Vienna, city of dreams? Maybe. Certainly a city of history.
Located on the mighty Danube it was founded by the Celts and
became a Roman military station in the first century BC. In
more recent times, it was the seat of The Holy Roman Empire
(1558-1806) and of the near all-conquering Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian
Empire until 1918. During this time the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815)
carved up post-Napoleonic Europe. Certainly in the last four
centuries it has been a city of music, renowned for its own
born composers, Schubert, Johann Strauss (the younger) and Schoenberg.
Other famous names such as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler
lived there for important creative parts of their lives. This
collection of Viennese scenes uses the music of the younger
Strauss, the Waltz King, as background to a city tour.
To the accompaniment of the Wiener Blut Walz, Op. 354,
the opening Chapter gives a wide perspective of the city including
the narrow streets, the awesome St Stephen's Cathedral, the
mighty New City Hall, the Palace of Schonbrunn and, in passing,
the Opera house. The latter also marks a point in Austria’s
darker history. The allies bombed it on 12 March 1945, leaving
only its impressive staircase intact. The date is not without
significance. It was on 12 March 1938 that Austria elected to
cohabit with the German Nazi dictatorship that within little
over a year had plunged Europe into a Second World War. The
Opera House re-opened with a great concert of opera stars in
1955. It can be seen in all its glory (CH.6). The accompanying
waltz, Wiener Blut (Vienna Blood), was first performed
on 22 April 1873 at a concert to open a ball at the lovely Vienna
Musikverein in celebration of the wedding of the Emperor's daughter.
It was to be a location subsequently used for many famous recordings.
Do not be misled into thinking that the Coffee Houses of Vienna
(CH. 3) are like your local Starbucks or Café Nero. Coffee
is thought to have come to Western Europe after the defeat of
the Turkish armies besieging Vienna in 1683. Vienna is now famous
for its coffee houses, many particularly opulent, including
the magnificent Central, the Frauenhuber, the Hawelka and the
Cafe Demel, all seen here.
More impressive still is the Ringstrasse built under the Emperor
Franz Joseph in the second half of the 19th century. This was
after the demolition of the city walls initiated by Napoleon.
In the Stadtpark (CH.2) is the gilded statue of Johann Strauss
the younger, composer of the music providing the background
to these views with his violin. We also find there statues of
older composers include one of Schubert. Strauss’s Perpetuum
Mobile is an appropriate accompaniment to Street Life in
Vienna (CH.4) as is the polka Bitte Schön to look
at the Prater, now a focus on physical activity rather than
an imperial hunting ground.
As indicated, the rebuilt Opera House is shown in all its glory
(CH.6). Its staircase and foyer are decorated with pictures
of scenes from opera. Strangely the Polka Leichtes Blut
is chosen as backing, rather than that of Die Fledermaus
overture, which is used for Chapter 8. Magnificent nights at
the Vienna Opera, one of the best operatic addresses, are matched
by views of nocturnal Vienna, meandering past illuminated fountains.
The City Hall and the Cathedral are resplendent courtesy of
son et lumière Viennese style.
The visit to Austria’s City of Music concludes with views
of The Press Club Concordia Ball. It is an important formal
social occasion and is held in the new Rathaus, with its spacious
hall, 233 feet in length, on the second Friday in June. Many
of the ladies, in resplendent gowns, along with their partners,
show how the Viennese waltz should be danced (CH.8).
While many of this series are filmed in fine weather, rain also
happens at the most inappropriate times for the cinematographer
and his editors. They make the best of it here to give a glimpse
of a city with its own history and musical connections.
Robert J Farr