The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On Day 6 of its European tour, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra tours Vienna and performs a benefit concert at the city’s famed Musikverein.

July 13, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

As you may already know, the Youth Orchestra, the premiere performing group of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, is on a concert tour with conductor James Smith of Prague, Vienna and Budapest from July 7 through July 17.

The Youth Orchestra is made up of 69 musicians, age 14-18, from 19 communities in south-central Wisconsin.

(Below is a photo taken in Vienna of, from left, of Eddie Wendt, tuba; Charles Dieterle, trombone; Mikko Utevsky, viola; Ben Cordell, string bass; and Paul Sekulski, violin.

Here is a link to an earlier entry with details about the tour including venues and repertoire:

Last month, Mikko Utevsky agreed to blog for The Well-Tempered Ear from his tour, which is also his fist trip abroad.

Utevsky, as you may know from reading this blog, just graduated from East High School in Madison and will attend the University of Wisconsin and the UW School of Music this fall. He has been featured in this blog and also writes comments about its postings. (You can check him out using the blog’s search engine. He is a discerning listener and critic, and a fine writer.)

Utevsky (below), who plays viola in the WYSO group, is also the founder and director-conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which has already performed its first summer concert this year and will perform another on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall.

For more information about WYSO plus a link to this blog and Utevsky’s entries, visit:

Here is Utevsky’s fourth entry, with photos taken by WYSO’s executive director Bridget Fraser. More will follow:

By Mikko Utevksy


This morning we toured Vienna by bus, including visits to the famed Hundertwasserhaus and the Schönbrunn Palace (below), the summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs.

The latter is a massively opulent Baroque building, all over gold and dripping in ornamental architecture. We were not able to tour the palace and see the fountains, but we did get to wander the extensive gardens on the estate, including a hedge maze. (Below is a photo of, from left, standing: Jinri Lee, Scott Meyer, Savannah Valigura, Naomi Black, Christie Cheng, Hattie Bestul, Yassmine Sarkarati, Rory Loo. Down in front are Ansa Seppalainen and Luke Valmadrid.)

Here is another photo with Mark Leiser standing left in the back row:

The Hundertwasserhaus is an apartment complex designed by the Expressionist painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It is a singularly odd building, featuring curved walls (think Gaudí’s Casa Milà in Barcelona), a grass roof, and trees growing inside the rooms. The apartments are used as low-income housing. I found it extraordinarily beautiful.

Lunch was in a downtown restaurant, as was dinner; the former was on us, and was our introduction to Viennese prices. Yikes!

Tonight was a big night: our benefit concert in the Gläserner Saal  (Glass Hall, below bottom) of the Vienna Musikverein (below top), home to the famed Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. The hall is well-named, paneled with curved golden glassy sheets that can be rotated out to adjust the acoustic of the room. It was a bit of a tight fit, but nevertheless a rewarding space to play, not the least for its history.

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the Viennese Society of Friends of Music, is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Its music archive is unsurpassed, as is the concentration of world-famous musicians on its roster.

To further its mission, the Gesellschaft has founded the Vienna Conservatory, started the Wiener Singverein (a massive and extraordinarily gifted symphonic chorus) and, of course, built the Musikverein, famous for its acoustically perfect Golden Hall or Grand Hall (home to the Vienna Philharmonic, which rehearses in the hall in which we played and also performs its televised annual New Year’s Day concert in the Golden Hall).

There was a certain amount of additional pressure from playing such a remarkable venue, which kept the energy of the concert high; for many, this performance was the best yet. The Viennese audience was appreciative, and in any case, the experience of giving such a concert was its own reward.

Proceeds from the tickets, incidentally, went to benefit the restoration of one of Vienna’s most venerable landmarks, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (below bottom). With a more or less full house and tickets between 25 and 29 euros, I suspect we made a small dent in the cost.

Tomorrow we depart for Prague. I can’t wait!



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