Vienna’s Haus der Musik: Not Musical Chairs...But Musical Stairs

Museums all over Europe are trying to be interactive. Many fail. But the Haus der Musik in Vienna is wonderfully interactive, letting its visitors learn and have fun at the same time. And for the first time in ages, as a tour guide I get to use some of my old piano teacher skills. Run with me up the scale.

Here in Vienna, I’ve been thinking about my first trip to Europe. It was the summer of 1969, and I was 14 years old. My father, who was a piano importer, brought me to the Bösendorfer factory, where the world’s finest pianos were made — not on an assembly line, but in former monks’ cells. I remember thinking it was as if the pianos were birthed, each with its own personality, depending upon the skills and techniques of each craftsman.

My dad carefully analyzed the personality of each of these grand pianos, matching it with his client’s taste back in Seattle. He’d make a selection, autograph the sounding board, they’d put it in a box, and ship it to some lucky American pianist. Bringing that Old World quality to the New World was the joy of my dad’s work — and it inspires me even today.

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