“Felix Austria”: lucky Austria makes music

The stalls, the boxes, the lower and upper galleries … the Vienna Concert Hall was filled to the last seat. “We invite you to have an encounter with Jesus through music,” Franz Jochum, the musical director and conductor, said to the audience at the beginning of the concert.

The concert started at eight o’clock with Gabriella’s song from the Swedish movie “As it is in heaven”. At 104 years, the venerable Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna Concert Hall) is magnificent. Together the auditorium and stage are nearly a thousand square metres and can accommodate an audience of up to two thousand. The concert hall is located at the edge of the first district in Vienna, Austria’s capital. This multi-purpose building was constructed with the aim of making it more interesting and attracting wider sections of the population than the already existing and more traditional Wiener Musikverein.

Music and culture for all

“Music and culture for all”. This was achieved on Saturday night with the Pentecost concert under the motto “Felix Austria”. The programme was very varied: “Von deiner Güt’, o Herr und Gott …” from the oratorio The Creation by Joseph Haydn, “Christus factus est”, a motet by Anton Bruckner, “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” from Johannes Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, or “Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume” by Rudolf Sieczynski—there was something for everybody. The one-and-a-half hour programme offered a musical banquet of sixteen choice delicacies.

For some, the highlight was a potpourri by TomAti: “Evergreens from Austria—an attempt”. The potpourri was a mix of well-known Austrian musical fare rearranged into something completely new, fun, and entertaining. The audience rewarded the professor and his piano student’s brilliance with thunderous applause as they coaxed numerous well-known melodies out of the piano.

Lucky Austria

“Felix Austria” is a saying that was coined by Duke Rudolf IV in 1364 and was used in his seal. It is still a popular phrase used by the Austrians today, who are said to lead a particularly fortunate and happy life.

The concert picked up on the question of “luck and happiness” and a “good ending” and tried to give a musical response. “It is not surprising that these explanations can sometimes only be understood if we see them through red-and-white coloured glasses—the national colours—when we consider how lucky the Austrians are,” the organisers conceded. However, believing Christians find their good ending in the Lord, whether Austrian or not, as the song “Herr, du mein Glück” illustrated so fittingly.

The musicians

The musikwerkstattoesterreich (music workshop Austria) has been active for more than ten years. It organizes choral and orchestral workshops annually with the aim of promoting young talent.

The many rehearsals, the lasting support, the finding of young talent—all of this was also heard in the evening’s concert. The evening’s soloists were Alies Mack (soprano), Jens Waldig (bass), Iván Kárpáti, Julia Maier, and Frithjof Tomusch (all piano), and the youth choir of the New Apostolic Church Austria under the baton of Andreas Bleckenwegner.

A surprising ending

Shortly before the end, the chords of the famous Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Sr. rang through the hall. This march with its striking rhythm pattern had its premiere in 1848 in Vienna. Still today the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra plays it at the end of each of its traditional New Year’s concerts.

At the Pentecost concert, however, it was only the second last piece. The march was followed by “Geisteswind aus Himmelshöhn, rausch mit Macht durch unsre Reihn”, a fantasy played by Iván Kárpáti on the piano. It was a fitting preparation in view of the Pentecost service in the morning, and guiding the audience’s thoughts to the Holy Spirit. Franz Jochum explained at the beginning that Apostle Rudolf Kainz had once told him that one could play almost anything at such concerts: “But make sure you always start and finish with a piece that everyone knows.” And this is what the 300 musicians did: they offered music for everyone, well-known music and unpublished pieces.

Tonight, lucky Austria became even luckier!

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Oliver Rütten
Austria, concert, Pentecost, Music