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Vienna: City of Dreams

Twice in the space of six months, I found myself in Salzburg as a guest of the Mozarteum Foundation. On my last visit, I intended to go to Vienna but, alas, it was not to be. In New York in late February, Vienna came to me! Just back from London, I had arrived in time for the kick-off of Vienna: City of Dreams, a three week culture festival based at Carnegie Hall, but engaging partners including the Museum of Modern Art and more than a dozen institutions from churches to libraries. While the musicians have packed up their instruments and gone home, the celebration continues: At the Leo Baeck Institute through 31 March; at MOMA with films through 19 April; at the Neue Galerie with a poster exhibition from the Vienna Succession through June 30; and, at Carnegie Hall’s Rose Museum through May 5th.

The Rose Museum, which opened in 1991, tells the story of Carnegie Hall’s rich musical history with exhibits from the Hall’s archives (concert programs, photographs, autographed posters, musical manuscripts and video). Currently, however, the Museum is playing host to a magnificent exhibition: “Vienna’s Musical Giants: Treasures from the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.” Here, for the first time in the United States, one can see rare manuscripts and musical artifacts of Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Mahler, and Johann and Richard Strauss.

(These Viennese musical treasures join those already here – at the Morgan Library and the Juilliard Manuscript Collection – the extraordinary gift of the chairman of the board of the Juilliard School, Bruce Kovner. In September, shortly after I returned from London, where I saw a magical performance of Le nozze di Figaro, I was moved beyond words as I viewed, on a table in a room at the Juilliard School, the pages of Mozart’s autograph score of the opera’s last scene. Mozart wrote his most genial opera in Vienna. His apartment, for years called The Figaro House, still exists and it has been incorporated into the Mozart Museum. Another of New York’s musical treasures, The Morgan Library collection, includes autograph scores of Schubert’s Winterreise and Mozart’s Piano Concerto 21 (K. 467). The Juilliard and Morgan Library collections are online and thus available to all. Especially if you can’t get to New York, I urge you to have a look.)

The festival began with a media breakfast. Our host, Ms. Astrid Pockfuss, from the Austrian Tourist Office in Vienna, set the scene with a fascinating and comprehensive talk about the history of Vienna and the many attractions of her city. She then introduced the main speaker of the morning, M. Dominique Meyer, the charming and enthusiastic intendant of the Vienna State Opera. He was keen to tell us about the distinguished history of his opera house and describe its newest venture – live streaming with a difference. What distinguishes this project from the many on offer from other houses are the scores made available to viewers. The audience will be able to follow along with historic scores (often with hand written notes) owned by illustrious conductors, including Gustav Mahler.

The Vienna Philharmonic gave seven performances during the festival including two as the pit band (without the pit of course) for the Vienna State Opera’s two concert performances – Wozzeck and Salome. Although I have attended several of the partner events and exhibitions, I heard only one of the Carnegie concerts – the last one. Conducted by Zubin Mehta, the orchestra’s overwhelmingly luscious string sound was on display in a varied and long program with two intervals. What a range they have and how superb they are! The program was a traversal through Viennese musical history from Mozart (Ave Verum Corpus) to Webern (Six Pieces, Opus 6). In between, we heard a glorious account of Korngold’s Violin Concerto<.I> by Gil Shaham with a lovely encore, Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin. After the second interval, there were plenty of Viennese bonbons in the form of polkas, gallops and waltzes by various members of the Strauss family. Diana Damrau was the soloist for this part of the program. She sang Strauss, Lehár and, as her first encore, the czardas from Die Fledermaus. But it was Damrau’s second encore that literally stopped the show when Maestro Mehta guided her onto the podium and handed off his baton. The audience was entranced.

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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