Sep 05 2011

London and 9/11

Podcast: Co-hosting the BBC Proms

Co-hosting the Proms with BBC presenter Suzie Klein

Co-hosting the Proms with BBC presenter Suzie Klein

Co-hosting the Proms with BBC presenter Suzy Klein

The tour’s first BBC Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall brought the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck to a worldwide audience. I was invited to co-host the broadcast with Suzy Klein in the tiny box on the audience left side. The hall was full with the Prommers standing right to the front rail through the entire concert. They pay five British pounds each, and they were waiting in some light rain this evening. The BBC staff were delightful.  The Prommers shouted “Heave Ho!,” when PSO Production Manager John Karapandi lifted the piano lid.  Later, they chanted that they had raised 75,000 pounds for the Musicians Benevolent Fund. I saw Jonathan Mayes in front of the Royal Albert Hall. Jonathan worked with Pittsburgh Symphony VP Bob Moir in the Artistic Planning Department for three years until he returned to London for a job in in 2008. Jonathan works for the British Arts Council, which awards 350 million pounds (down from 450 million, but still more than the NEA’s $200 million dollars). A soccer team from Ghana is in the hotel with the Pittsburgh Symphony making for a lively lobby. The bar is Trader Vic’s. It was a lively post-concert environment tonight.

With Jonathan Mayes at the Royal Albert Hall

With Jonathan Mayes at the Royal Albert Hall

With Jonathan Mayes at the Royal Albert Hall

Don’t miss the seven day window for listening to tonight’s concert online at the BBC Proms website.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms. When I first checked the site this afternoon the “Beeb” had spelled Pittsburgh without the “h,” but now they’ve corrected it. Listen for interviews with Christiane Honeck; Dennis Yablonsky, Chief Executive Officer of the Allegheny Conference; and BBC presenter Suzy Klein with pianist  Mark Swartzentruber.

Leaving Lucerne this morning, I tuned in the Swiss SF2 network to find they spend the early hours simulcasting their morning pop radio show – in the manner of Howard Stern on cable networks at home. The DJ wore a plaid shirt over a white T-shirt, played Nena’s oldie 99 Luftballoons and mentioned that it’s “9/11 Woche.” Watching radio on TV is quite silly, but for me it has some fascination. He had five computer screens on his desk where once there would have been turntables or CD players. His sidekicks and sports and weather announcers made cameo appearances. They also played Tom Jones and a rapper named Mousse T in a hit I’d never heard called Sex Bomb. Is Tom Jones still around? Then there was an ad for Desperate Housewives dubbed in German.

PSO second violinist Laura Motchalov

PSO second violinist Laura Motchalov

PSO second violinist Laura Motchalov

The Financial Times of London’s weekend edition published a lengthy article on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The Pittsburgh Symphony will play the final concert of this tour on the tenth anniversary. There is a special ceremony planned at Berlin’s City Hall with mayor Klaus Wowereit, a choir of young Muslim singers, and readings of letters from children who lost their parents on 9/11. The event is organized by the US Embassy and the German government. A string quartet will play Barber’s Adagio, and a brass quartet will play Hindemith’s Morgenmusik – reflecting Paul Hindemith’s time spent in both Germany and America. Paul Hindemith wrote his Pittsburgh Symphony on commission for the Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, BNY Mellon clients, and PSO personnel at the Royal Albert Hall

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, BNY Mellon clients, and PSO personnel at the Royal Albert Hall

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, BNY Mellon clients & PSO personnel at the Royal Albert Hall

I thought you might like to read how the Germans announced the event, as sent to me by my friend Ken Nein, fellow Thiel College graduate, who has lived in Berlin for the past thirty years.

“Der Regierende Bürgermeister von Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, und der Botschafter der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, Philip D. Murphy, haben für Sonntag, 11. September 2011, um 14.30 Uhr zu einer gemeinsamen Gedenkveranstaltung anlässlich des zehnten Jahrestages der Terroranschläge des 11. September 2001 ins Rote Rathaus geladen. Wowereit bittet die Gäste um 14.46 Uhr um die Teilnahme an der weltweiten Schweigeminute zum Gedenken an die Opfer. Anschließend halten Wowereit und Murphy Gedenkreden. Nach einer kurzen Überleitung durch Reverend Stephan Kienberger der American Church tragen Jugendliche Sätze aus Glaubensbüchern verschiedener Religionen vor. Die JUGA-Gruppe „Sweet Co-Existence“ interpretiert einen Song. Abschließend wird aus englischsprachigen Briefen von Kindern, die ihre Eltern durch die Terroranschläge des 11. September 2001 verloren haben, vorgelesen, u. a. von Schülerinnen und Schülern der John-F.-Kennedy-Schule. Musikalisch wird die Veranstaltung von Mitgliedern des Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra begleitet.”

Sep 04 2011

Lucerne, Switzerland

Podcast: Interview with Concertgebouw Orchestra’s Joel Fried

Manfred Honeck backstage in Lucerne

Manfred Honeck backstage in Lucerne

With Manfred Honeck backstage in Lucerne

Pittsburgh Symphony Music Director Manfred Honeck sat down for a few minutes just before the concert in Lucerne, Switzerland to say how happy he is with the orchestra’s tour so far. He loved having family and friends around in Grafenegg, Austria. The reviews have been good, although one critic took aim at Anne-Sophie Mutter for playing the Mendelssohn Concerto too fast. Manfred agreed it is fast, but he thinks it works. In Lucerne, the Musik Hug CD store has a large sales operation in the lobby.

