Tag Archive: Vienna

Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin in the First Complete Cycle of Bruckner’s Symphonies in the U.S., with Mozart Concertos for Piano, Winds, and Strings

Anton Bruckner

We New Yorkers are fortunate in enjoying annual visits from the greatest European and American orchestras, and even more fortunate when these visitors offer a residency or at least what some people like to call a “curated” series of concerts. In most instances these take place in Carnegie Hall. Beyond the privilege of hearing different groups under different conductors in the same familiar acoustic—fortunately one of the highest order—a more extended and coherent journey through the classical repertoire justifies the effort and expense of the tour. The brilliant 2010 series built around Beethoven and the Second Viennese School, played by the Vienna Philharmonic, with the podium shared by Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim, stands out as a telling example.

“Vienna, City of Dreams” in New York: Four Orchestral Concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall

Diana Damrau closes the final concert of "Vienna, City of Dreams," while maestro Mehta looks on.

Nowadays, visiting orchestras often play two or three concerts in New York, and, best of all, these are sometimes “curated” into themed series, like the VPO’s under Boulez and Barenboim a few years ago. This year, Carnegie Hall is presenting an exceptionally ambitious event, Vienna, City of Dreams, which goes beyond the Vienna Philharmonic’s unprecedented seven-concert series of symphonic and operatic works, and includes chamber music concerts, contemporary music, symposia, film screenings, and a few events including the visual arts, including Vienna Complex, a contemporary group exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum, which has organized most of the events outside Carnegie Hall itself, although no significant exhibitions of the art of the periods represented by the concerts at Carnegie Hall. (The other piece of Vienna in New York, the Neue Galerie, is offering nothing but limited free tours for ticket holders and discounts in their gift shop.) Theater and literature went virtually unrepresented. (A Viennese theater festival, including the Burgtheater, would have been welcome—magnificent, even.) A language barrier in our day of ubiquitous supertitles?

Julia Rosa Stöckl’s Leaving Ziller Valley – a Tyrolean woman finds a global home in New York

Julia Rosa Stöckl in Leaving Ziller Valley. Photo © Marco Trenkwalder.

The Austrian Cultural Forum in New York (ACFNY, or Österreichische Kulturforum New York/ÖKF), apart from the recent events mentioned in our account of the “Vienna, City of Dreams” Festival centered at Carnegie Hall, hosts a lively series of concerts and exhibitions in its clean, if somewhat edgy, modernistic structure on 51st Street, just East of Fifth Avenue—the design of Raimund Abraham, a Vienna-trained architect from the Tyrol, who has practiced in New York since 1971. As this example suggests, the Forum takes care to balance cultural initiatives from Austria with local creativity, often collaborating with the equally progressive Czech Center, housed in its equally up-to-date facility on East 74th Street.

Opera Australia’s Der Rosenkavalier

Though one hundred years old and a comedy set in 1740’s Vienna, Der Rosenkavalier is still fresh. This is partly because the opera is timeless because, as Robert Gibson and Andrew Riemer’s interesting program notes point out, it is an anachronistic mixture of different bits of Viennese cultural. For instance one can nitpick the fact the romantic waltzes Richard Strauss incorporated into the opera’s music and plot wouldn’t exist until the 19th Century (they were barely dancing l’Allemande with linked hands in the mid 18th Century). Thus the opera is about as logical and historically accurate as a myth is — it is a rich Dobos torte (whose recipe Dobos donated to the Budapest Pastry and Honey-bread Makers’ Guild five years before the opera’s première, for what it’s worth) of many integrated layers, some chocolate, some nutty, some sugary, and some disturbing, ashy and mawkish. Present also is something of Sigmund Freud’s contemporaneous Vienna, not just in the way we see how his patients’ inherited neuroses manifested themselves some generations prior, but also as psychology as one of the last frontiers of the enlightenment. The famous final duet is to be sung “träumerisch”: the young hero Octavian sings “Ist ein Traum…” just as the “secret of his dream is revealed” (see photo of tablet below). He wakes up from the intense love affair with the Marschallin and realises the true nature of his feelings. This happens only after he has convinced his rival the Baron Ochs of his insanity by simulating hallucinations in a kind of upside down abreaction in the form of a Viennese masked ball. Octavian awakens to the realisation that his love for the Marschallin is “mere” warm friendship and discovers true love for the young Sophie who is fresh from the convent. He had refused to face the dawn in Act I, but by Act III he comes to act on the dreams, or at least the strange events, of the intervening scenes in which he undergoes two transformations to the opposite sex, encounters a symbolic silver rose, tries to duel Ochs and sets up said masked ball, before fixing his and Sophie’s lives. Octavian, knightly and hot headed though he is, has a manly grace. He forsakes brute force in the end to find a third alternative to his problems, which should be relevant today when the beastly Baron Ochs’ style of greed of is often valued over character, civility and proper thinking. Or at least relevant to those who more reasonably mistake romantic love for friendship or believe one necessarily precludes the other for all time.

In Praise of Herbert von Karajan, with a Selective Critical Discography

My immediate reaction to Michael Miller’s commentary on the Karajan centenary [Oh no! He’s not back again, is he? – May 2, 2008] was rather choleric, but I’ve settled down a bit since then and can write this from a relatively balanced perspective.

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