Go out and listen to something…

July 22, 2006

Prof. Noel Flores

Filed under: music, music education, Vienna — burnett @ 4:10 am

The other day, I had the distinct pleasure of a long (3 hour) lunch on the Graben with the teacher who had the greatest influence on my performance style, Professor Noel Flores. We hadn’t met since a brief coffee in 1977, and had some serious catching up to do. His wonderful wife joined us as well, and we did a quick review of the last 30 years.

In the fall of 1973, after 2 semesters at the Hochschule fuer Musik in Vienna, I was foreseeing some mechanical difficulties with my piano work, and I began work with Mr. Noel Flores. (See bio info)Mr. Flores shortly thereafter became professor at the Hochscule, and continues as an emeritus faculty member.  He also keeps a busy schedule adjudicating the major competitions throughout the world.

But at the time, Mr. Flores was teaching private students and became famous for solving mechanical issues and matters of physical health related to performance. In short, he helped performers resolve tension problems, problems that could lead to severe pain and even end a career.  More than that, his view was that  the musical experience as a whole would be far more facile by ending self-imposed physical restrictions.  We worked together for a year and a half, and in the meantime, I left the Hochschule after 3 semesters and worked only with him for a year or so.  Lessons were 2 ½ hours long, twice each week.  We worked on very little music, focusing almost exclusively on the most basic aspects of motion and weight distribution.  Years later, when I was sitting at the piano for 10 hours or more each day, year in and year out, it became obvious that I never would have lasted more than a few months without the work the Mr. Flores did with me at the time.  To this moment, as I sit and type,  I use what I remember from those classes.  Currently I am preparing the Brahms Piano Quintet (last performed in 1988) and spend much of the time eliminating “overwork”  and sections where the music is obscured by problems of execution.  One thing I always do is take a difficult section and eliminate the elements that make it difficult, just to see what it sounds like when it is easy! 

photo:  Mrs. Regina Flores, Prof. Noel  Flores, Kiera Thompson.  Nov. 2009

Die Wachau wine district

Filed under: travel, Vienna — burnett @ 4:06 am

See photo

My host� insisted that I take his Mercedes convertible Kompressor coupe, and a friend joined me for an excursion to Wachau and Duernstein.� The Wachau is a relatively small but legendary wine district about 50 miles east, up the Danube from Vienna.� Steep hills rise on both sides of the Danube, and the vineyards are terraced up the sides of the hills for as far as the eye can see.� Apparently, the best of these wines are bought years in advance by restaurants and other vendors, and are impossible to find outside of the secondary vendor.� We had lunch at one of the wine estates, including fresh chanterelles roasted with ham and vegetables, and gulyasch.� � The house wine, the heuriger, was cheap and brilliant:� as always, very light, fresh and delicious flavors.� My friends believe that the Austrian white wine is the best in the world, and I will have to agree with them.� The area is full of small wine estates, none of whom market to world markets because their output is so small.� The wines change from year to year at each estate, so no estate has a consistent Riesling, for example.� Every year is a bit of a surprise.� The entire region has an output equivalent to a single vineyard in the Bordeaux region, but is run by a couple hundred separate vintners.� The estates have been in the same families for hundreds of years in many cases.We took a hike up to the top of the old castle at Duernstein, where Richard Coeur-de-Lion was imprisoned a few years back.� The castle was destroyed by Swedish marauders, but remains a tremendous vantage point to look up and down the Danube, which is a jade green.� In the distance are villages, vineyards and the occasional huge castle on the peaks of the mountains.The local fruit, which we also sampled, included freshly picked cherries, blueberries, apricots (the “Marillen”� variety) and raspberries.� The flavors� were overwhelming.� We ate an embarrassing amount of the fruit as there was no reason to stop, and it was all intoxicating.�

July 20, 2006

Sammlung Essl in Klosterneuburg

Filed under: Art, travel, Vienna — burnett @ 10:15 am

Klosterneuburg, the� suburb of Vienna on the Danube, � is known largely for the Monastery founded in the 12th Century by a bloke named Leopold.� I visited the Stift but was more moved by my visit to the sterile building known as Sammlung Essl, a private modern art collection down the road.� Essl had three main exhibits, including a large show by artists currently active in Leipzig, a remarkable show of the work of Pierre Soulage, and another show that I may discuss later.� Soulage paints in black and supposedly highlights light in this manner.� I just enjoyed looking at the black.� It was on large canvas, thickly textured, and had certain symmetries or displays that made for an intriguing show.�

The Leipzig group was by far the most powerful part of the collection.� About 20 artists are shown, largely very higly developed styles with complex and highly developed craft as well.� However, my favorite was a photographer who did very simple black and white photography in the 50’s in Leipzig.� Evelyn Richter shot some� compelling human images.� PLease have a look at the link, they are great.� The name of the boat below, Traumland, translates to “Dreamland” in English.

