“When a concert goes really well, and you have 1,800 people feel as if they are flying because of the energy in the room, I’m the happiest man on earth.”
At 16, Matthias Naske answered a want ad from the Austrian concert promotion company Jeunesse Musicales: “Would you like to have to go to concerts?” the ad asked. It was part-time, a low-paid office job in which he spent a lot of time filling concert seats. In a way, though, he had found his life’s calling.
“I discovered the enormous emotional power of music in a deeply rooted individual way,” he said.
Now, as director of Konzerthaus, Naske, 56, enjoys at least one or more concerts almost every evening, often not getting home until about 1 am.
But running one of the leading music venues in Vienna, which presents 940 concerts per season, to over 600,000 visitors, is not only about attending concerts.
When Naske took over the Konzerthaus in 2013, the hall had just been renovated and was €6.4 million in debt. After years of frustrating negotiation with the city and federal governments, Naske managed to get the debt completely settled by year-end 2018.
But he refuses to take all the credit. The real turn-around, he says, goes to the people who share his passion – the concertgoers. After expanding the venue’s programs, Konzerthaus’s audience has increased by 27% over the last five years.
Naske takes pride in the fact that Konzerthaus has basically remained a private non-profit organization since its founding in 1913. He’s also proud that the institution now boasts over 10,500 members and 33,000 subscribers.
But even though Konzerthaus seems to be fully utilizing its unique design, which allows for maximum functionality and flexibility (the original seats can be removed to increase capacity), limiting people’s access to music to just this actual venue is not enough for Naske’s quest to bring music to as “heterogeneous a cross section of society as possible.
”Literally thinking outside the box, he’s helped to present concerts to young people through a cooperation with Caritas Wien, with artists such as violinist Hilary Hahn and drummer Martin Grubinger playing at unorthodox locations like the ArtSocial-Space Brunnenpassage and a social housing proj-ect near the Kongresspark.
“I want to live in a society where participation, not only in the field of politics or economics, but also in culture and social exchange, is of value.”