Vienna Danube Concerts. Many Europe travellers dream of a concert on the Danube. A local Viennese has dreamt of it his whole life. Then he just set it up, in his own unique way. I attended one of his floating classical concerts on the Old Danube.
These concerts are not in any tourist guide, but word of mouth is spreading fast.
Floating Sofas And Water Music
Vienna Danube Concerts. Five floating sofas and tables huddle against a buoyant platform carrying four music stands at the small pier of Kaiserwasser (‘Emperor’s Water’). A group of waiters from the nearby hotel populate the white table cloths with drinks and starters. The sun is setting over the quiet waters of the Old Danube.
The tiny riverside houses, Vienna’s vast modern United Nations headquarters, and a range of contemporary skyscrapers have created a unique setting. It’s as close to real Vienna as you can get.
Dr. Mai’s Wonderful World
Vienna Danube Concerts. Dr. Martin Mai’s childhood dream takes off twice a week during the summer. A big fan of nature, water and music, he became a second career ship architect a few years ago. His unique floating sofa boats, the ‘helicopter boat’ and the ‘paper boat’ have turned heads.
Small crowds gather on the shores and bridges whenever his concert hall floats past. The electric boats are practically noise free, and can be rented individually during the day.
That evening, the string quartet and flute perform Opera Prince and Waltz King: Austrian composers from Haydn, Schubert and Dvorak to Mozart, Strauss and Lanner. Each piece has its own little story which the ensemble leader shares with us.
We enjoy our starters as we glide through Kaiserwasser, a side arm of the Old Danube. The Alte Donau, formerly the main river, is now a large lake boasting a smooth surface, clear green water and water plants. The leisure paradise has been popular among Viennese for decades and is largely untouched by tourist streams.
My daughter and I delve into Wiener Backfleisch (similar to Schnitzel) to the tunes of Mozart’s operas Abduction From The Serail and Don Giovanni. We could have had soup completely risk free as the ride is so smooth. Just before we pass a narrow bridge to reach the Old Danube’s open waters, Dr. Mai and his crew detach two of the sofa boats on each side. We glide through, while the free boats follow behind and then rejoin the concert stage.
“When we started playing at the floating Vienna Danube concerts it was weird for me to perform in an ever changing surrounding”, explains the young cellist with a smile. “But once you get used to it, performing on the open water is magic.”
Under the next bridge our floating music oasis stops. The structure of the concrete ceiling reminds me of the coffered ceilings of some churches. The acoustics of that ‘real world’ concert hall are amazing. Gradually, the industrial charms of our concrete roof melt with the romance of waterside classic tunes.
Dessert By Helicopter
Vienna Danube Concerts. Our desserts arrive by ‘helicopter’. Dr. Mai’s Speed Needle approaches out of the dark, presenting a large tray of Schwarzwald cherry mousse. The switch to sweetness is a celebrated ritual that the ensemble uses to introduce sweet music: Viennese waltzes and polkas. Many of them are widely known.
As we return to the pier Johann Strauss’ ‘Blue Danube Waltz’ ripples the lake’s dark waters. Our come back is majestically slow: the lush water plants got entangled in the floating platform’s propellers, a familiar and quickly sorted problem that – if anything – just enriches Dr. Mai’s Wonderful World.
Before we leave Dr. Mai shares the bitter sweet story of his own odyssey as an innovative entrepreneur in Vienna. We laugh tears over his ordeal with the notorious red tape of Vienna’s municipality. “Thank you for enduring and making all this possible”, comments a middle aged fellow Viennese.
How To Book Vienna Danube Concerts
Dr. Mai’s Floating Vienna Danube Concerts usually take place in July and August. Tickets cost EUR 49, with three course dinner and drinks EUR 74 (prices from 2017). In case of rain or strong wind the concerts and dinner take place at the nearby hotel. Weather permitting you can use the boats at your leisure after the concerts if the weather improves.
Concert Dates 2018
To learn about concert dates in 2018 inquire by telephone: +43 (0)680 55 349 55
Note: I was invited by the concert organiser. All opinions expressed are explicitly my own.
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