Vienna: Alive with art, music, history

Vienna is a beautiful city … though I’ve only seen a few blocks. Clean. Electric trams. The streets are swept and washed at night, for horse-drawn carriages take tourists through the ancient streets. I am timid. Learning to use the ATM was a stressor, until I found out it is in English. All is well.

We went to an indescribably wonderful concert with Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic. To be in the presence of such exquisitely perfect live music was a lifetime experience. The Maestro is 81, and what stamina! We are privileged to have seen him, and heard the eternal beauty of the soul of music flowing out of the gathered musicians, into the 2,000 people gathered to experience it.

Emperor Franz Joseph I provided the land for the concert hall in 1863. What an amazing experience to hear such magical sounds, including Mozart’s “Linzer” Symphony in C Major. The Golden Hall is magnificently high, 57 feet, rising in immense gilded layers, with an intricately coffered ceiling, where gilded carvings embrace frescoes.

The architecture was designed to create “surround sound” through the 2-second reverberation echo time, and the ornate ceiling which deflects sounds in many directions to envelop the listener. The annual Vienna New Year’s concert is performed here.

Our seats were in the first loge, second row — fantastic tickets, not 30 feet from the conductor, on his same level. The first risers for the orchestra were only 20 feet to our right, and we could read the music of the violinists 12 feet away. We felt truly part of the orchestra this evening, though of course, not nearly as talented.

I am so close, I make eye contact with the silver- haired first violinist. His wrist is elegantly curved above the bow, as he bends his head to the violin, and sounds the one note, that pulls the swirl of contradictory tuning into one unified orchestral voice.

Applause rings out, and the orchestra stands to greet the maestro, dignified and serene in immaculate black, and then silence, as Mehta raises his ivory baton. The first barely audible note rises and flows over us in a gathering wave of beauty, and the music sweeps over us all, divinely obliterating any human thought as we are united in the splendor of pure, transcendent joy. Bliss.

Enormous crystal chandeliers are suspended jewels glittering amid the gold. Huge gold and silver organ pipes arise above the orchestra.

Golden statues of caryatids rise along the walls, above the loges, supporting balconies, crowded with faces. The seats of the main floor level are packed with elegant Viennese and visiting music lovers. Perfumes and jewels and stunningly elegant clothes surround rows of listeners, all turned like flowers toward the radiant sun.

The hall is so full, there are hundreds of people crowded behind wrought iron railings at the back, where it is standing room only.

We leave stunned at the power of the experience, beyond words, as we walk back to our hotel. Even talking seems unreal. We are not ourselves. Transformed by creative powers, beyond imagining. Beyond bucket list expectations, beyond anything either of us has experienced.

This artistry was created by our ancestors, by single artists, working through the ages. How can we not believe in a creator when we hear what was unheard; what was barely dreamed of in imagination, brought to life through the genius working in humans?

The extraordinary communion of spirits through the years of talent gathered and refined over decades of sacrifice and discipline, to create art that will last for the ages. The memories of this night will echo forever, the music filling our hearts with eternal treasure. Mahalo, Vienna.

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Virginia Beck is a wellness coach and writer. At Healthy by Design Hawaii, she helps her clients erase stress and design “Lives they Love.” (808) 635-5618.

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