The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On Day 7 of its European tour, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra tours Vienna and visits the restored St. Stephen’s Cathedral restoration and the Museum of Ancient Instruments at the Hofburg Palace.

July 14, 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.

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

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 fifith entry, with photos by WYSO’s executive director Bridget Fraser. More will follow:

By Mikko Utevsky


A wonderful day today — we had this morning free to roam downtown Vienna, something of a dream come true.

Among the most popular sites were two I visited myself, the famed St. Stephen’s Cathedral (for the benefit of which we performed last night, which made seeing it extra cool) and the Museum of Ancient Instruments in the Austrian National Library.

St. Stephen’s (Stephansdom in German) is a magnificent Gothic cathedral, the center of the Archdiocese of Vienna, and absolutely blows every other building we’ve seen on this tour out of the water, in my opinion.

Apart from its stunning beauty and sheer size, the building holds a rich history. It is built on an ancient Roman building, on top of which was constructed a Romanesque church in the 12th century and Gothic addition in the 14th. The building was finally transformed into a full cathedral with yet another addition in the 15th century.

It was badly damaged by fires in the Second World War, but is mostly restored now, though one side is still covered in scaffolding. The weight of history is palpable inside, awe-inspiring rather than oppressive, and the atmosphere is quietly reverent.

The massive Hofburg Palace (below) was the home of our second most popular site, the Museum of Ancient Instruments. The building was the winter residence of the Habsburg monarchs, and today holds three large museums, among many other things.

This museum boasts an impressive collection of old instruments of all types (below), ranging from keyboards of all sizes to string instruments (including some rather nice violas and a few very strange “Tanzmeistergeigen” with tiny bodies and full-sized fingerboards) to winds and brass.

Other curiosities included some strange basset clarinets, an oddly keyed bass flute, an ophicleide (as used in Mendelssohn’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture’) and a Greek lyre. I thoroughly enjoyed examining the pieces, though I would love to hear some of them played. Another highlight of the trip.

 It has cooled off, incidentally. We had rain today and yesterday, with more tomorrow. It’s a nice change, really. I hope Madison has gotten some too.

We traveled to Oulomoc for dinner (below) and checked in at our hotel this evening — yet another currency change, this time to Czech Koruna. Tomorrow’s concert is in the Archbishop’s Palace in Kromeriz.

I can’t wait to see it!



    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,250 other subscribers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,411,844 hits
%d bloggers like this: