In October of last year, the Joseph Hellmesberger Department of String Instruments, Guitar and Harp in Music Education moved from its old location at Rennweg 8 to Metternichgasse 12. This new address, previously home to Film Academy Vienna, now offers all students and teaching staff ample space. Save for minor details, the work to adapt the building to its new purpose has now been completed. “A couple of things like installation jobs got delayed a bit due to COVID,” explains department head Georg Hamann. The initial difficulties entailed by construction noise and limited natural light on account of scaffolding have long since been forgotten, however, and this historic and extensively modernised building now invites the initiation of new projects. Specialist teams, for example, will work on the clearer structuring of everyday studies and examination modalities while cooperative projects together with the association Superar have been planned that will help students gather more practical experience.
Metternichgasse 12, still covered in scaffolding. Work on the facade, however, is now nearing completion. All it needs is the final coat of paint.
In the interior spaces, special attention has been paid to preserving this building’s historic features while modernising it for day-to-day studies. The old doors were kept and added to with additional doors in between to make the rooms as soundproof as possible. And the concert hall was given fabric-covered wall panels that can be repositioned according to the instruments being featured in order to provide additional soundproofing.
A highlight for students and teachers alike is the historically protected Spiegelzimmer (Mirror Room), well-loved for its elaborate cloth wall coverings. These were restored and cleaned as part of the remodelling project. Thanks to this work and the impressive chandelier here, this beloved room now shines in newfound glory.
Julia Prömmer, who studies harp with Andrea Hampel in the Music Education for Voice and Instruments programme, is among those who now begin their day at Metternichgasse 12. She’d previously been at the old location on Rennweg, where rooms often had to be shared. “I’m so happy to be here, because we have lots more space and you really do just feel the history of the building,” emphasises Julia, who will soon be graduating. She often uses the morning hours to prepare in a practice room. That’s followed by playing in front of her class, which functions as performance training. Everyone has to play something, and they’re also given feedback. “It’s a great way to gather practical experience,” says Julia.
This new location also allows for more exchange— such as spontaneous conversations with department head Georg Hamann about new projects, one’s own master’s degree thesis, or upcoming concerts.
Working on a piece together with Andrea Hampel. Assured hands and feet are essential. But it’s also clear to both that despite how this is a lesson, some allowance for fun is just as necessary—because the joy of music can’t be given short shrift.
Lessons also involve practising on a children’s harp. This significantly smaller instrument is used in some lessons so that Julia can gain experience with it, as well, for lessons she’ll be giving in the future.
Following her lesson, Julia takes a quick break. The new department building has a snack bar and coffee machine on the ground floor. On the upper floors, as well, seating areas have been set up to provide sufficient space for studying and taking a break.
Shortly before graduation, Federico Durando—who studies violin in the Music Education for Voice and Instruments programme under Mirjam Tschopp—obtains some important information at the department office from Birgit Murbacher-Sanna, who’s always glad to be there for her students with advice and concrete help.
Then Federico heads back to the old location on Rennweg. He won’t be spending all that much time at Metternichgasse 12 before he’s finished, and he previously “moved around a lot between almost all the other locations”, he says. Rennweg is where he was most often, however. And today, he’s still amused by the sign at its entrance informing tourists that the entrance to the Belvedere is not here, but a few meters down the street.
Arrived at the Alter Konzertsaal, Federico takes out his violin and makes use of this opportunity to play. For it’s here that, in just a few days, he’ll be giving his final concert. “All at once, it’s an entirely different atmosphere when you play in a historic hall like this one.” And since there’s obviously lots of space for an audience, here, he hopes that this time—unlike at the exam he played in January—friends and family will also be able to attend. After he’s practised, the Italian-born violinist sits down in the inner courtyard for a break and takes another look at the music for his upcoming lesson. Then it’s back to Metternichgasse 12.
Together with Mirjam Tschopp, Federico works on a piece for an upcoming concert in a teaching room on Metternichgasse 12’s basement floor that’s also just been renovated.