Tag Archives: music

Watch “Eurovision Song Contest 1967 – Sandie Shaw – Puppet on a String (WINNER)” on YouTube

8 Apr

Should the question ever come up when you are playing Trivial Pursuit “Who won the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest and in which city?” the answer is: Sandie Shaw in Vienna (captured on film, link below). If you’re thinking “I didn’t even know they had a Eurovision Song Contest in 1967,” I can only say “Neither did I.”

Many thanks to the Saturday Kurier for this indispensable piece of information.


And news from another prominent Viennese hotel

14 Sep

Just a quick note: the Hotel Bristol will be hosting Afternoon Tea with Opera Stars (and, yes, that they’re calling “Afternoon Tea” not “Nachmittagstee”). To celebrate various premieres they are offering a traditional (English, I suppose) afternoon tea with Sekt (or sparkling wine) and a chance to meet (see?) the singers, conductors, and stage directors of the current premiere at the State Opera just across the street.

It costs EUR 49 per person and can be booked by calling +43-1-515 16 555 or by writing to groupsevents.bristol[at]luxurycollection.com. The one of the first opera stars at this Salon Operá is Michael Schade, appearing on 26 September 2014.

“The Third Man”

30 Aug

Do you immediately hear the zither music when you read that title? If so, you can look forward to some interesting trivia (as well as one person’s reminiscences of a long relationship with the film).

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can discover a quintessential film about life in Vienna right after the war (WWII, as one must specify in this city which has so much history).

Ah, “The Third Man”. Black and white. Based on the book (do we really believe it was a novel?) by Graham Greene. Directed by Carol Reed. Produced by David O. Selznick. Starring (a still young and relatively slender) Orson Welles as the elusive Harry Lime. Starring still more the city of Vienna c. 1947–“bombed about a bit,” as the English narrator tells us in the beginning. World premier: 65 years ago, on 31 August 1949.

My mother showed it to me when it was clear that I was moving here. Above all, she wanted me to experience the landlady played by Hedwig Bleibtreu because “you might end up with just such a landlady”. (In broadest Viennese dialect she said things like, “Das ist ein anständiges Haus. Hier hat sogar früher ein Metternich verkehrt” Translation: “This is a respectable house. In the olden days, even a Metternich [member of an old aristocratic family] came to visit.”)

My mother had forgotten, though, a treasured line (one of my favorites) from another great Austrian actor, Paul Hörbinger. He played the concierge in the house where Harry Lime lived.  When tired of and scared by questions about Harry Lime’s death, he says he won’t answer any more and adds very gruffly indeed, “Und jetzt gehen Sie. Sonst verliere ich meinen Wiener Charme.” (“And now leave–otherwise I’ll forget my Viennese charm.”) Even writing it down like this makes me laugh.

There are far too many such moments too relate here, and I don’t want to ruin any surprises for those who haven’t experienced it yet. If you are interested in Vienna, I simply encourage you to see it. If you’re in Vienna, you can catch it in the late show on weekends at the Burg Kino. For the time being, I’ll simply pass on some facts that were printed in today’s Kurier.

Part of what people remember best are the music (by great good fortune done by a zither player, Anton Karas, at the last minute when the budget was more or less exhausted) and the chase scenes through the sewer system of Vienna. To this day, you can take “Third Man” walking tours of Vienna including, indeed, a look underneath the commendably clean streets of the city.

First bit of trivia, over 100,000 people have already taken that tour. I’m assuming the tour does not cover all 2,400 kilometers of that system, especially since only 25 meters were used for filming. This year Tom Cruise, who just finished filming in Vienna, took it.

“The Third Man” won the Academy Award(R) for “Best black-and-white picture” and was nominated for two others. Apparently in 2012, film critics named it the “Best British Film of All Time”.

That may have made worthwhile to Reed and Selznick that they apparently only slept two hours per night for the seven weeks they were filming on location. The Kurier reports that they kept themselves awake by taking a drug called dexedrine, better known as speed(!).

The unfortunate Anna Schmidt (Harry Lime’s paramour) was played by Alida Valli, an actress ironically descended from  an old Austro-Italian aristocratic family, possibly as important as the Metternichs ;-). She died in Rome in 2006 at the age of 84.

Five years ago was the first talk of a re-make, which supposedly would star Leonardo DiCaprio as Harry Lime and Tobey Maguire as Lime’s faithful friend Holly Martins. I’m not a fan of re-makes, but I think those two would be well cast, at least. Don’t know what they’ll do about the City of Vienna, though. Most of the bombed out bits have been re-built in the last 65 years.

