Tag Archives: music

Lehar recording from 1901 discovered

22 Jul

A nice change from the dire news coming in from around the world – someone has found what is believed to be the oldest recording of a Lehar piece, a march recorded by the Imperial Infantry in 1901. We won’t be able to hear it, though, until the end of the month.

https://ooe.orf.at/stories/3058905/

Schau dir “Winterreise, D. 911: No. 5, Der Lindenbaum “Am Brunnen vor dem Tore” (Mässig)” auf YouTube an

10 Jun

It’s that time of year again. The linden (or lime) trees are in blossom and seducing all with their powerful and sweet fragrance. In their honor, here is Schubert’s song “Der Lindenbaum” sung by my favorite Lieder singer, Olaf Bär, accompanied by the inimitable Geoffrey Parsons. Ah.

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.

 

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.”] 🙂

150 years of the Vienna State Opera

26 May

I’m watching the gala celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Wiener Staatsoper and remembering the moment I first saw it.

I was in a car driven by a school friend of my mother’s. It was about 10 o’clock at night. She had picked us up at the airport (thank goodness because in those days the airport bus didn’t run that late(!)) and was driving us to the student residence where we were staying.

We rounded the Ring at Hotel Bristol and suddenly there it was all lit up and glorious. In those days, I believed I was destined to sing on that stage and found the sight electrifying and deeply moving.

Over 30 years later, I must confess to a certain familiarity. I sometimes ride past on the tram without really looking at it, but tonight is giving me back some of that excitement.

To 150 more years at least!

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fja9kwTl_jU

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS-JcaPFzp4

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.

Text:

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:

Concert

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.”