The Wiener Konzerthaus is one of the largest and most artistically progressive institutions in international musical life. During the course of a season, which extends from September to June, some 750 wide-ranging events take place and more than 600,000 visitors can listen to around 2,500 different compositions. With this comprehensive and varied selection, the Wiener Konzerthaus – together with the Vienna State Opera House and the Musikverein – is central to Vienna’s reputation as one of the world’s leading music capitals.
From its earliest days, the Wiener Konzerthaus has held the highest cultural aims and artistic mission: «To act as a venue for the cultivation of fine music, as a meeting point for artistic endeavour, as a home for music and a cultural centre for Vienna». It was in this spirit that the Konzerthaus was inaugurated on 19 October 1913 with a festive concert attended by Emperor Francis Joseph I. To mark the occasion, Richard Strauss wrote the «Festliches Präludium op. 61», which was followed by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This programme combination, comprising a contemporary work and a masterpiece from the past, served as a model for the Wiener Konzerthaus’s future direction: today, too, an awareness of tradition and the joys of innovation form the main pillars of the Konzerthaus’s artistic identity.
The Wiener Konzerthaus has always been open to new artistic influences, as well as endeavouring to satisfy the demands of tradition. With the passage of time, the nature and range of the events held in the Wiener Konzerthaus since 1913 have expanded, reflecting the changes in cultural and social life of the times.
The social upheavals and financial crises of the inter-war period left an indelible imprint on the Konzerthaus’s artistic output, generating a wide range of cultural activities, which were pioneering in their time. In addition to its consistent attention to classical repertoire, the programmes of the Twenties and Thirties featured major premières, jazz and popular concerts, readings by famous writers, lectures on spiritualism, modern dance events, symposia, conferences, and world fencing and boxing championships.
The years between 1938 and 1945 were ones of cultural poverty. Under the destructive pressure of the National Socialist regime, the Konzerthaus was reduced to a propaganda and entertainment business which was robbed of its main artistic content.
After World War II, the Konzerthaus played an important role in reviving and renewing Austrian musical life and, in the following years, became the leading organiser of contemporary music in Austria and the most sought-after stage for international jazz in Vienna. The series of events created by the Konzerthaus left a decisive imprint on Viennese cultural life. Since then, early music, jazz and new music have featured prominently within the Konzerthaus's programme, contributing to a celebration of classical music in its entire range.
The unique atmosphere of the Wiener Konzerthaus not only attract artists from the international music scene, but also forms the setting for numerous other social events such as balls, conferences, dinners, company presentations and festivities. The Konzerthaus's experience of hosting a wide variety of events extends back to the Twenties. With its most recent major renovation (1998–2001), the historic building is now well-equipped to meet the challenges of the third millennium.
When, in 1913, the Wiener Konzerthaus was officially opened after only two years in construction, it was one of the most modern buildings in the Danube Monarchy. Built by the renowned theatre architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer in co-operation with Ludwig Baumann, it set new standards for its architecture, visitor-friendly atmosphere, construction technology and modern facilities. The interior's design testified to the architects' wealth of experience. The entrance hall and staircases were specially constructed to allow a free flow of around 4,000 people, while the three halls – all of which are on the same level but are acoustically separated from each other – can be used individually, or together, for different events. The acoustics and atmosphere of the building lent themselves to a broad range of cultural events, while the buffet, café and three restaurants satisfied all the gastronomic and social claims of modern concert management. The spacious and comfortable atmosphere of the building, which constituted a novelty in Vienna’s traditional musical life, delighted audiences and critics alike.
Architecturally the Konzerthaus presented a rare combination of Historism, Secessionism and Art Nouveau styles. The high quality of the building's construction made few alterations necessary in the course of the years and these were done in such a way as to largely retain the Konzerthaus's original state. The preservation of the building was also central to the complete overhaul which took place from 1998 to 2001. The historical structure was partly reconstructed and partly renovated, and the building was equipped with the latest technology and a fourth concert hall (the Berio-Hall). Thanks to the careful and responsible treatment of its architectural heritage the Wiener Konzerthaus can today be regarded as one of the most modern concert houses in the world while retaining its historical roots.