Thursday April 14, 2011
Two Days, Two Conductors, One Orchestra
Days three and four of our Austria odyssey have been filled with music, art, architecture and rain – lots of rain. No matter. The group’s mood is upbeat and enthusiastic. At breakfast this morning Renee, who is accompanying her mother Yvonne on this trip, greeted me by saying “So, no blog yesterday? What’s going on?” She was kidding me, but in fact I was feeling a little guilty for skipping a day. So this is two days’ worth of reporting.
Wednesday morning we drove to the famous Hundertwasser House. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was Austria’s answer to Spain’s better known Gaudi – both artists noteworthy for a shared artistic vision imbued with a sense of color and whimsy.
We later visited the Leopold Museum, where one can get up close and personal with a wealth of Austrian Secessionist art, including Gustav Klimt’s remarkable Death and Life. The museum was also showing a chilling exhibit of works by Egon Schiele, an artist who died in 1918 at the age of 28 – a victim of the Spanish Flu.
Lunch was at the Schwarzen Kameel (The Black Camel), a restaurant that feels as though one has walked into the very heart of the Art Deco era. And the food wasn’t bad either.
Wednesday ended – both metaphorically and musically – in an enchanted garden, with a concert in the glorious Grosse Halle of the Musikverein. The Vienna Symphony was conducted by its busy Music Director Fabio Luisi. In addition to Haydn’s Symphony No.85, the orchestra played all of Felix Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The narrator was the Academy Award winning Swiss/Austrian actor Maximillian Schell. Through Mendelssohn’s melodrama portions of the score, Schell told the story of Shakespeare’s comedy (auf Deutsch, naturlich). The 81 year old kept quite busy during the seventy minute performance. How busy? During the popular Wedding March, he even took the baton from Fabio Luisi and, for at least a minute or two, led the orchestra himself. One orchestra, two conductors.
The Musikverein is one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. Its bare wooden floor and austere seats, ornate ceiling and shoebox shape all contribute to a sound that is at once both intimate and lush. There can be no absolutely perfect concert hall, but the Musikverein is as close as most of us will ever hear and see.
Following a very late night (dinner came AFTER the memorable Haydn/Mendelssohn concert) we began a second rainy day by boarding our coach (why is not cool to call it what is really is – a bus?) for a trip to the Wachau Valley for a tour of the 900 year old abbey at Melk, followed by a wine tasting cruise on the beautiful blue Danube. What can one say? You drive through the Vienna Woods and eventually arrive at the banks of the Danube. Ruins of castles, steeply terraced vineyards, picturesque villages. That sort of day. Life is good.
- Rich Capparela