Anne-Sophie Mutter with the PSO in  Lucerne

Anne-Sophie Mutter with the PSO in Lucerne

Anne-Sophie Mutter with the PSO in Lucerne

Deutsche Grammophon has released a 14-CD set of recordings by Anne-Sophie Mutter, celebrating her 35 years on the label. An introductory essay by André Previn begins a lavish hard-bound book that comes with the set. André’s article, “The Complete Musician,” is very funny. He points out how those who write about music like to show off their knowledge and make grand statements with obscure references to the Pfitzner sonatas, or the early part writing of Gesualdo, but none of that is needed with Anne-Sophie who simply has it all. She doesn’t stomp her foot or grimace when she plays. She just stands with an occasional facial expression and knocks it out of the ballpark. The CD set costs 347 Swiss francs and includes some new recordings such as the Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass that André wrote for her.

Outdoor café at the Culture and Congress Center, Lucerne

Outdoor café at the Culture and Congress Center, Lucerne

Outdoor café at the Culture and Congress Center, Lucerne

The concert hall in Lucerne, designed by Jean Nouvel, is a wonder. The French architect had prepared drawings for the Carnegie Science Center’s expansion, but the economy took its nosedive and that was the end of that.

The Kultur und Kongressszentrum Luzern (KKL) is brilliant in the way it brings the water of Lake Lucerne into the building. It’s cool and angular, with red carpet, gleaming steel, charcoal, dark wood, twinkly lights, and inside it sounds great. The musicians say they can hear each other like nowhere else. The huge cantilevered roof shelters the outdoor plaza from rain, and there are cafés such as the World Café and Seebar all around. Tourists and street musicians are always around and people are lining up for the excursion boats  that depart out front for the Vier Waldstattersee Rundfahrten.

Burmese stir-fry at the World Café

Burmese stir-fry at the World Café

Burmese stir-fry at the KKL's World Café

The World Café is the best, serving stir-fry dishes from a half-dozen nations, wraps and salads, coffee, amoretti cookies, and tortes in a buffet line. You order right away and take a tray to your chosen table where you’ll find glasses, plates, and napkins. It’s Swiss efficiency at its best, right next door to the concert hall. Nothing like it in Pittsburgh. It should be copied exactly and brought home.

I noticed an unusual beverage there from the Swiss Eichhof brewery called Eichhof Lemon. It’s a tangy blend of beer, lemonade, and peppermint. Eichhof Braugold is the Iron City of Lucerne. There were also nice oblong Käse und Schinken (cheese and ham) sandwiches at the lobby bar. Come on, Common Plea, lets bring back the sandwiches to Heinz Hall!

Raspberry and mango gelato

Raspberry and mango gelato

Raspberry and mango gelato

There’s a gelato stand in front of the concert hall. A cone of mango and himbeere or raspberry gelato is 5 Swiss francs.

I’ve been watching the SF 1 Swiss Television network’s Berlin Philharmonic broadcast from the Lucerne Festival. Simon Rattle is the conductor. Earlier, he was on Charlie Rose with conductors Antonio Pappano and Valery Gergiev. The Swiss TV network crams all the commercials into a big block between programs. I just saw a Lindt chocolates ad (established 1845), right next to a spot for Schuppen-Killer dandruff shampoo, and Purina dog chow.

Chapel Bridge

Chapel Bridge

Chapel Bridge

When we arrived, I spent a sunny hour looking at the most famous landmark in Lucerne, the water tower or Wasserturm, and Kappelbrücke (Chapel Bridge), which burned down after a tourist tossed a cigarette in 1993, but has been restored. We have a long way to go to catch up with the outdoor cafés of Switzerland. They surround the bridge too.

Right next door to the concert hall is the train station, which also burned down in the early 70’s. It’s been replaced with a phenomenal Santiago Calatrava design (the Spanish architect who designed the new Milwaukee Museum of Art and New York’s new World Trade Center transit station).

Ai Weiwei's "Provisional Landscapes"

Ai Weiwei's "Provisional Landscapes"

Ai Weiwei's "Provisional Landscapes"

On the far right end of the Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern is the Lucerne Museum of Art. I roared through an exhibit of modern Chinese landscape art. The only name I recognized was Ai Weiwei.  There was also an exhibit called Der Moderne Bund to celebrate the modern art scene in Switzerland. Paul Klee is the most famous modern Swiss artist. Klee is in the show with Arp, Luethy, Gimmi and Huber. There’s an installation by violinist Charlotte Hug with wondrously weird sounds, glowing lights and a broken violin bow floating in a pool of water. It’s called Insomnia.

The Lucerne Festival's Barbara Higgs

The Lucerne Festival's Barbara Higgs

Barbara Higgs

I met the charming Barbara Higgs, PR director for the Lucerne Festival, which is working with a distinguished Japanese architect and the artist Anish Kapoor to build an inflatable concert hall to be moved about Japan starting in the areas hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami. It looks like a gigantic red heart. The Lucerne Festival is the biggest in the world, with Austria’s Salzburg Festival as its only rival. I tried to get both Barbara and festival director Michael Haefliger and to tell me why Hélène Grimaud, our pianist on the tour playing Beethoven, had canceled her July concert in Lucerne due to artistic differences. No one is talking. They had “artistic differences.”

Ark Nova's inflatable concert hall

Ark Nova's inflatable concert hall

Ark Nova's inflatable concert hall

Haefliger did say he enjoyed the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Tchaikovsky Fifth very much, and that Manfred Honeck is keeping the quality at the high level of Mariss Jansons.

