03/31 – Skandalkonzert

A contemporary cartoon of the “Skandalkonzert”. (SWR)

On this day in 1913, a musical performance was held at the prestigious Musikverein concert hall in Vienna, Austria. Intended as a showcase for music in the style of the Second Viennese School – a radical and experimental form of classical music – the concert was a gathering for Viennese high society who had no idea what they were in for. As the concert progressed, the audience became increasingly agitated as the music became harsher and more difficult to listen to. For the Viennese audience, the concert was a sharp break from classical tradition, an offensive assault on their ears and sensibilities. As the 4th act began, with music by Alban Berg, the Skandalkonzert (or “skandal concert”, as it became known) descended into chaos.

The interior of the Muskiverein today. During the Skandalkonzert, many of the furnishings were torn up and thrown by the frenzier audience. (Meyer Sound)

According to contemporary reports, members of the audience were so offended by the shrieking noise of the orchestra that they leapt from their seats and began attacking the musicians. Chairs were torn from the ground, instruments seized and smashed and event organizer Erhard Buschbeck slapped an elderly concert-goer so hard that the entire hall heard it, the “most harmonious sound of the entire concert.” Because of Buschbeck’s passionate assault, the infamous Skandalkonzert is also known as the Watschenkonzert, or “slap concert”. The show – which was cancelled early – was an early example of expressionism, a pre and post-war artistic movement that sought to present real life as subjectively as possible, an effort to evoke feelings as opposed to a physical reality. The Skandalkonzert is also significant for being one of history’s few examples of classical music inciting people to physical violence.

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