July 16, 2006

Last Tango in Bellagio

Filed under: travel — burnett @ 3:37 am

Had a few hours remaining this morning and took the traghetto across the lake to Lenno.� Actually, nothing of note there, but spent a pleasant hour having coffee and walking around.� There is a major villa there that is open for visitors, but didn’t quite have the time to go.� Mostly, I went to spend more time on the water, as every five minutes on the water reveals a new stunning view.� My ride leaves momentarily for Milan/Malpensa airport.� The driver has excellent command of the Jaguar, and when he passes vehicles with the accelerator to the floor on steep mountain curves, I have every confidence that my death will be quick and� painless if something goes wrong.� It is an hour and a half of genuine Grand Prix racing from here to the airport.� � See the PHOTO of Varenna

July 15, 2006

more Italy

Filed under: travel — burnett @ 5:47 pm

Well, the concert was well received, and, I sense, overdue.� The participants in the German Marshall Fund conference on migration had experienced 30 days of stimulating lectures, but no artistic stimuli.� That’s where we came in, I suppose.� Anyway, afterwards we went to a wine cellar here in Bellagio, namely Saliniti Genazzini,� and had some brilliant wine that� I really must find when I get home.� The folks from GMF were truly a fun crowd, and very gracious.� They hailed from Berlin, D.C., and New York, and I think the idea was that we would all meet again.� I certainly hope so.

The concert was Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, John Williams and Jose White, with an encore of “Imagine” by John Lennon.� Everything was chosen by my friend and colleague, Luis Haza, and proved to be very effective.�

� I am torn between staying here and going back to Wien.� I have chosen Wien, I guess because it will save a few bucks, but also I was getting back into Austrian/German culture and getting the language back together.� There is actually no one else that I have to contact, so I guess I’ll chill, go to the museums, and live the dolce vita, oder gemuetliches Leben, for a few days.�

Italy

Filed under: travel — burnett @ 11:56 am

I had no idea what to expect when invited to Bellagio, (see PHOTO )but the breathtaking landscape here has made me a believer in the Italian lakes in the Dolomites.� This is the most spectacular setting I’ve ever seen, but maybe I don’t get around enough.� The mountains go straight up from the water, 360 degrees.� I ran today from Bellagio to Varenna by ferry, stopped in at a palazzo for a tour of the gardens and rooms, wandered up and down the steep steps of the village and generally had a good time.� We have a concert this evening at the Rockefeller Villa, courtesy of the German Marshall Fund.� I guess they are a bit short on cash, as we are not being compensated for the concert other than airfare and 2 nights room at a nice little� 3 star hotel.� A lot like doing a hotel gig.� Anyway, the venue is like a fantasaical paradise.� I wasn’t ready for the Italian, and what Italian I used to speak is buried beneath years of detritus.� �

The piano is a Boesendorfer that is in unairconditioned climate.� It is mush mechanically, but has a gorgeous sound.� We have a concert in a few minutes and we’ll see how it goes.�

� Silk is a major product in this region, manufactured in Como, among other places.� Como is about 10 miles from here, and can be reached by ferry in a few minutes.� In fact, if I had more time, I’d live on the ferry and zip from town to town.� There are at least a dozen ancient villages around the perimeter of the lake.� The architecture and gardens are pure Italian, and it is a bit of a shock, since we are only an hour by air from Vienna.

July 13, 2006

In Vienna

Filed under: Art, travel, Vienna — burnett @ 1:29 am

Where to begin…the Albertina has a very creative exhibit for the 250th Anniv. of Mozart.� I went through it twice, just to make sure I really understood what they were getting at.� It tried to give the big picture of just what was going on in the 1760’s, and requires a few visits.� His visits with his father to the various European capitals:� Florence, Paris, Vienna, London, are nicely framed with quotes from both Leopold and Wolfgang about their experiences.� Not an easy life, and Leopold did an excellent job trying to manage the phenom’s career.�

� Of course I� walked around, checked out Franziskaner Kirche, Maria am Gestade, which dates from 1200 or so, Stefansdom, now a commercial extravaganza, and walked most of my old streets in the first district.� The building where I lived in Riemergasse now has an elevator.� I was in a 6th floor walk-up at the time.� What was then a porn moviehouse next door is now a jazz club called Porgy and Bess.� Go figure.� After an hour of walking these winding little Gassen, it all came back to me how much I loved this city, and why I stayed for so long in the 70’s.� Most of the restaurants still have that stale tobacco smell.� I did not mind it in 1972, but it now gives everything a dated feel, and certainly does nothing to stimulate the appetite.� Speaking of appetite, my host invited me to one of the local Heuriger’s last eve for a viertel of Gemischter Satz, the house specialty white wine, and a Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad.� Absolutely divine, and the tab came to 24 Euros.� We sat out in the garden under the lindens and chestnut trees with dozens of other customers.� Great place.� This is all in the Mauer neighborhood, near Hietzing.