Joel Fried was backstage. He was Pittsburgh Opera’s Chorus Master under Tito Capobianco, and then went to Amsterdam where he is Artistic Administrator for the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Joel said Mariss is doing well even after several surgeries in the past year, including treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. Mariss has cut back in Munich and Amsterdam but still working hard. Andris Nelsons conducted the Concertgebouw tonight on a tour. The concert of Wagner’s Rienzi overture, Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome by Richard Strauss, and the Shostakovich Eighth Symphony was recorded by Unitel for a DVD. There was a standing ovation for the concert.

Andris Nelsons and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Lucerne

Andris Nelsons and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Lucerne

Andris Nelsons and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Lucerne

I spoke with Andris at the CD signing. He said to say, “Hello,” to everyone in Pittsburgh and that he had enjoyed himself very much there. I asked him when he’s coming back. Andris said it’s just a matter of his schedule and he’d like to find two weeks because he hates flying. Talk about charisma. Tall, he hops up and down on the podium, smiles with genuine pleasure, and seems possessed. He conducts again tomorrow with Yefim Bronfman in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.

I spoke with Yefim Bronfman this morning. He was seated near me at Maurizio Pollini’s recital. The Milan-born pianist also hates to fly, and as a result we never get him Pittsburgh. He played a recital with two Klavierstücke by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen was one of the people on the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album cover. A wild man from the 60’s. His music is still wild. Bronfman told me he “loved the colors” in it. Bronfman says he’ll be back at Heinz Hall the season after next, and looks forward to it. His Bartok is one of the highlights in the upcoming broadcast season from Heinz Hall. He played a different encore in each of the three concerts for Pitsburgh.

Joel Fried

Joel Fried

Joel Fried of the Concertgebouw Orchestra

Pollini smiled warmly while taking his bows and had no eccentricities at the keyboard. The Steinway says Fabbrini on it. Does he travel with his own instrument? He’s been compared to an Italian banker in the way he appears on stage, but his playing is dynamic and exquisite. He wore a dark suit with a gold tie and a blue shirt. The modernist Stockhausen with its dissonance, twinkly upper-register figures, and thunder with occasional lightning bolts made the songful and dramatic Beethoven seem even more of a treasure. No encores. He’s playing a series of recitals, Pollini Perspectives, featuring Beethoven paired with a 20th-century composer..

BNY Mellon's Chris Porter with the PSO's Lizz Helmsen

BNY Mellon's Chris Porter with the PSO's Lizz Helmsen

BNY Mellon's Chris Porter with the PSO's Lizz Helmsen

At the Pittsburgh concert intermission, I spoke with Chris Porter of tour sponsor BNY Mellon. Chris is from a small town in central PA, but he’s now in the Frankfurt office as Managing Director of Global Client Management. He spoke of how pleased BNY Mellon is with the tour so far, and how good the Pittsburgh Symphony is for European business development. He told me the financial environment will continue to be challenging for a while given the fiscal problems in America and Europe with the euro in particular creating quite a mess. Among the guests joining the group were Jamee and Tom Todd from Pittsburgh. Tom is the very loyal and true Board Chair Emeritus.

In the lobby of the Radisson hotel, I ran into Co-Principal Bassoonist David Sogg and his wife Lisa.

Bojana Durovic with David & Lisa Sogg

Bojana Durovic with David & Lisa Sogg

Bojana Durovic with David & Lisa Sogg

David kindly provided the photo of the Frank Zappa statue in my earlier blog post from Vilnius. I met their former exchange student Bojana Durovic who lives nearby in Lucerne.  She was in Pittsburgh in 1998 and 1999, attending Schenley High School, and staying with the Soggs. David found Bojana through Youth for Understanding. David has just returned from a sabbatical during which he visited Europe looking into rare editions of bassoon pieces by Graun, Valentini, Sammartini, and others. He just presented some of this music at the International Double Reed Conference. David told me some musicians self deprecatingly call it the “International Double Nerd” conference.

Off to London in just a few hours for the Royal Albert Hall and the BBC Promenade concerts. Cheerio!

Sep 02 2011

Calling on Gustav Mahler

Podcast: Rudolf Buchbinder in Grafenegg

Jim Cunningham at Mahler's grave

Jim Cunningham at Mahler's grave

Your correspondent at Mahler's grave

With Mahler’s Fifth Symphony featured on this tour, it seemed like now would be the right time to visit his grave in the Friedhoff Cemetery about twenty minutes from the heart of Vienna. Trombonist Jim Nova drove with a little help from a GPS, which announced the turns in English. The grave marker was designed by Mahler’s friend, the architect Joseph Hoffman. It’s very simple with no dates or epitaph. The tall stone reads simply, “GUSTAV MAHLER.” He would have appreciated the scene with Jim, his student Josh from Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Assistant Conductor Thomas Hong in the bright sunlight. Only a few graves away, a funeral was taking place; the mourners dressed in black, and the priest in a long black robe with a gold cross around his neck gleaming brightly in the sun.

Thomas Hong at Schubert's birthplace

Thomas Hong at Schubert's birthplace

Thomas Hong at Schubert's birthplace

Jim Nova agreed to pick up Maestro Hong at the Schubert Geburtshaus (birthplace). Franz was born in the kitchen because it was January, and that was the warmest room in the house. You can see a guitar, a piano owned by his brother Ignaz, and best of all Franz’s wire-rimmed glasses, quite like the glasses John Lennon wore. It was quiet. We were the only visitors. The lady in the gift shop was helpful with directions. I bought a book about Vienna’s Haydn house – and a CD, naturlich.

