Archive | The Viennese RSS feed for this section

More Helmut Deutsch

6 Sep

Ever since I read Helmut Deutsch’s memoirs I’ve been meaning to post this “review” I wrote almost 10 years ago of a concert with Barbara Bonney (who doesn’t come off terribly well in Deutsch’s memoirs), Angelika Kirchschlager (who does), and Helmut Deutsch himself.

Here goes, finally:

An Evening of Duets, 5 November 2009, Konzerthaus, Mozart-Saal

I have just come home from a mythical concert. It was the kind of concert you hear about the way you might hear about unicorns but can never be sure exist. It was a concert that made me forget that parts of Pakistan are increasingly ruled by the Taliban, that Iran is building up nuclear capability, and that bonuses are back on Wall Street with no one having learned anything from the economic crisis we are not even yet out of. It was a concert that made the world seem whole and a cheerful place to be. And it truly was miraculous—it provided a mass healing of the TB patients who usually attend concerts in the Mozart-Saal in the cold months. I think I heard only six coughs the whole evening. I’m referring to the evening of duets done by Barbara Bonney, Angelika Kirchschlager, and Helmut Deutsch at the Konzerthaus.

Kirchschlager was completely her usual extravagant self, a kind of Dorabella to Bonney’s more Fiordiligi-like gravitas. Her singing as always was simply an extension of herself. More than any singer I have had the privilege to hear live Kirchschlager embodies what one of my singing teachers referred to as singing from the inside out. She is, quite simply, a force of nature.

Deutsch was even more than usual a frame for the singers. In fact he, together with the Steinway grand piano open, unusually, on the full stick, was quite literally the perfect frame this evening, enveloping the singers in the warm curve of the piano, supporting them with his exquisite playing and remaining unobtrusive yet present in the background for the bows.

Most touching was Bonney who recently, according to reliable sources, has had several very poor years vocally. The voice this evening was not quite what it was in her early career, and I like it better. It has lost some of the ping and for that gained a kind of gentleness which at times almost suggests a fragility as well as a maturity it did not have before. It has much more power to move me than it ever did. And in the second encore, by Gounod, when she started alone and sang with such fervency it was almost unbearably moving. This rather hardened concert-goer quite suddenly found tears streaming down her face.

At the end of the evening one realized again how unusual the concert had been. Not only had the coughs been soothed, but not a single person had clapped in the French group in spite of the fact that the group incorporated the work of several composers. And when the last tones of the second encore died away, there was at first a great hush and then a roar of approval. Then came perhaps the biggest miracle of all. This Viennese audience, who usually insists on four or five encores, understood that the program was complete and needed no additional songs. After bringing the performers back for a few more rapturously received bows, the members of the audience gathered up their things and flowed in perfect harmony from the concert hall.

 

Advertisements

Ausverkauft! (Sold out!)

11 Aug

I’m having a wonderful time reading Helmut Deutsch’s memoirs (a present from a kind and generous friend).

This greatest of Lieder accompanists, born and raised in Vienna, tells a good story. This one strikes me as quintessentially Viennese: Deutsch was one of two accompanists who regularly played for the incomparable Hermann Prey. On one occasion, Deutsch needed a ticket to a Prey recital in the Konzerthaus in Vienna. The posters for days had sported a bright red “Sold out” sign. Nonetheless, Deutsch went into the ticket office to see what could be done. To his great surprise, the lady behind the counter asked, “Stalls or balcony?” Deutsch drew her attention to the “Sold out” signs at which point she smiled and said, “No, not at all. It’s just that Kammersänger Prey likes so much to see the signs.” [“Nein, nein, der Herr Kammersänger hat das nur so gern.”] 🙂

The seasons in Vienna

23 Feb

Nothing from the Kurier this Saturday morning, but here is something a friend sent me from the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) Vienna. The Viennese have a well-recognized tendency to complain, even though their complaining is for the most part at “hohem Niveau” (at a “high level”, that is, about small things from a position of considerable comfort). This graphic shows this beautifully, I think. “Deppat” means “stupid” so the photos, which take us through spring, summer, fall, and winter are captioned: stupid pollen, stupid heat, stupid leaves, and stupid cold. 😆

The Italians are coming!

31 Dec

Actually, they’re already here. I went to two supermarkets this morning to get everything for dinner this evening and, in both, Italians were trying to communicate with the natives.

In the first one, a customer was trying to buy “brodo” (broth). She seemed, rightly so, rather skeptical when she was shown the bouillon cubes.

In the second one, the conversation at the cash register went like this:

Italian customer: Panettone?

Cashier: Nein.

Italian customer (in Italian): “No” you don’t understand or “no” you don’t have any?

Cashier (in German): I don’t understand you but no we don’t have any.

Italian customer: ?

Twenty years of voice lessons including Italian opera and a few trips to Italy allowed me to clarify: Non c’è la. [And benvenuta a Vienna. ;-)]

“First ice cream of the year?”

6 Apr

I was walking home from the supermarket on this Friday evening. In front of me was what I took to be a little family group–mother on the left, a tow-headed boy about six years old in the middle, and father on the right. The boy was licking with great enthusiasm a large and delicious-looking ice cream cone. His mother watched with pride and pleasure and said, “Das erste Eis heuer?” (“First ice cream of the year?”)

The German-language students among you may think “‘Heuer’? What’s ‘heuer’?” “Heuer” is Austrian dialect for “dieses Jahr” or “this year”. That tiny scene made me happy–that I have learned the language to the level where I know that immediately and that I live in a country that still respects the seasons (at least in some things). It is possible to get ice cream at the supermarket in winter, but if you want ice cream parlor ice cream you have to wait. The traditional places are closed from October to March. (They used to be turned into fur coat stores in the winter, but now, it seems, even the Viennese are not buying enough fur coats to keep them in business.)

You can imagine under these circumstances that the first ice cream of the year becomes an event.

On the streets of Vienna

5 Jan

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for a long time. I find it illustrative of a particular trait especially among old ladies in Vienna, that is, their tendency to comment on things one might think were none of their business.

A friend of mine, many years ago now, was waiting for the bus to take her cat (in a pet carrier) to the vet’s. A little old Viennese lady came up to wait, too, and started a conversation–something that almost never happens in Vienna unless you have a pet with you. The conversation took place in German and went something like this:

Little old Viennese lady (LOVL): Dog or cat?

My friend (MF), with a big smile: Cat.

LOVL: Boy or girl? (In Viennese dialect: Bub oder Mäderl?)

MF: Boy.

LOVL: How old is he?

MF: Six months.

LOVL: Castrated?

MF: [!?!?!?!?!] No! He’s too young!

LOVL: My dear woman, it is high time!