The famous music was #1 on the U.S. charts for weeks in 1950. The next Austrian artist to achieve this feat was Falco in 1986 with “Rock Me Amadeus”.

To give you a bit of a taste, here is the opening scene, with fantastic running commentary from Major Calloway, the devastatingly attractive if unattainable British narrator, played by Trevor Howard:


For people who have already seen the film, here is the unforgettable cuckoo clock speech:


With thanks to Bernhard Praschl of the Kurier, who wrote the article from which most of these tidbits were drawn.

May Day, a personal memory

1 May

It is many years ago now that I found myself in a sun-flooded, absolutely gorgeous meadow in the Vienna Woods (like the one below) doing the first of what was to become a regular reflection on this May 1st holiday on the state of my life and business.Image

After I had put my notebook away and was simply lying back on my picnic blanket enjoying the warmth and the sweetly scented air I suddenly heard in my head Richard Strauss’s “Morgen” and was overwhelmed with well-being. Something about that experience has never completely left me.


And tomorrow the sun will shine again

And she will reunite us, happy ones,

On the path that I go along

In the middle of this sun-breathing earth …

Onto the wide, wave-blue, shore

We shall quietly and slowly descend

Mute we will gaze into each other’s eyes

And be enveloped in the profound silence of happiness.

– John Henry MacKay

(my translation of what was probably already a German translation of his original)

If you want to hear it, here is a recording of Gundula Janowitz, a member of the famous Mozart ensemble at the Vienna State Opera in the 1950s and 60s and one of my favorite Austrian sopranos, singing with wonderful simplicity:


16 Sep

I had the great privilege this evening of participating in a very Viennese event–a concert in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein. It wasn’t just any concert. It was a reunion of two exceptional Italian, or more precisely Milanese, musicians, Claudio Abbado and Maurizio Pollini, with two of the greatest Austrian composers on the program, Mozart and Bruckner (Mozart’s Piano Concerto in G major and the Viennese version of Bruckner’s Symphony Nr. in C minor). The audience consisted of well-dressed, but not necessarily well-heeled, Viennese and a mixture of others–the usual music students in standing room, the Asian (no longer exclusively Japanese) tour groups, diplomats, politicians, and elderly concert goers with a lifetime of such experiences and in some cases grandchildren to ensure a future of concert going in this city of music.

The Mozart was first. It lacked some clarity (perhaps Pollini was playing a Bösendorfer instead of a Steinway?) but was tenderly and fervently played, and was beautiful. The Bruckner was almost overwhelming, in a wonderful way. Like the ocean it had many moods and paces, great calm and small waves and then overpowering tidal waves of sound, concentration and energy. The orchestra (the Lucerne Festival Orchestra) got better and better, swept up in the music they were making. I think they’ll forgive me for not mentioning them until now as they themselves repeatedly refused to stand for applause, partly sensing that the audience had come to pay tribute to and enjoy once again two greatly loved and respected musicians and apparently also wishing themselves to honor those great musicians.

The applause after each piece was as overwhelming as the most intense moments of the Bruckner, expressing gratitude and recognition not only for the wonderful performances this evening but also for two lifetimes of exceptional music making–although  the two gentlemen (70 and above) themselves would almost certainly say, “Not yet a lifetime.”

Bösendorfer pianos

30 Jul

Somehow I had missed the news that the Bösendorfer building in the 4th district of Vienna with the beautiful concert hall, as well as production floor, was going to be torn down. Last Wednesday I picked up a copy of the free newspaper in Vienna “Heute” and what should I see on page 13 but a photo of the building already half gone and a caption that says the site would provide room for 80 new apartments. The company will go on. There is a new Bösendorfer concert hall now in the Mozart House on Domgasse, and the showrooms with practice facilities and the factory in Wiener Neustadt continue to operate, but somehow it is not the same. Apparently someone in Vienna’s Office for the Preservation of Historic Sites said that the building was a classic case for a commemorative plaque only. Even in Vienna.

Vivaldi in Vienna

28 Jul

This morning I learned in the most pleasant way possible that Antonio Vivaldi died in Vienna. There is a very nice Vivaldi monument in the park around the Votiv Church.

Vivaldi Monument

This morning I noticed something that is not there every day.

Vivaldi Monument with rose

And this is a close-up of the rose …

The rose

In case you can’t read the heart-shaped tag it simply says “Antonio Vivaldi, 28 July 1741.” At first I thought the rose was to celebrate his birthday but when I got home I checked my music dictionary and found out that he was buried in Vienna on that day.

Wonderful to be remembered–and so beautifully–after well over 250 years!