The second Grafenegg concert was in the same auditorium as the first after rain prompted a change of venue from the outdoor Wolkenturm. Roy and Susan Dorrance were there, and a great group of Pittsburghers including Jim and Ellen Walton, Henry and Lou Gailliot, PSO Board Chair Dick Simmons and wife Ginny, and the Director of the Buncher Family Foundation.

Small Johann Strauss statue

Small Johann Strauss statue

Small Johann Strauss statue

After the paying of respects at Mahler’s grave, I spent a few minutes in Vienna’s Stadtpark, just across from the hotel. The gold statue of Johann Strauss, which we see on the New Year’s Day broadcast, is undergoing restoration although there’s still a smaller gold statue of Johann next to the construction site.

Backstage, I had a lively conversation with the director of the Grafenegg Festival, pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, who says he took the job because he knew he could do everything to his standards and invite the best musicians in the world. He’s looking forward to his return to Heinz Hall on the opening weekend of the season to play Gershwin’s Concerto in F. To his thinking, Gershwin is every bit as valid as Beethoven. He enjoyed playing at Heinz Hall in 1983 with Lorin Maazel. He drives a great car, whose maker was new to me. We don’t see many ultra-luxury Maybach sedans on the road in Western PA – only 63 were sold in the USA last year – but they’ve been making them in Germany since 1919.

Rudolf Buchbinder

Rudolf Buchbinder

Rudolf Buchbinder

It was great to hear Hélène Grimaud playing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. After the concert, many members of Manfred Honeck’s family were on hand. Mrs. Honeck, Christiane, had a gift for the tour party—a note, and the Austrian confections, Mozart Kugeln and Mozarttaler. There was one last toast with Grüner Veltliner, the special Austrian wine which Mahler himself would have enjoyed, poured for each member of the orchestra on their way out the door. Fabelhaft! Wunderbar!

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Sep 01 2011

Grafenegg Castle

Schloss Grafenegg

Schloss Grafenegg

Schloss Grafenegg

One of Europe’s newest and most amazing festivals has been put together on the grounds of a 13th-century castle built in the Tudor style. The Pittsburgh Symphony made its debut at the five-year-old Grafenegg Festival with the first of two concerts in the modern auditorium. Friday, they play outdoors in the Wolkenturm if the weather cooperates.

This morning I picked up some coffee at the Julius Meinl store in Vienna with its elegant displays of chocolates, jams, coffee – and Oreos.  The J. Berger book store across the street included Henry Kissinger’s China in its window display along with giant calendars of Audrey Hepburn, Romy Schneider, and the Vienna State Opera.

Grafenegg Auditorium

Grafenegg Auditorium

Grafenegg Auditorium

At noon, an hour’s drive brought the orchestra to a rehearsal at the Grafenegg Festival with both violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Hélène Grimaud. I toured the castle and the grounds with Julia Ornetsmüller, the festival’s Director of Media Relations.

There’s a terrific café, and a spot for picnics with Apfelstrudel. Grafenegg also has a riding school, gardens, and a 13th-century mill.

The Schloss is in the Tudor style because the original owner liked the look. The castle has passed through many owners but is still owned by the Metternich family, made famous by Klemens von Metternich who led the redrawing of the map of Europe at the World Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Julia Ornetsmüller at the Schloss Grafenegg library

Julia Ornetsmüller at the Schloss Grafenegg library

Julia Ornetsmüller at the Schloss Grafenegg library

The Russians held the property after World War II, taking everything with them when they left, except for a few books of propaganda and a biography of Lenin now in the Grafenegg library. One of the bathtubs is the deepest I’ve ever seen. There’s a fantastic cobblestone courtyard with clock tower. I could hear pigeons or some sort of winged friends cooing and burbling like a scene from a film.

The concert worked its magic. Manfred Honeck’s family was in the audience, including son Mathias who is now a member of the Vienna Symphony as of May. Wife Christiane Honeck attended with the younger family members: Anna, Simeon, and Joachim. Only Manuel, the soccer star, was absent. He has a match pending. Brother-in-law Florian Partl welcomed us like old friends, and introduced Manfred’s sister, Elfi. Florian is a cartographer. He fits right in with the musical Honeck family, sharing the warm and generous spirit common to the Honeck clan.

Hannelore Grahammer and Florian Partl

Hannelore Grahammer and Florian Partl

Hannelore Grahammer and Florian Partl

With the Partls was Hannelore Grahammer, wife of the Austrian ambassador for the European Union in Brussels. They helped me fill in history of legendary Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, whose memorial site lies only a few miles away. The famous Radetzky March, composed in his honor by Johann Strauss, Jr., is the traditional final encore heard each New Year’s Day from Vienna. Ignaz Pleyel was born just down the road and a small museum is maintained in the town of his birth.

A cell phone rang just as Manfred Honeck was about to give the downbeat on Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, but he took it in stride – turning and smiling before pausing to pull together the magic once more. Bizet’s Carmen Intermezzo and the Khachaturian Galop from Masquerade brought the evening to a close.

Green dirndl at Grafenegg

Green dirndl at Grafenegg

Green dirndl at Grafenegg

Yesterday’s Der Kurier in Vienna ran large photo and article by Peter Jarolin about Manfred suggesting that the Staatsoper will invite him to conduct next season. The reviews of this Pittsburgh Symphony tour have been terrific, as far as I can tell, with lots of attention on Anne-Sophie. The only negatives have been a general idea that American orchestras play too loud. Manfred has had the Pittsburgh at whisper quiet. Principal Horn William Caballero’s solo in the slow movement of the Tchaikovsky, and Principal Michael Rusinek’s clarinet are remarkable in their subtle prayer-like intensity. I’ve never heard such quiet playing.

