A Musical Journey: Vienna - Austria’s City of Music
Chapter 1 - City Scenes and State Opera
Chapter 2 - Stadtpark and Volksgarten
Chapter 3 - Coffee-Houses
Chapter 4 - Street Life
Chapter 5 - The Prater
Chapter 6 - An Evening at the Opera
Chapter 7 - Vienna by Night
Chapter 8 - Concordia Hall
Music by Johann Strauss II from Naxos CDs 8.550336-39: Famous Waltzes, Marches and Overtures Vols 1-4. Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ondrej Lenárd and Martin Sieghart. Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra/Oliver von Dohnányi
No recording dates or venues given
DVD Directors: G. Gachot and Roland Boss
Cameraman: H T Aschwanden
Audio Format: DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PCM Stereo 2.0
Video Format: NTSC. Region 0. Colour. Aspect ratio 4:3
NAXOS DVD 2.110331 [52.27]
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
Captivating glimpses of a city with a long history as well as musical connections second to none.
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