Aug 28 2013

Music and Wellness in Vienna

Published by at 7:08 pm under PSO 2013 European Tour

Preserves at Josef Meinl

Preserves at Josef Meinl

The first full day in Europe on the Pittsburgh Symphony’s 2013 European Festivals Tour was one for visiting Vienna’s art museums, and shopping at Joseph Meinl for its glittering array of jams, honey, and preserves, wall of Viennese chocolate, and bottles of ‘Andy Warhol’ Perrier. There was practicing and preparing for the tour’s first concert on Thursday at Austria’s Grafenegg Festival with Janacek’s Suite for String Orchestra, Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter playing the Dvorak Concerto.

Today, Pittsburgh Symphony CEO Jim Wilkinson and his wife Suzanne Wilkinson, a longtime docent at the Frick Art Museum and a Scaife gallery regular, visited the Albertina Museum’s “Picasso to Monet” exhibition. Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh, Librarian Joanne Vosburgh, and their daughter, Pittsburgh Youth Symphony cellist Amanda Vosburgh, visited the Vienna Museum’s current show, “Wiener Typen—Klischees und Wirklichkeit” (Viennese types–cliche and reality). Some took in the Mumok (MUseum MOderner Kunst)—analogous to New York’s MOMA—with a collection including art by Andy Warhol, Picasso, Magritte, Francis Bacon and Nam June Paik.

Noah and Tatjana at St. Anna's

Noah and Tatjana at St. Anna's

I returned to St. Anna Kinderspital (children’s hospital) and Research Center with violist Penny Brill, the creator of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s new Music and Wellness web site, to hear a concert for young cancer patients, their parents, and nurses. Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley, and Associate Principal Violist Tatjana Mead Chamis performed to an audience that included the PSO’s CEO Jim Wilkinson and Media Relations Director Joyce Defrancesco.

Noah and Tatjana played Mozart’s Duo in G, K. 423. They each demonstrated the qualities of the violin and viola, and performed solos by Bach. Then, they invited the kids to join them in favorites for children of all ages, including “Happy Birthday to You”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, German folk songs such as “Alle Vögel sind schon da” (All the Birds Are Already there), and “Mein Hut, der hat Drei Ecken”, (My Hat, It Has Thee Corners).

Penny Brill at Café Eiles in Vienna

Penny Brill at Café Eiles in Vienna

The St Anna Kinder Concert was streamed live to all the patient rooms in the hospital. Afterward, I asked for reactions from music therapist Doris Buchmayr and Medical Director Dr. Georg Mann, as well as Penny Brill, Noah Bendix-Balgley and Tatjana Chamis. Everyone was pleased. The group was greeted by Dr. Wolfgang Holter, who heads the research operation, and the head nurse Barbara Hahn. They are hopeful about the 90% rate of cure for leukemia patients and that more research will bring an even higher success rate.

Noah and Tatjana were challenged by music that didn’t arrive in Vienna. With the help of the Internet and St. Anna’s staff, the program was reassembled and went off smoothly. Penny Brill left her cell phone on a chair at St. Anna’s, so we returned by taxi to retrieve it and stopped at the Café Eiles on the way back for Kaiserschmarren and gulaschsuppe. The Café is near one of Vienna’s oldest theaters and has been a hangout for theater people and politicians for the last century. The building dates to 1834. Brown marble tables are piled high with newspapers, our waiter gemütlich, and Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte available, naturlich! Penny and her musician husband Dan, who leads the singers at Shady Side Academy, have two super-achieving daughters. Katy has made at least four trips to China for research. Anna was our WQED-FM intern last summer. She’s now in San Diego having finished an internship at KUSC in Los Angeles.

Costumed vendors at St. Stephen's hawk tickets to Mozart concerts

Costumed vendors at St. Stephen's hawk tickets to Mozart concerts

Walking around the city center, I paid my respects at St. Stephen’s Cathedral where Mozart was brought when he died, and where the confusion began about where he was buried. It’s a lively scene, with guys dressed in 18th-century garb trying to sell you tickets to a Mozart concert. It’s a full-court press and constantly in motion.

Yesterday, I lunched at the Cafe Prückel, where the daily special for 7.20 Euros featured “Rotes Linsencurry mit Gemuesejulienne und Kreuzkummerlerdaepfel plus Kafee Maria Teresia.” That’s yellow lentil curry, and coffee with orange liqueur and Schlagobers (a large helping of whipped cream on top). Next time I’ve got to try the Fiaker (chocolate coffee with rum) or the Rudesheimer Kaffee (black coffee with Asbach Uralt, whipped cream, and chocolate bits).

Anna Netrebko poster at the EMI shop in Vienna

Anna Netrebko poster at the EMI shop in Vienna

I am always drawn to CD stores. They sing to me. I’ve mentioned before the Gramola shop and the EMI store just a few blocks apart in Vienna. The EMI shop featured a large window display for Bob Dylan’s new official bootleg of “Self Portrait”-era recordings right next to a full window for Anna Netrebko and a poster for the Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert with Lorin Maazel which aired last month on WQED-TV.

In the window of the Gramola Shop was a Viennese-made, battery-assisted  bicycle with an offer for a test drive. Also in the window, a 14 LP set of Wilhelm Furtwängler recordings and a box set of cult opera from the 1970′s, “When Opera Went Technicolor,” from the Arthaus label. William Steinberg’s Bruckner 8th Symphony with the Boston Symphony was available on DVD. Also, a new documentary “Karajan: Second Life,” including interviews with Anne-Sophie Mutter and audio recordings of Herbert von Karajan’s phone conversations! There was also a documentary and concert featuring the Artemis Quartet, who will play for the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society next season.

If you had any doubt that the noodle craze is growing, discounting the two new noodle shops in Squirrel Hill, one of the signature Viennese Würstl (hot dog) stands now sells hot dogs and “happy noodles.”

"He Had a Dream"

"He Had a Dream"

The newspapers in the cafés are full of front-page articles regarding American 50th anniversary commemorations of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Austrian newspaper Tageszeiten featured a photo of President Obama under the headline, “I Have a Missile,” in reference to US and UK plans for a military response to alleged chemical weapons use in Syria. Der Spiegel has the attacks on its front page, and inside an article about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and philosopher Ruediger Safranski, who has a new take on Goethe’s life and art.