I loved the Austrian men wearing loden jackets, dyed an Austrian forest green in various shades. The collarless jackets were sometimes grey or charcoal black with red trim.  A few ladies wore elegant Dirndls.

Wine shop at Grafenegg Festival

Wine shop at Grafenegg Festival

Wine shop at Grafenegg

This is the wine country for Grüner Veltliner a treat similar to white Riesling. You can buy the wine in a tasting room. The festival provided a glass for each member of the orchestra after the concert. Imagine having an orchestra over for a toast, and then having to load the dishwasher.

Don’t forget to click on the Photo Gallery link at the top of the page, or on any photo, to check out the photo gallery. More to come.

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Aug 31 2011

Eisenstadt, Haydnstadt

Lorna McGhee, Peter Schreiber, and Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida

Lorna McGhee, Peter Schreiber, and Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida

Lorna McGhee, Peter Schreiber, and Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida

At noon Thursday, the Pittsburgh Symphony heads to the first of its two concerts at the five-year-old Grafenegg Festival about 45 minutes from Vienna. Yesterday, I joined PSO Principal Oboist Cynthia Koledo de Almeida, Principal Flutist Lorna McGhee, freelance cellist Aaron Zelkowicz, and Vienna Symphony Orchestra oboist Peter Schreiber on a train ride to Franz Joseph Haydn’s town of Eisenstadt.

Peter Schreiber skillfully guided us through the train changes. The Austrian countryside with fields of sunflowers, grapes, and corn rolled by. Our conversation topics ranged from Cindy’s early years in marching band, where she enjoyed playing clarinet, glockenspiel, and oboe – to the classical music programming of Vienna’s Radio Stephansdom. Peter said that too many individual movements are being broadcast in lieu of complete works, and that the Vienna Symphony plays the Brahms Third and Fourth Symphonies a lot.

Kalvarienberg Haydnkirche in Eisenstadt

Kalvarienberg Haydnkirche in Eisenstadt

Kalvarienberg Haydnkirche in Eisenstadt

Haydn was born in Rohrau, another short ride away, but he’s buried in the mausoleum of the Kalvarienberg Haydnkirche, one of thee Haydn churches in Eisenstadt; the others are the Dom and the Franziskaner church. On the way up the mile-long hill to the Schloss, you can stop at the house where Haydn lived while he worked for Prince Esterhazy. You can admire a reproduction of his wig and one of the few drawings of Haydn wigless.

I wonder what Chris Fennimore, our QED Cooks chef, would think of Haydn’s kitchen equipment. One of the 114 Anton Walter pianos in the world is here, and it’s quite possible Haydn played it. His English notebooks reveal messages in a neat hand, in which he writes about soap, asks for tickets to a concert, and sends his thanks.

1802 bust of Franz Joseph Haydn at Eisenstadt

1802 bust of Franz Joseph Haydn at Eisenstadt

1802 bust of Franz Joseph Haydn at Eisenstadt

A short song, Der Böse Weib (The Evil Woman), suggests the unhappiness in his marriage. Haydn’s wife was said to wrap fish in his manuscript pages. She was overly friendly with their minister. Haydn was thought to have a mistress, Luigia Polzelli, with whom he had a child, Anton Polzelli. Haydn and his wife, Anna Aloysia, remained in a loveless marriage for most of their lives. He wrote letters to Luigia long after his retirement.

The Landesmuseum Burgenland in Eisenstadt is participating in Lisztomania 2011, honoring the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt’s birth with the exhibition Franz Liszt – Born To Be A Superstar. The show documents the complicated relationships he had with Berlioz, Wagner, and Schumann, as well as his scandalous relations with the great love of his life, the Polish noblewoman Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. She lived in sin with Liszt since she couldn’t get a divorce. Inside Edition would have given lots of air time to Franz and Carolyn. A plaster cast of their interlocked hands speaks volumes about their deep love.

Schloss (Esterhazy Winter Palace) at Eisenstadt

Schloss (Esterhazy Winter Palace) at Eisenstadt

Schloss (Esterhazy Winter Palace) at Eisenstadt

Haydn’s mausoleum in the Bergkirche includes a reverent marker noting that the composer’s head was removed from his grave in 1820, and was restored to the body in 1954. It’s an interesting story. While Haydn’s head was out and about, another unknown noggin served as a stand-in. Perhaps the thieves, devotees of the pseudoscience of phrenology, thought no one would notice. It’s a most unusual church, the Haydnkirche, in which the maestro presided over his choral masterpieces.

There’s a sunny cobblestone inner courtyard at the Esterhazy Winter Palace. You can admire the prince’s china and silver, but most of all the glorious Great Haydn Hall, where Haydn made music, and concerts are still given. Adam Fischer and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra recorded all 104 symphonies here. Peter Schreiber played on many of them. The tour guide switched on the Symphony No. 6, the “Morning” symphony, and you can sit listening and gazing at the elaborate ceiling frescoes. No doubt Papa Haydn would have enjoyed hearing the Pittsburgh Symphony play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Hélène Grimaud just 90 miles away in Grafenegg on Friday night.

Aug 30 2011

Vienna Café

Principal Piccolo Rhian Kenny in Vienna

Principal Piccolo Rhian Kenny in Vienna

Principal Piccolo Rhian Kenny at Heindl, one of several confectioners who make "Mozart-Kugeln"

Pittsburgh Symphony players fanned out all over the city after arriving this afternoon on a Nike Air flight from Vilnius. The airline has partnered with the famous Demel’s delicatessen in Vienna. Our charter flight featured an elegant cheese sandwich on Bauernbrot, or brownbread, with thin slices of green pepper. The stewardesses wore fashionable uniforms with hot pink accents including a hat which they removed once the flight got moving.

