There’s a touch of elitism about classical music. Yet nothing says it can only be performed in imposing concert halls; the works of the great composers aren’t only meant for the ears of a chosen few. In fact, classical music continues to be relevant in a whole range of contexts. Something shown not least by star tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who sought out musical dialogue with pop and rock. A few projects are now trying to make classical music more generally accessible. The “Casual Concerts” of the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester, for example, with their emphasis on informality through unallocated seating and a lack of dress code. Or the “Resonanzraum” in a bunker in Hamburg, where the aim is to break down barriers and where, once a month, chamber music meets electronic sounds. In Vienna, the “Grätzl Concerts” are committed to the idea of breaking away from familiar formats. Since last season, the Wiener Symphoniker have deliberately taken classical music out of the time-honoured concert halls and into the “hubbub” of the city.
So it was then that last year, diehard fans encountered curious local residents in what used to be a coffin factory in Liesing and in a former industrial bakery in Favoriten. Between the Figaro Overture and the fourth movement from Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, evergreens such as “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt and the “Toreador Song” from Carmen had people humming along before they even knew it. With their upbeat programmes and a host to guide the audience through the evening, the “Grätzl Concerts” reach out to all those who, until now, have felt that classical music wasn’t for them.
This season sees the Wiener Symphoniker head off on another excursion or two into Vienna’s neighbourhoods. They return to F23, a former industrial coffin factory turned cultural space in Liesing, where their concert of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” in May 2019 was aimed at younger audiences in particular. Beating time at the Reaktor in Hernals is French conductor Ariane Matiakh, who takes over as Music Director in Halle this season. And conducing at the MuseumsQuartier is Aziz Shokhakimov, who was presented with the “Young Conductors Award” at the Salzburg Festival in 2016. Whether open air concert or old factory building, whether young spectators or experienced listeners, the message is clear: classical music is for everyone. Including those the Wiener Symphoniker might not ordinarily reach.