Tales from the Vienna Woods

Four International students discover Vienna through Chamber Music

posted by Christina Duncan on June 22, 2021

The mdw is famous for its impeccable reputation, prestigious alumni and international student body. Moving to a new country to study music requires a firm determination. Classes, concerts & working with musicians from different countries … here is our story of a quartet’s first semester at mdw (in 2018/19).

Musicians from left to right:
Christina Duncan (Canada), Anton Borusan (Germany), Rose Chaffey (Australia), Martin Zayranov (Bulgaria);
Credit: Tosca Santangelo

The first few days. . .

During the welcome party the employee of the International Office was cautioning the difficulties of the upcoming placement auditions (at music school the semester begins with performance exams which determine the concerts, classes and professors you receive). As fate would have it, the end of the assembly found Martin, Christina, Anton and Rose sitting together. The perfect instrumentation for a quartet – two violins, a viola and a cello. Rather than audition as individuals we went straight to the library, signed out Tshaikovsky’s string quartet #1 and prepared for the audition as a pre-formed quartet. Leaving nothing to chance we arrived for the audition in all black concert dress. Amidst a sea of virtuosic string players warming up in the hallway, the proctor announced the audition would be done in alphabetical order. Thanks to our violist Anton Borusan we were first! Stepping into the room, we were immediately grateful for our careful preparation. The jury panel consisted of seven chamber music professors. After we played the tension was broken by a viola remark “Isn’t it nice that they already have a violist.” Our plan worked, they kept us together. The next day we were assigned to the class of Prof. Peter Matzka, Concertmaster of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Discovering Vienna

The student culture at mdw is unique. It consists of students who have been committed to their instrument since early childhood. Classes often consist of fellow students who have previously met through competitions and masterclasses. With music being the common denominator, the languages students use to communicate often varies. As a quartet we had the advantage of speaking German and English, so we were able to communicate within ourselves and at university. On a side note, the guys could speak Russian with each other. So, when a musical debate went into Russian stealth mode, the girls would nod towards the door and sneak out for coffee. When coffee costs 50¢ it is hard to resist!  The chamber music focus at mdw is outstanding. In addition to world class coaching we participated in tailored chamber music courses which included:

  • Rehearsal Techniques and Problem Solving for Ensembles by Prof. Johannes Meissl
  • History of Chamber Music since 1900
  • Private lessons twice a week
  • Our quartet was assigned to the same orchestra, which greatly assisted scheduling quartet rehearsals.
Credit: Tosca Santangelo

Looking back, quartet rehearsals were a comforting routine when everything around us was new and uncertain. It was creating music with friends. We performed Tshaikovsky String Quartet #1 for our year end recital. When we reached the movement we used for our audition, it was as if the semester flashed before our eyes. Studying in Vienna was a special opportunity that challenged us and intensified our commitment of sharing classical music.

Postnote: As of 2021, all of the quartet members have continued their musical studies and are master/magistrat students at mdw.

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