I bumped into the PSO’s Principal Piccolo, Rhian Kenny, who is looking forward to connecting with one of her daughters in Europe.

I bought a copy of Marvin Hamlisch’s soundtrack for The Spy Who Loved Me – the Italian version, La Spia Che Mi Amava – from the used-record bin at the Vienna State Opera. Marvin has promised to join us for RADical Days in QED’s downtown Byham Studio in October.

Kaiserschmarrn at Vienna's Cafe Frauenhuber

Kaiserschmarrn at Vienna's Cafe Frauenhuber

Kaiserschmarrn at Vienna's Cafe Frauenhuber

He’s been a great sport to join us live for the last five years. The checkout lady recommended the Cafe Frauenhuber when I asked for her favorite coffee shop. It’s just a block from the most famous Viennese landmark, the Stephansdom, which was dark on Tuesday night except for the hundreds of votive candles in the outer lobby. The distant altar was dimly lit. Outside, the façade was under massive scaffolding for reconstruction.

The Cafe Frauenhuber, located on Himmelpfortgasse, is one of the older cafés in Vienna. The Kaiserschmarren was terrific. Pancakes with raisins, chopped up and covered with powdered sugar and raspberry sauce. The Vienna mélange features coffee and steamed cream.

"Why are there so few women in physics?"

"Why are there so few women in physics?"

"Why are there so few women in physics?"

Newspapers from all over the German-speaking world were available, kept in the ingenious paper holders that have been in use for a century. Vienna’s Die Presse featured a large photo of Einstein with an article about why more women don’t go into the sciences. I thought of a similar recent conversation I had with Rebecca Lucore of our sponsor, Bayer Corporation. Getting women into the world of science research has been a major agenda item at the company for decades. You can look up the interview as audio-on-demand at wqed.org

The TV listings in Vienna’s Der Kurier featured a special box on Charles Bronson, who died on August 30, 2003. He was born near Johnstown and went on to star in Death Wish and dozens of famous tough-guy films.

An amazing scene surrounded the grand opening of the fashion retailer Peek & Cloppenburg just a few steps down the Kaertnerstrasse. TV crews followed the arrival of model after model along with German and Austrian TV and film stars. Hundreds of folks stood around to watch.

Peek & Cloppenburg opening in Vienna

Peek & Cloppenburg opening in Vienna

Peek & Cloppenburg opening in Vienna

The streets were crowded with tourists and Viennese regulars enjoying a beautiful evening. Some stopped for a sausage at one of the many wurst stands.

Heading back to the hotel, I found Principal Percussionist Andrew Reamer and his wife, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ruth Anne Dailey, who has a few weeks free from deadlines. She told me it’s her first time in Vienna. I asked her what recent column had provoked the most response. It was the item she wrote on the privatization of the PA State Store system. Johann Strauss II immortalized Wine, Woman, and Song in one of his waltzes. The Viennese, with their convivial heurige (wine taverns) producing and serving new wines just a few blocks away in the suburb of Grinzing, provide evidence here in Austria of how privatization can aid the economy.

Ruth Ann Dailey and Andrew Reamer

Ruth Ann Dailey and Andrew Reamer

Ruth Ann Dailey and Andrew Reamer

One of the last new CD stores standing, the EMI store here in Vienna, featured new releases by Amy Winehouse, and British actor Hugh Laurie, who stars in the TV series, House. I considered a box set of Franz Kafka stories, but the fine points would be lost with my rudimentary German … as appealing as the idea is to be listening to Kafka while stuck on the Parkway. And why would I do that anyway, when I can listen to QED 893?  In the window at the Opera was a new DVD of the opera Anna Nicole, by Mark Anthony Turnage, packaged with six postcards of the Royal Opera production. Among the books in the opera shop on Herbert von Karajan Platz was The Mahler Letters by Stephen McClatchey, published by Oxford University Press, containing letters from Budapest, Vienna and Hamburg during the composer’s years at the opera houses in those cities. Gustav Mahler is buried nearby in Grinzing, and the Pittsburgh Symphony will keep his spirit alive by playing his Fifth Symphony at the Grafenegg Festival on Friday night, one hundred years after Mahler’s death in 1911.

 

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Aug 29 2011

Vilnius

Rehearsal at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater

Rehearsal at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater

Rehearsal at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater

It was a full rehearsal this morning at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater. It’s a giant structure for a mere 900-seat theater. The orchestra played without an acoustical shell. Stage hands set up a screen behind the orchestra and used blue gels to backlight it. This doesn’t make for ideal acoustics, but some players said they could more clearly hear Anne-Sophie Mutter play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Wolfgang Rihm’s Lichtes Spiel. There were large opera set pieces in storage backstage; a massive cake, and wine bottle from Donizetti’s Elixir of Love. Dr. Anthony Spinola’s office had a retro phone that might have come from Brezhnev’s desk. The building looked a bit like Duquesne University’s Student Union. I visited our congenial translator, Laura Karnaviciute, in her office on the first floor, where a cheerful group were working on promotion of an upcoming event. They offered me a piece of cake.

