Tag Archives: concerts

The first concert as we start to come out of lockdown

20 May
The Konzerthaus in Vienna, 20 May 2021

Thanks to the amazing generosity of a friend, I was able to go to one of the great concert occasions as we slowly and cautiously move back to going out again–the Jonas Kaufmann / Helmut Deutsch Liederabend at the Konzerthaus. What follows are just some quick impressions as it has been an exhausting week and is not over yet, but I did want to get some notes down.

The photo above shows the front of the Konzerthaus this evening, adorned with a flag that brought tears to my eyes with its jaunty text: Wir spielen! (Love the exclamation mark.) Literally that would be “We’re playing!” and essentially it means we are back in business. 🙂

The ingress was orderly and friendly even as the people at the door checked IDs, tickets, and test results. (Vienna is working on the 3-G system–gestestet, geimpft, genesen or tested, vaccinated, recovered. To take advantage of things opening up you need to fit into at least one of those groups.)

Once inside there was a kind of collective amazement at being back. Concert goers are loyal people and concert halls are often their second homes. It was like being back where we belonged.

Inside the hall itself we were very spread out, an unusual feeling for such a special concert. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed to me that many people were more dressed up than usual and many had obviously just been to the hairdresser’s. (Why waste a test? 😉 You need them for services that involve body contact, too.) Many people seemed happy to see friends again and what was really warming to see was how much pleasure the ushers expressed at seeing their regulars again.

A note in the program (below) and announced before the start of the concert laid out the rules for “the current situation”: no intermission, to only sit in your assigned seat, when leaving the hall to allow 2 meters distance (wasn’t possible even using all the exits as requested!), and the mandatory FFP2 mask at all times, even during the performance. (Friends told me that at Salzburg last summer you were allowed to take off your mask once you reached your seat but had to put it on again before starting the applause. That didn’t turn out so well. The government, however, does seem to be learning.)

This evening’s program with the rules for the “current situation”

As the doors were closed and the lights dimmed the tension tangibly rose. Then the announcement of the rules, a brief wait, and there they were! The two extremely distinguished musicians in their tailcoats (which I appreciated). The applause was relatively quiet not from a lack of enthusiasm but rather from a lack of people. For that, it went on even longer than usual, everyone was so happy to be back.

Kaufmann sang with music rather than from memory. I can’t remember if this is usual for him. Personally I would have liked at least the first (long!) ballad without the music but it’s the artist’s choice. The songs themselves were absolutely beautifully crafted and I wondered if the time spent with Deutsch during lockdown–the two almost seemed to have quarantined together–gave Kaufmann a chance to polish that. As for Deutsch, his playing, which was always exquisite, seems to have gotten even more liquid or seamless. Incredible.

The Schubert and Schumann seemed almost subdued to me; but in the Liszt, Kaufmann let his natural flair for dramatic presentation free rein and the intensity rose. At the end of the official program, in Vienna there are (almost) always a number of encores, the two artists exchanged an elbow bump and allowed the public to express its now much louder appreciation.

A very blurry photo of the two artists

Four encores and finally a standing ovation. And then we started, with a collective sigh of contentment, to leave, few thinking about distance at that moment.

The Konzerthaus is back in business! 🙂