This is the ceiling above the stage on which I gave the 2009 Leibniz lecture of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. It is also where Haydn sat to hear a performance of his “Creation” on his 76th birthday, more than two centuries ago. (Beethoven – and Hummel and Salieri – were in the audience, as were a good number of princes and princesses of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.)
I was told that there would have been more students at the lecture if this hadn’t been the evening of the largest student demonstrations in Vienna in a generation. (The issue is roughly this: there are no entrance exams and no fees for Austrian universities, which means that German-speaking students from Germany, where there are sometimes both, enter the Austrian system, as they are entitled to do as citizens of the EU, in large numbers. That produces overflowing courses and, in t he case of seminars with limited enrollment, it means Austrian students may have to delay graduation while they wait in line to take a required course. The obvious solutions – exams and fees – are obviously not popular with the students. Their solution is that the government should spend more money. Given what has happened to national finances in Austria like almost everywhere else in the last year, that is not easy for the government to do. Hence the strike.) As it was the audience asked really good questions.