� A highlight was stopping in at Kleines Cafe on Franziskanerplatz.� When I first arrived in Vienna, I hung out there when it was truly a Kleines Cafe: two circular tables in booths and a bar about 8 feet long.� There was a bartender named Hanno, and they served Ottakringer and white or red wine in 1/8th, 1/4 or liter flasks.� It was the hangout for the communes, and many groups would stop by at some point during the night, just to see ‘wer war da’.� It definitely captured the Bohemian side of Vienna, for better and for worse.

Bratislava

Filed under: Art, music, travel, Vienna — burnett @ 12:47 am

I had the chance to take a run to Bratislava yesterday.� It is only an hour from Vienna by bus.� The architecture is quite similar to Vienna, and the old part of the city is not unlike the 1st district of Vienna.� The main difference is that Bratislava is behind Vienna in terms of renovation and restoration.� This is not a bad thing, since it means that family run shops still exist in the old quarter.� But I am sure that the rent will go up and it will become a haven for high end retailers like Vienna has.� Vienna still has some small businesses in first district, but it is clear that the rent is going way up.� The small bakeries and food vendors have almost all disappeared.� In Bratislava, the communists did a number on the city that the war couldn’t.� They tore down historical buildings or ‘improved’ them.� On the up side, much was not restored, and parts of the city look as they must have looked 100 years ago or more.� It has that old world charm for sure.� In my brief visit, I was struck by the fact that 40 miles from Vienna, the residents generally spoke Slovakian and only Slovakian.� It was somewhat difficult to get around with German and English, and clearly a Slavic language was necessary.� It is hard for me to imagine being so close to a major European capital and being confined to a language spoken only by 5 million people.� But, that’s Europe.� I ducked in to the St. Francis cathedral to hear a concert by the Slovakian Chamber Trio, comprised of the organist, an oboist, violinist and joined by an excellent soprano.� The soprano and organist did 6 arias of Antonin Dvorak which were very original and engaging.�

� A highlight of my excursion was giving the cab driver a 20 Euro tip on a $3 fare instead of 20 kronen.� The kronen would have be about a dollar, and of course the the Euros came to $26.� Wound up back in Vienna with hundreds of Kronen…

July 3, 2006

Vienna

Filed under: music, travel, Vienna — burnett @ 7:30 pm

I am traveling to Vienna later this week.� I was last there for the summer of 1977, and prior to that from 1972 -1974 as as student at the Hochschule fuer Musik.� It is hard to believe that 30 yrs have gone by, more since student days.� I have very little expectation as to what to expect, except that it is a city with a blend of enormous gravitas and charm.� I hear that the city is now “posh”, as opposed to being in a recovery from WWII as it was in 1972.�

� I arrived in Vienna in September of 1972, intending to stay for a couple months.� I wound up enrolling in the Akademie of Musik, and stayed for almost 3 yrs.� I quickly realized that to learn the language, I had to stay away from the American ex-pats and wound up hanging out with an unusual array of Viennese and German friends.� At that time, communes were big in Vienna:� Freud commune, Willi Reich commune, Jung Commune, Primal Scream commune, LSD commune, Ascetic commune, Shave your Head commune, etc. The members of the communes tended to converge at Hellas Cafe, Kleines Cafe and Hawelka, although the latter had already become trendy.� Of course most of the participants were refugees from the Viennese upper classes, trying to deny all sorts of things about themselves.� Which made them great fun.� � The notorious Paulanergasse group had federal funding to produce a film on the subject of drug abuse.� They were experts on the subject, and their timing could not have been better.� Timothy Leary was on the lam at the time, and arrive in Vienna in December, 1972.� Sure enough, he wound up at Paulanergasse, and lent some undeniable heft to the movie.�

Musically, Vienna opened up the world for me.� Emil Gilels, Sviatislav Richter, Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh, Arturo Benedetto Michelangelo, Alfred Brendel, Karl Bohm, Claudio Abbado, Maurizio Pollini…the list is endless.� Austria, like other European countries, makes the university days a great education.� School is free, the concerts, galleries and travel were almost free with student card.� We went to concerts almost every night, and spent hundreds of hours in the art galleries.� (And the cafe’s.� It is easy get hooked on the local new wines and the espresso.)�

As far as composers were concerned, the biggest revelation for me was Anton Bruckner.� The 1973 Festwochen featured Mozart and Bruckner, so a Bruckner symphony appeared in every orchestral concert, and the masses were performed at Augustinerkirche.� Ultimately, I listened for 100’s of hours to recordings of the symphonies back in the States.� But it began in Vienna, and every note of Bruckner makes me think of the mood of Vienna.�

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