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29.04.2021

A Star Is Born

Are you already acquainted with the Bank Austria Salon in the Altes Rathaus? It’s a wonderful baroque space with a long history, in which young artists can see what it feels like to perform in a concert hall. But perhaps you would also be interested to know exactly what a salon is?

Imagine Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing in your living room. A superstar appearing in private, unplugged? This isn’t as implausible as it seems, at least if you had had a salon in Vienna like that of Fanny von Arnstein. In April 1784, the 28-year-old Mozart is said to have conducted a concert there. The musical genius wanted to give private concerts as a way of reducing his dependency upon his aristocratic patrons. The waiting list for the event of the year was naturally a long one. Everyone queued to see Mozart, from princes to bankers.

Photo: Oreste Schaller

Salons were hotspots

In those days, however, they didn’t have tickets as we know them today. Far from being a commercial event locations, salons were private creative circles. They were generally hosted by wealthy, educated and charismatic women, who invited a colourful mix of people. Today one would say that the salons offered an ideal opportunity for networking.

Salons were a central institution of social life for 200 years. They were “the place to be”, a hub for new ideas in the arts, politics and philosophy – in France and Russia just as much as in Berlin or Vienna. You have already heard about Fanny von Arnstein. But the other legendary hostesses included Berta Zuckerkandl, Alma Mahler-Werfel and Eugenie Schwarzwald, each of whom played an important role in the intellectual and cultural life of Vienna around 1900.

Photo: Oreste Schaller

Photo: Oreste Schaller

Let’s just try something!

Zuckerkandl’s salon hosted the first public reading of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Jedermann”. You must know it, that play about the death of a rich man, which people from all around the world queue up to see at the Salzburg Festival every year. It’s actually amazing to think that, 100 years later, the play is still a hit. Back then, when Hofmannsthal presented his text in public for the first time, he must have been terribly nervous. You never know how something’s going to be received. Whether people will like it. This is why salons were always ideal rehearsal stages. A sort of test run: You could try something new in a small, intimate setting. And, if necessary, still make a few changes before facing a larger, critical audience.

Photo: Oreste Schaller

The Bank Austria Salon – where you will find your first fans

Now you know more about the historic background and are also better able to understand what the Bank Austria Salon in the Altes Rathaus would like to be. The venerable idea of the salon is being revived there in a contemporary form. Artists, prominent guests and friends come together, in order to find inspiration for their daily lives. For young artists, the magnificent baroque space on the bel étage of Vienna’s historic Rathaus at Wipplingerstraße 6–8 in the city’s First District offers a fantastic opportunity to perform on stage for the first time. And to do so in an ambience that is just as distinguished and elegant as the famous Musikverein or Konzerthaus. Just more intimate and personal. A perfect place to find one’s first fans. The Bank Austria Salon has long enjoyed a reputation amongst insiders as a chamber music breeding ground for outstanding talents from a wide range of musical genres.