Oct 31 2012

Café Central, Vienna

Published by at 6:55 pm under PSO 2012 European Tour

St. Stephen's, still undergoing restoration

St. Stephen's, still undergoing restoration

Tonight’s rehearsal with the Vienna Singverein suggests the signs are good for an All Saints Day “Resurrection” Symphony No. 2 by Gustav Mahler. Pittsburgh Symphony clarinet Thomas Thompson says that singers are extraordinarily powerful. I picked up a series of recruiting postcards cards with fresh young faces on one side bearing headlines “Legato bitte!” and “Crescendo bitte!” The flip side suggests “Der Wiener Singverein sucht dich!” – The Wiener Singverein is looking for you, and we’re looking for non-professionals “mit echter Liebe zum Singen,” with true love for singing.

It sounded like they were loving it tonight and last night at the evening choir-only rehearsal.

The Exton label’s Tomo Izaki and his team were huddled in the control room, listening to microphones as they were placed to capture the nuances of the Mahler. The cables snake along the walls of the Musikverein between the control room and the stage.

Wurst at a Würstlbox on the streets of Vienna

Wurst at a Würstlbox on the streets of Vienna

After rehearsal, I walked to the Imperial Hotel, directly across from the Musikverein, where I got directions to Manfred Honeck’s apartment. Christiane and maestro Honeck were hosting a family gathering, and had included the patrons and board members who are along for the trip. I walked on Vienna’s Musical Walk of Fame, outside the Wiener Philharmoniker administrative offices, with Hollywood-style stars for Pierre Boulez, Herbert von Karajan, Johann Strauss and Dimitri Shostakovich. The Honecks are an extraordinary family with great charm. Teenage daughter Anna Maria Honeck entertained the group singing Marvin Hamlisch’s Please Don’t Let This Feeling End, from Ice Castles, with dad playing electronic piano.

Advent calendars on sale at Julius Meinl

Advent calendars on sale at Julius Meinl

Rabbi Aaron Bizno of Rodef Shalom Temple was on the guest list. He had just arrived from a trip to Berlin, where he toured the memorial sites to the Jews who perished in the Second World War. Erika and Helge Wehmeier joined Reid Ruttenberg and his wife Abby, Richard and Ginny Simmons, Bernita Buncher and Bill Fetter, Ed and Kitty Clarke, Betty and Granger Morgan, and a host of happy music lovers.

I had to bolt by taxi to get to the hotel for an interview with Herbert Willi, composer of the Violin Concerto “Sacrasonto” which has its world premiere on Thursday night. I noticed the taxi driver was listening to the radio playing the song “Losing My Religion.” The afternoon was cold, but bright and sunny. As the taxi tooled up Wiednerhauptstrasse I saw the Hotel Papageno was just a few doors from the home which Manfred has owned since he was a student, and where his son Mathias now lives with his family.

Café Restaurant Griensteidl

Café Restaurant Griensteidl

Willi was very warm, spiritual, and cheerful. Gustavo Dudamel recently conducted one his works. He has known Manfred and admired his work for years. They are from the same area on the opposite side of Austria, Vorarlberg. Christoph Dohnanyi had taken one Willi’s pieces on tour dozens of performances.

Yesterday, I attempted to get to the Belvedere Palace, where so many orchestra members were going to see Oscar Klimt’s Der Kuss, but I was waylaid by the mind-blowing cafés. I started with a look at the chestnut roasters offering chestnuts and potato slices from large black round oven drums. Sometimes, they set up beside the hot dog stands called Würstelboxes, found everywhere. The warm mulled wine beverage called Glühwein was also for sale at some of the boxes with a wide variety of sausages. The PSO’s Principal Contrabassoonist Jim Rodgers offered me a bite from his favorite stop just across from the entrance to the Stadtpark, where the golden statue of Johann Strauss stands.

Coca-Cola mit "Weinachtsmann"

Coca-Cola mit "Weinachtsmann"

Hot chestnuts in Vienna

Hot chestnuts in Vienna

Gramola record shop in Vienna

Gramola record shop in Vienna



I took a look at the most elegant grocery store and coffee shop on the Graben near St Stephen’s Cathedral. Advent candy and calendars were on display, along with Coca-Cola in special aluminum Santa bottles.

Scene at the Café Central in Vienna

Scene at the Café Central in Vienna

I’ve written about Demel’s and Café Central on previous tours. Both were crowded yesterday afternoon. I asked the waitress at Demel’s if she knew Frau Koerner, the wife of the late Pittsburgh-based Austrian artist Henry Koerner. Yes, “natürlich,” she told me, and filled me in on the details that Mrs. Koerner was now in Florida, but she had seen her son fairly recently. Frau Koerner spent every day at Demel’s after Henry’s death, and it was clear she is a favorite café regular.

At the Café Central, just a few blocks from the home of Hapsburg Emperors at the Hofburg, Alma Mahler was a fixture. The mezzo-soprano for the PSO’s Mahler Second, Gerhild Romberger, told me she didn’t find Alma very sympathetic, although she was called the most beautiful woman in Vienna. After she moved to America, where she died in 1964, Alma said, “What can you say about a country where they put ketchup on their meat?” If only she had come to Pittsburgh with her husband for his visit to Soldiers and Sailors Hall in 1910, she might have met Mr. Heinz and felt differently.

Shoe display at United Nude

Shoe display at United Nude

The author of Bambi, Felix Salter, was also a regular at the Café Central. He is remembered for an incident with fellow author Karl Kraus. The discussion became so heated that Felix slapped the face of Kraus. But Kraus was not a favorite of the group of writers who spent their days lingering over Vienna melange and newspapers. “The incident was greeted with pleasure by all the others” according to Arthur Schnitzler. This, as reported in the Café Central Treasury, which is available for sale along with tortes and a cookbook. The pastries were some of the most elaborate, shiny, delicate and delicious that I have ever had the pleasure to eat.

Cellist Aron Zelkowicz took a great photo of Cecilia Bartoli, who was signing her new CD at the EMI Shop at 5:00 pm this evening. She has photoshopped or shaved her head in the most unusual photo on the cover of the disc.

Great singers at Gramola: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Johnny Cash

Great singers at Gramola: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Johnny Cash

The Gramola record shop had a 10 CD collection of Andre Previn’s classic jazz records for under 10 Euros. An entire window was devoted to spoken word recordings including actor Klaus Maria Brandauer. Germany and Austria revere poets and writers more than most parts of the world. Is it because the printing press was invented in Germany? Or because the word of truth was repressed by Fascists and Communists?

I admired the arty window of the shoe store United Nude, which has just a few outposts around the world including one in New York City.

Pittsburgh's Winkler family at Winklers restaurant in Vienna

Pittsburgh's Winkler family at Winklers restaurant in Vienna

Yesterday evening, I visited Winklers restaurant as a guest of the Winkler family. Pittsburgh Symphony trumpeter Chad Winkler, his wife, and 2-year-old son Hudson were there with Dad, John Winkler, and Mom, Cathy Winkler. John Winkler has been a legend of the trumpet world, teaching at WVU and playing in West Virginia orchestras including as Principal in Wheeling. He is playing on tour next to his sons Chad and Jordan. Jordan, a member of the River City Brass Band, is married to Sonja Winkler, the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Director of Orchestra Operations and Touring. What a delightful group! The perfect advertisement for the power of music to sustain and nourish. They suggest the dead will rise tomorrow and Saturday evening at the Musikverein in Vienna.