Archive | May, 2011

“Ich atmet’ einen Lindenduft” (I breathe in the scent of the linden tree)

30 May

Linden blossoms

Schubert’s song about linden trees may be more famous, but it is the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death this year so I quote Mahler (or, more precisely, Friedrich Rückert, but Mahler set the poem to music).

The linden trees are in blossom in Vienna already, their distinctive fragrance sweetening the air. They’re early this year, but then it’s been that kind of spring. At the end of March suddenly everything came out at the same time so that forsythia and lilacs, chestnut trees and daffodils were all jostling for attention at once. Now it’s the elderflowers, cherries (not the blossoms, the fruit!), and the linden trees all out together in slightly disorienting array.

Musical addenda

Thomas Hampson singing Mahler’s “Ich atmet’ einen Lindenduft”. Hampson has been singing a lot in Vienna the last few weeks so his name is rather hanging in the air.

Hermann Prey singing Schubert’s “Der Lindenbaum”. I’ve never been that much of a Fischer-Dieskau fan. I’ve always had a soft spot for Prey’s human vulnerability. And I had the great, great privilege of hearing him sing “Die Winterreise”  in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, a year or so before his death. He stood and sang the cycle as if it were an old, intimate friend, which I suppose it was. Absolutely extraordinary.


One reason I live in Vienna …

29 May

… is the music. I was just (evening of Sunday, May 29) at a song recital with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau (, a Liederabend in the grand old tradition of Liederabende. The program was almost exclusively Austrian (Schubert, Zemlinsky, and Krenek, with Schumann the only German) with some very Austrian / Viennese points, like the wanderer in Krenek’s “Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen” (Travel Book from the Austrian Alps) fascinated by how the farmers in a barren mountain village are buried (half standing to save room) and only a few songs later lauding the wine from “Wien, Gumpoldskirchen, Krems, the Wachau, Baden, Soos, and Pfaffstätten”.

But it isn’t just the program and the quality of music-making on stage. It is also the audience. Although there were a number of foreigners in the audience it felt very much like an evening of Viennese “unter sich”–among themselves. The responses to the humor or pathos in the songs were immediate, the response of a knowledgeable, experienced audience. And when it came time for the encores the interaction had a certain intimacy, like the elderly gentleman in the front row who, after Boesch had finished a beautifully nuanced rendition of Schumann’s “Die Lotosblume,” breathed in reverence “Sehr schön” to which Boesch responded by looking pleased and saying, “Danke.”

A very Viennese evening.