Go out and listen to something…

May 12, 2013

Cornelia Herrmann in Washington

Filed under: music, Vienna — burnett @ 6:48 am

left: Cornelia Herrmann; right:  Regina Flores, Prof. Noel Flores, Kiera Thompson

Viennese pianist Cornelia Herrmann performed twice in the D.C., including a recital at  the Austrian Embassy and a Mozart Concerto with the Annapolis Symphony conducted by Jose-Luis Novo, and the Toledo Symphony, conducted by Stefan Sanderling.  I decided to attend when I discovered that she had worked with Prof. Noel Flores while attending the University of Music in Vienna.  Prof. Flores passed away a year ago, May 19, 2012, and it seemed fitting to remember him with a meeting of those who knew him.

Ms. Herrmann framed the Embassy concert with the G major French Suite and the French Overture in B minor of J.S. Bach.  Schubert Impromptu’s, the Beethoven Pathetique, and a new work written for her by Christian Ehrenfellner filled the program.  The standout for me was the Bach.  Ms. Herrmann plays without mannerism, and is very direct and forceful in her approach.  The engines that Bach creates in the Courante and Gigue of the G Major are allowed to develop their own steam.  She delivers the musical goods, and I was grateful to hear the performance.   The Mozart C minor concerto had a similar approach, was unhurried, and her chamber music sensitivity especially paid off in the ensembles with winds and piano.

March 8, 2007

Artis String Quartet Artis Streich Quartette

Filed under: music, Vienna — burnett @ 6:35 am

The Artis String Quartet was here from Vienna last week. I had the pleasure of hearing the concert both� the night before their Library of Congress appearance, and at the Library.� The setting was a living room, and I was two feet from the cello’s endpin.� The most remarkable experience was hearing Beethoven opus 127 in such a setting.� I don’t get to hear the late quartets much anyway, and to hear 127 two days in a row was a highlight of my ear’s lives.� Of course the competing joy was hanging out with Viennese musicians who graciously tolerated my sloppy Deutsch/Viennese and reminisced about the marvelous and often peculiar history of the Viennese music scene since 1972.� (more…)

August 27, 2006

The Illusionist

Filed under: music, film, Vienna — burnett @ 3:35 pm

Movie starring Ed Norton and� Jessica Biel:� �

There have been hundreds of movies made in and about New York.� I don’t believe they shoot them in Newark, since everyone would know it’s, well, not New York.� So why does this movie about Vienna, about it’s society, monarchy, and police take place in surroundings that from the first scene are clearly not Vienna?� dunno.� It is shot in Prague, much of it on one street corner.�

Now that that matter is out of the way, I can say that the movie has style and a� terrific mood and a nifty love story.� But the reason that I saw it twice was because of the score by Phillip Glass.� The last Glass movie I saw was “Thin Blue Line”, which is shaped by the music, and in fact without the music, a� completely different movie.� The current movie is a different story.� The Glass score could almost pass for somebody else.� There are long periods in the movie without music, and his score is complex enough that it is hard to hang a hat on the themes.� The movie distracts from the music.� � Thus, even after a second viewing, I wasn’t confident that I had a handle on the themes, or how the themes were used in the drama.� In fact, the music really isn’t engaging or forceful, whereas the movie is� indeed engaging, and has some powerful moments which are not really reflected in the music.� � The music� is used occasionally to reinforce the tension of a moment, as it should be, but it wasn’t singular enough to make its own statement.� � Maybe I have to see it again.

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 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.


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


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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