By Gilman Scholar Theodore Van Winkle (Austria, Summer 2019)
Odds are, when you think of Vienna, an image of one of its many cathedrals pops into your head. Whether or not you’re religious, it is hard to deny the importance of religion in Austria’s history, nor the beauty of the cathedrals, churches, and monasteries. Most importantly to me, as a musician, the sacred tradition gave rise to some of the most well-known composers and musicians in the Western repertoire. Recently, I even had the chance to visit Hofmusikkapelle, a chapel with one of the richest musical histories in Europe, while the Orchester Wiener Akademie recorded a portion of Beethoven’s 8th Symphony on period-accurate instruments. That’s the sort of thing you can only experience in Vienna!
Few things scream “Vienna” quite like a night out at the ball! Hundreds of years ago, the citizens of Vienna would parade about in costumes during the Christain holiday of Carnival. Before long, the aristocracy got tired of the crazy festivities, and the celebration was forced to move indoors. Little by little, this ceremony evolved until it became the ball we know today, complete with a full orchestra, dance lines, and plenty of waltzes. This year, the IES students all had the opportunity to take ballroom dance classes, and attend the Concordia Ball at the city Rathaus!
It’s hard to ignore the Hapsburg’s influence when you’re in the heart of Austria. Once a multi-generational royal family that oversaw many territories in Europe for centuries, the family line dissolved in the 20th century when Austria converted into a democratic republic. So, what’s left behind? Well, their impressive buildings are easy to spot. From Schönbrunn to Belvedere to Hofburg, some of Vienna’s most recognizable sights are thanks to the Hapsburgs. Whether we realize it or not, though, the Hapsburgs had a huge hand in shaping modern art and music too; their love for the two laid the groundwork for today’s artistic societies.