Anne-Sophie Mutter speaks to reporters

Anne-Sophie Mutter speaks to reporters

Anne-Sophie Mutter speaks to reporters

Laura (in the blue jacket) translated for the 5:00 pm press conference with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Manfred Honeck. Anne-Sophie said that Wolfgang Rihm’s Lichtes Spiel: A Summer Piece reminds her of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She said she likes pairing it with the Mendelssohn Concerto because she likes Mendelssohn’s humanity, his sharing and giving quality, as well as his composing genius. Manfred Honeck said how pleased he was to be back where he had conducted on the tenth anniversary of the 1991 “January Events,” when Soviet tanks rolled, and soldiers shot Vilnius citizens who defended their television tower.

The concert at 7:05 opened with house General Manager Gintautas Kėvišas welcoming everyone. Laura translated.  There was rhythmic applause for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. The intermission crowd was young and stylish. Music lovers packed the hall with over 100 standees along the side aisles. At intermission, you could kick the tires of a blue BMW on the lower level and you could choose from delicious treats at the bars. There was a rainbow-colored parfait-like drink, fresh fruit and ice cream, along with bars for Lavazza coffee, and candy bars such as Twix.

Manfred Honeck and Anne-Sophie Mutter meet VIPs after the concert

Manfred Honeck and Anne-Sophie Mutter meet VIPs after the concert

Manfred Honeck and Anne-Sophie Mutter meet VIPs after the concert

The US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Anne Hall welcomed everyone warmly. Manfred Honeck and Anne-Sophie Mutter toasted the group. Some people in the audience said they loved Pittsburgh even more than the New York Philharmonic, who they heard last year, as well as the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater conducted by Valery Gergiev.  Gergiev had performed the Mahler Fifth Symphony, so Pittsburgh switched to Tchaikovsky Five – which delivered a wallop and won still more rhythmic applause. The Pittsburgh Symphony’s new Principal Flute, Lorna McGhee, played the Intermezzo from Bizet’s Carmen followed by the Galop from Khachaturian’s Masquerade featuring Principal Clarinet Michael Rusinek.

Not the Hilton

Not the Hilton

Not the Hilton

Riding back and forth to the hotel, I was impressed by the number of auto dealerships. Peugeot, Kia, Mazda, VW, Ford, Lexus, Citroën, Opel, Saab and many others. Fueled by gas from gas stations that seemed unfamiliar—Statoil, EMSI, Orlen, Apsaga, and Nesta Oil.

Miles of Soviet-style apartment buildings in concrete blocks wind by. One unit was just a few floors of poured concrete and rebar, which looked like it had been there at least as long as the remodeling effort on the front of our former Hilton Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.  One wag on our bus quipped that, “We’re sorry but your rooms are not quite ready,” upon seeing the unfinished building when we arrived yesterday.

Frank Zappa memorial (photo by David Sogg)

Frank Zappa memorial (photo by David Sogg)

Frank Zappa memorial (photo by David Sogg)

Try as I might I just couldn’t make it to the statue of Frank Zappa.  Zappa never came to Vilnius, but a local sculptor has created quite a tourist draw with his tribute to Zappa’s freewheeling sensibility. I understand the Lithuanians have donated an exact replica to Frank’s home town of Baltimore, so look for it there.

Do be careful where you park in Vilnius. The mayor, an avid cyclist who was said to be in the audience tonight, made international headlines earlier this month with a video of himself driving an armored vehicle over a Mercedes that was illegally parked in a bike lane. The staged video was (mostly) in good fun. In Vilnius this week, basketball is the talk of the town. The EuroBasket 2011 competition is capturing everyone’s imagination – except for those of us listening to Tchaikovsky tonight.

I loved the concert, the people, the spirit of the place, and the music played by the Pittsburgh Symphony. “Viso gero!,” from Vilnius.

 

Aug 27 2011

Backstage in Hamburg

I ran into Rolf Beck, the Intendant of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, after the Pittsburgh Symphony’s concert. He was delighted to see Manfred Honeck, who he has known and admired for more than twenty years.

Brahms guards the pretzels and Champagne

Brahms guards the pretzels and Champagne

Brahms guards the pretzels and Champagne

Also on hand for the Saturday concert was Dr. Steven Paul, who works for the North German NDR network which presents three orchestras in the Laeiszhalle. Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock soon takes over the NDR Orchestra. Hamburg is where conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi based his European career. His brother served as Hamburg’s Mayor. Joanne Rogers has been a lifelong friend of Christoph since she studied piano in Florida with his father, the noted composer Ernst von Dohnanyi, best remembered for his Variations on a Nursery Tune for piano and orchestra. Joanne and Fred were there for Christoph’s wedding. I’m digressing.

Steven Paul had been in Pittsburgh working for Sony as Associate Producer when soprano Kathleen Battle recorded Victor Herbert songs with Lorin Maazel. She wasn’t happy with the way they turned out, and refused to give her okay to release them. They sit in the “ice box,” as Paul called it. Steven Paul is a big fan of Manfred Honeck.

Aug 27 2011

Hamburg Laeiszhalle

Applause at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg

Applause at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg

Applause for the PSO at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg

It was thundering feet and cheers for the Mahler Symphony #5 from the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Germany. Anne-Sophie Mutter wowed them again, and there was television coverage of this event in the Schleswig-Holstein Festival. A huge crowd turned up for the CD signing afterward. The house was full, with tickets at over $140 the last to go at the box office. I checked with Michael Pegher, a student of violinist Albert Tan who also studied with Lorenzo Malfatti in Pittsburgh and now lives not far away from Hamburg where he has a contract singing with a regional opera house.

This concert had been scheduled for Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie, or Elb Philharmonic Hall, which is still under construction after massive cost overruns and delays now expected to extend through 2015.

