Aug 29 2013

The Pittsburgh in Grafenegg

Published by at 6:54 pm under PSO 2013 European Tour

Applause for Anne-Sophie Mutter in Dvorak's Violin Concerto

Applause for Anne-Sophie Mutter in Dvorak's Violin Concerto

It was a night for violinists. Anne-Sophie Mutter played Dvorak’s violin concerto, and Noah Bendix-Balgley performed brilliantly and heroically in “Ein Heldenleben” (A Hero’s Life) by Richard Strauss. The Grafenegg Festival played host to the first concert of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s 2013 European Festivals Tour with Music Director Manfred Honeck.

The strings were featured in the opening “Suite for String Orchestra” by Leos Janacek, written when the Czech composer was 23. The Suite includes wonderful music for Principal Cellist Anne Martindale Williams, who was warmly recognized by the Grafeneggers during her solo bow.

Arcadia Records in Vienna

Arcadia Records in Vienna

It was a long day, but the weather was wonderful and sunny for a quick look at the Arcadia shop in front of the Vienna Staatsoper, where there is still a group of second-hand records for sale. I couldn’t resist picking up a Rudolf Buchbinder record of salon favorites with violinist Rainer Kuchl, and a collection of Parisian musette recordings. I bumped into trumpeter Neal Berntsen and PSO hornist Zachary Smith with tour colleagues Robert Rydel of the Charlotte Symphony and Tod Bowermaster from the Saint Louis Symphony.

En route to Grafenegg

En route to Grafenegg

At 1:00 pm, the bus departed for the hour-long ride to Grafenegg. The rehearsal at 2:00 included a careful look at some details of the Dvorak Violin Concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter. Should I mention that Anne-Sophie wore red slipper-like shoes with gray Capri pants, a simple T-shirt, and a black sweater? She’s always elegant with her instrument, whether dressed down in jeans or dressed up in the sparkling, deep-red, floor-length, strapless gown she wore for the concert.

After the Dvorak tonight, she played a Bach Sarabande that she often favors for an encore. It is always deeply emotional.

The concert began at 7:15 and ended with the Final Waltz from the “Rosenkavalier” suite by Richard Strauss.

I had a chance to interview Manfred Honeck just before the concert. He presented me with a miniature Austrian Gugelhupf, which Mrs. Honeck had been baking until 3:00 am last night.

Grafenegg Auditorium

Grafenegg Auditorium

There was a buffet meal for players who had pre-ordered. Sauerkraut with caraway seeds, cucumber sliced thinly, a vegetarian strudel, salad, and other options were each beautifully done. Everything is elegant at Grafenegg. The grounds, the gardens, the castle, the buildings–even the parking lot are all beautifully kept. The crew wear black jeans and black T-shirts. The ushers are all young people with white shirts sporting the Grafenegg logo. Lots of male concertgoers wear the traditional collarless Austrian Loden jacket in greens and browns. Pommery champagne is for sale next to brightly colored macarons at the outdoor bars. Outdoor cafés with elaborate menus draw a crowd that seem like Austrian royalty, bankers and politicians and arty types.

Pianist and Grafenegg Festival founder/director Rudolf Buchbinder with Media Relations Director Julia Ornetsmüller

Pianist and Grafenegg Festival founder/director Rudolf Buchbinder with Media Relations Director Julia Ornetsmüller

Artistic Director Rudolph Buchbinder has a new Schubert CD out, along with his complete Haydn Sonatas, complete Beethoven Sonatas, and complete Beethoven Piano Concertos. All are for sale in the gift shop. There was also a Deutsche Grammophon CD, “Drums and Chant”, featuring tour percussionist Martin Gruebinger with monks from a German Monastery. He’ll be featured in John Corigliano’s “The Conjurer” in a few days.

Buchbinder still drives a Maybach, one of the most exclusive auto brands in the world. He seems to be enjoying life, having performed on at least four concerts at Grafenegg this season. He insisted his guests open a bottle of the white wine Der Ott, made in this grape-growing region known especially for the Grüner Veltliner sold in the elegant wine shop on the festival ground.

Wine in the foreground, castle in the background

Wine in the foreground, castle in the background

I said hello to violinist Sylvia Kim, who is back with her colleagues as a substitute after joining the Chicago Symphony this past season.

Mary Persin, Special Programs Director to Maestro Honeck, told me that Anne-Sophie Mutter has a Dvorak Diary about the making of her Dvorak concerto recording with Manfred Honeck and the Berlin Philharmonic last winter.

I’ve sipped the German water Vöslauer once or twice, but only today I noticed that the German word for carbonated or fizzy is “prickelnd.” The Pittsburgh Symphony had plenty of fizz in Austria as the cap came off the bottle for concert No. 1. If the weather permits, No. 2 will be outdoors on Friday night.