Two Outstanding Performing Artists Leave Us

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Summertime And the livin’ is easy…but: media vita in morte sumus

World-famous conductor, composer and, in the 1940s, a child prodigy on the violin (Toscanini engaged him for two concerts with the NBC Orchestra!) Lorin Maazel, director of the Vienna State Opera 1982-1984, and Burgtheater actor Gert Voss, best actor in Europe according to The Times in 1995, both died on July 13, 2014. They leave a mourning public deploring the loss of two outstanding artists who formed and shaped cultural life in Vienna.

Story continues below.



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Gert Voss, King of the Burg

And maybe characteristic of the Viennese way of handling famous artists on their arrival at Vienna: both self-conscious men had difficulties being accepted by the public: Lorin Maazel resigned after two years. Gert Voss, after having transferred in 1986 from Bochum, Germany, to Vienna, used to be booed by the audience while the postman brought nice parcels of excrement to his home…But: Lorin Maazel conducted the famous Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s eve concert) eleven times! And Gert Voss was appointed Honorary Member of the Burgtheater in 2009: the King of the Burg!

May both rest in peace.

And I remember a short line by Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811), author of Dantons Tod (Death of Danton), Amphitryon and Der zerbrochne Krug (The Broken Jug): “any calamity is a twin.”

 Piber meets Vienna

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One famous stallion in flight.

The world-famous Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) with its Lipizzaner from the federal stud at Piber is enjoying the summer holiday: the famous stallions take their “leisure” at Heldenberg in lower Austria—and young blood trainees from Piber enjoy the visit to Vienna. For about three weeks and one hour daily they proudly present themselves to the public at the Burggarten (castle garden), formerly the private garden of the Kaiser. It’s a beautiful and amazing picture:  You walk down Vienna’s famous Ring Street, passing the Opera, and suddenly you see such fine horses…a stone’s throw from the Albertina Museum.

Any idea about genuine mastodons? An American kind of mammoth, it died out approximately 10.000 years ago…I had no idea until I read an article in the newspaper by the University of Iowa’s Robert Bork. There is a new album by Mastodon, the four men from Georgia: Once More ‘Round The Sun—and Robert Bork draws lines from this album to Gothic architecture (“architecture is frozen music—and music melts architecture”) and to Game of Thrones and put the lines down to Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and to Concord, Mass. (which Henry James called “the American Weimar”).

Charles Ives called his second piano sonata Concord, Massachusetts, 1840-1860 and Peter Handke, Austrian author of great reputation, wrote the preface to the German edition of The Common Journal of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne, which was published this summer in Austria. (Due to the late Fr. George Tribou, English teacher at Catholic High, Little Rock, AR, I like the work of Hawthorne and bought the Common Journal.) The village Concord, MA, and Nathaniel Hawthorne are part of the Dark Romanticism…and Robert Bork evidenced the Gothic cathedrals and heavy metal music of Mastodon both to escape this world…for heaven or hell.

Great!

And by the way, I spent a week at Bayreuth to watch the production of Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelungen (Ring cycle)….an early version of Game of Thrones???

And the Austrian newspaper Der Standard remembered the death of Christine Chubbuck on July 15, 1974, in front of running TV cameras—to set an example, a warning, to stop bloodthirsty breakfast TV.

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Architect Hans Hollein

Pritzker pricewinner Hans Hollein, Austrian architect and designer, died in April 2014. The Museum of Applied Arts now opened a wonderful exhibition of his work and drawings, his philosophy (“We have to free architecture from building”), his designs and blueprints.

He built the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, Germany, and Vulcania near Clermond-Ferrand, France. And in Vienna? The Haas-Haus opposite to the Stephansdom, the Wing at the Albertina.

Nicolaus Harnoncourt, former member (cello) of the Vienna Philharmonics, conductor of Concentus musicus, believes that Mozart’s last three symphonies are written as one piece.

More about this and more about Harnoncourt next time! So long! Have a nice summer, servus.

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Gerd-Theo Umberg from 2002 served as a professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts at Frankfurt, becoming vice-president in 2006; since 2010 he has been professor emeritus. Previously he worked 36 years in different German theaters. From 1996 to 2004 he was director of the Staatstheater Darmstadt. He lives in Vienna.