At the Telemann Museum

At the Telemann Museum

Erich Braun-Egidius at the Telemann Museum

I had an amazing visit at the Brahms Museum and the Telemann Museum. It was the 40th anniversary of the Brahms Museum on Peterstrasse, and admission was free.  There was a festive atmosphere and a quiz of Brahms biographical moments for visitors. I won a Brahms CD, although I think it might have been for my foreign accent as much as my knowledge of Brahms.

The Brahms Museum is near the site of the house in which he was born, which burned to the ground in WWII. There’s also an E.T.A. Hoffman Museum in Hamburg, commemorating the composer and author who inspired Jacques Offenbach’s opera, The Tales of Hoffmann. That and the massive art museum, the Kunsthalle, must be for next time. I asked my taxi driver if he knew the Beatles Platz, where there’s a statue in their memory. He was not German, and thought I was interested in meeting “nice women.” The statue is on the edge of one of the most notorious red light districts in the world, the Reeperbahn. John Lennon said “I was born in Liverpool but I grew up in Hamburg.” Malcom Gladwell, who wrote Outliers claims the Beatles became geniuses in part because they honed their craft through thousands of hours of rehearsals here in Hamburg.

Brahms' piano at the Brahms Museum

Brahms' piano at the Brahms Museum

Brahms' piano at the Brahms Museum

The Telemann Museum is one of the newest additions to the Hamburg cultural scene. I recorded a tour with the museum’s Vorsitzender (chairman), Erich Braun-Egidius, who was one of the kindest people I have ever met in my travels with the Pittsburgh Symphony. After the tour, he told me that he’d been in management with Volkswagen most of his life. One day decided he wanted to follow his heart, and help to open the Telemann Museum. His son is studying in Boston and has toured the American history trail which brought him near Pittsburgh. Eleven years old at the end of WWII, Herr Braum-Egidius was extremely positive about Americans, and said he thinks George H. W. Bush is under-appreciated for his role in encouraging Germany’s reunification. He explained the fine points of the history of the Alsace-Lorraine where my grandfather Ortner’s father was born. We discussed in detail Telemann’s love of plants and gardening, and his list of flowers in Latin. It’s always stunning to me how some people will go out of their way to help a stranger.

Michael Pegher outside the Laeiszhalle

Michael Pegher outside the Laeiszhalle

Michael Pegher of the Oldenburgisches Staatstheater, outside the Laeiszhalle

Markus Frei, a journalist who is working on an article for Die Welt about the Pittsburgh Symphony, told me his article was delayed by the death of the German comic Loriot, a cross between Peter Sellars and Victor Borge whose sophisticated routines often had a classical music twist, with a chamber music ensemble rehearsing, or a conductor swatting insects, choreographed so that he conducted Coriolan with the Berlin Philharmonic as he attempted to kill the bug. Loriot never made it big it in the US, but he’s an enormous figure here. As I write, Radio Bremen TV is running the special, Erinnerungen an Loriot (Memories of Loriot).

I have lots more to say about the concert tonight in this beautiful century-old hall with a Brahms Platz  and modern monuments out front. It’s named for one of the great shipping figures in this port city. More tomorrow, as we head for Vilnius and the Pittsburgh Symphony’s debut concert in Lithuania. Manfred Honeck’s 12-year-old son, Simion, is traveling his Dad on this trip –what a guy –with a calm and concentration well beyond his years.

Aug 26 2011

Wiesbaden Rheingau Musik Festival

 

CDs for sale at the Kurhaus

CDs for sale at the Kurhaus

CDs for sale at the Kurhaus

Composer Wolfgang Rihm took a bow after the European premiere of his concerto Lichtes Spiel with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. The first concert on this tour also featured Anne-Sophie in the familiar Mendelssohn Concerto. Heading back to the hotel on the bus the comments centered on, “How does she do it?,” and “Isn’t it amazing that she can find something new to say in such a familiar piece?”

The Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck’s Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 was for sale in the lobby along with the PSO’s new Mahler Third. Lots of Mutter fans sifted through her many recordings. Principal Second Violinist Jennifer Ross told me she was looking out at a very elegant, dressed-up audience. They politely held their applause until Manfred lowered his arms after the Tchaikovsky Fifth, then asked for two encores. It was a big sound in this 1,400 seat hall.

Rheingau Festival Director Michael Hermann warms up the crowd

Rheingau Festival Director Michael Hermann warms up the crowd

Rheingau Musik Festival Director Michael Hermann welcomes the PSO

New Principal Flutist Lorna McGhee played the big solo in the Intermezzo from Bizet’s Carmen, and Principal Clarinetist Michael Rusinek added a lick from the Tchaikovsky Fifth to his solo in the middle of the Galop from Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite.

Rheingau Festival Intendant Michael Hermann gave warm introductory remarks in German and drew some laughter. Pittsburgh Symphony CEO Larry Tamburri told me he’s glad the tour is underway.

Earlier, I bumped into Principal Cellist Anne Martindale Williams and violinist Christopher Wu as they returned from a rehearsal of the Barber Adagio, planned for ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in Berlin. Somehow, they wore matching orange outfits since great musicians must always be on the same wavelength.

Anne Martindale Williams and Chris Wu in harmonized colors

Anne Martindale Williams and Chris Wu in harmonized colors

Harmonized colors

I loved the Antiquariat Schallplatten vinyl record shop started by Manfred Eisele. He was very friendly, showing off the smallest record, which contains a Gitanes cigarette commercial; the extremely rare Beatles $32,000 “butcher” cover; and even Andre Previn’s A Different Kind of Blues album with Itzhak Perlman, recorded at Heinz Hall.

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