman in a chic suit is already holding forth about the life story of composer Anton Bruckner and his 8th Symphony in C minor, which we will be hearing today; the second edition, from 1890, as it turns out. And no less a figure than the amazing Karl-Heinz Steffens will be conducting the ensemble. I leaf through the program folder. My expectations for this particular morning become greater and greater. Did you know, for example, that the Mozarteum Orchestra has existed for 177 years? And that it just recently received the highly prestigious Echo Klassik prize? So much musical talent, all bundled up into one ensemble, enough to knock your socks off, even a cultural Philistine like me.

Every note as precious as a diamond

My anticipation wells up as I step into the main auditorium. I take my seat next to a mother-daughter tandem team, and allow my gaze to wander across the assembled masses. Up on the stage, the strings are already warming up. Somehow, the confusion of sounds has a soothing effect on me. And then, before I know it, the concert begins. From the very first note to the very last, my ears are captivated. My attention alternates between the musicians and the conductor. The precision, lightness and joy with which the maestro wields his baton is impressive. And the orchestra obeys his every gesture. Hidden away towards the back is the percussion section. Each time the timpanist strikes his kettle drum with every ounce of power in his body, it is as if his entire being is moving in time to the music. Naturally enough, I can’t conceal a slight grin. And there, right next to him, sits the man in charge of the cymbals, who is called into action just one time. His heroic moment is assured, however, as his jarring crashes catapult the ocean of notes to heavenly heights.

Returning to the real world

The concert, which lasts around 90 minutes, simply flies by. Just as I am focusing in on the nimble fingers of the harpist, the conductor leads the orchestra through the final bars. The magnificent finale provides a resounding conclusion to this musical “four-course menu”. After a tsunami of applause and cheers, the people stream out into the foyer. My neighbors nod in acknowledgment as they stand up. I return their nod knowingly. However, I am not yet ready to part from my snug upholstered seat. Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the Mozarteum Orchestra would be able to fascinate me to this degree. After I have circled in red the date of the next Sunday matinee on my mental calendar, I almost totter out the door, visibly affected by the experience. Taking a deep breath of the fresh winter air, I am ready to head for home. I still need to process everything. Who knows, perhaps a Sunday nap is in order?