musikverein´s acoustics

erato, muse of lyric poetry and song

a golden sound in the golden hall

at the opening concert the audience was not only impressed by the architecture. they also found the acoustics of the großer musikvereinssaal to be a phenomenal achievement. this amazement has lasted until today. “if it was only a question of the großer musikvereinssaal it wouldn’t have been necessary to invent the microphone,” wrote hans weigel on the one hundredth anniversary of the building.

what is it that makes the music in the main concert hall sound so resonant? what is the secret of the golden sound in the golden hall? “this achievement,” wrote the viennese critic theodor helm as early as after the opening concert, “is partly a stroke of pure luck (unfortunately acoustics still cannot be precisely forecast or calculated), and on the other hand it is undeniably merited by the excellent architect hansen...”

helm’s statement was absolutely right. the excellent acoustic qualities of the main concert hall are not the result of strict trials – scientific studies of acoustics were only systematically carried out decades later.

the golden sound in the golden hall is, seen in this way, really “a stroke of luck”. on the other hand – and helm was right again here – the acoustic phenomenon is the direct result of the architectural masterpiece. if the rectangular form represents the best basic structure for the acoustics of a concert hall then the elements dividing the space – the partitioning of the ceiling, balconies, caryatids – provide for an ideal spread of sound waves.

other details contribute to the wonderful sound. a hollow space under the wooden floor creates a resonant background, in a similar way to a violin. the ceiling, which is made of wood and is not simply mounted but is hung from the rafters, also gives the sound in the hall an extra dimension. all these factors are still pondered over by experts.

the golden hall is still a mecca for acoustic scientists from all over the world. where can the magic interplay of sound and hall be better studied than in the großer musikvereinssaal?

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