Irregular Museums and Questioning Mozart

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These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do…”

SHOES AS A FETISH?

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Yes, indeed, come and have a look at the exhibition “SHOEting STARS” at the KUNST HAUS WIEN (Art House Vienna)….but you better have casual footwear.  Why?

140618shoetingstarsThe KUNST HAUS WIEN is a building designed and planned by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian painter and architect (“Each straight line is godless”). He died in 2000 while aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth 2. He has been buried in his private grounds in New Zealand, two feet beneath, wrapped naked in a cloth without a coffin….

In his buildings he wanted uneven floors, non-regulated irregularities and barriers of beauty, forests on the roof and spontaneous vegetation…You understand now my hint of casual footwear? He replaced monotony with variety and the grid system with the organic and non-regulated irregularities. So when visiting the Kunst Haus Wien you better leave the high heels at the hotel…

The Emperor’s New Muse (In 1783, That Is)

A peculiar museum to have a look at – even with high heels – is hidden in the Josephinum. Emperor Joseph II (1741 – 1790) reformed the public health and administration. He founded the Vienna General Hospital and, as a part of it, the Josephinum, which was built by the court architect Isidor Canevale.  It’s one of the outstanding buildings of Enlightenment in Vienna.

One of its distinctive features: the collection of wax anatomical models and medical tools developed for everyday use in the 18th century…so the famous Instrumentarium Chirurgicum Viennense, arranged in over 30 red leather caskets, served both to train aspiring surgeons and as a model for standardized production throughout the Habsburg Realm.

And after the visit – I am sure – you’ll need a drink nearby in the bar “mittendrin” (in the thick of it) organized by the homeless, and while stirring in the ‘Kleiner Brauner’ (espresso), you may thank heaven to live some centuries later.

Also on the museum trail:  A documentary – Das große Museum (The Big Museum) – shows the difficulties of a famous museum, here the Kunsthistorische Museum Wien (Museum of Arts and History), to present its collection of world-famous paintings in the 21st century. The movie opens with a guy on a lifting ramp counting “two, three…six clothes moth.” Maintenance covers both the care of all the art objects as well as hunting bugs….and an old department head feeds cheese to the raven at his office window. The process of maintenance will never be finished: Pieter Brueghel Großer Turmbau zu Babel (Big Construction of Tower at Babel) at the end of the documentary shows the way.

Mozart’s “Instrumental Oratory”

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 85, surprised the public with his perception of the last three symphonies of W.A. Mozart – KV (Köchel catalogue) 543, 550 and 551 (“Jupiter”): “To start with I don’t believe anything…” and he continues “Mozart has not written three but one single work. I call it – I have no better word – instrumental oratory.”

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Conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Why – Harnoncourt asks – did Mozart compose in 1788 — in only six weeks — three huge symphonies without assignment, without cause, and not experiencing money troubles? No hints or traces of any performance in Mozart’s lifetime. May these three symphonies be interpretated as Mozart’s vision of a new and prospective symphonic work? Harnoncourt is assisted by Peter Gülke, 80, legendary musicologist and conductor, who received the famous € 250,000 Ernst-von-Siemens-Musikpreis (award). The Jupiter Symphony can be understood as the synthesis of es-major and g-minor (Köchel catalogue 543, 550).

Go and get the new disc by Harnoncourt and his orchestra, the Concentus Musicus Wien published by Sony Classical – and find out whether he’s right or wrong.

Elsewhere

“Und der Himmel hängt voller Geigen…”(Heaven is Full of Violins) a song from Der liebe Augustin by Leo Fall, Austrian composer of well-known operettas: It may be hummed in the ’60s by the late Lauren Bacall: as a star-guest at the film festival Vienna in 2004 she remembered that then her planned marriage with Jason Robards at Vienna could not take place because of the missing death certificate of Humphrey Bogart (died in 1957).

General Music Direktor Franz Welser-Möst, since 2012 in this position, handed in his resignation from all his obligations. He will not conduct his 34 evenings at the Vienna State Opera during the new season, not even his last huge success at the Salzburg Festival : “Der Rosenkavalier” (The Knight of the Rose) by Richard Strauss…It is said that he and the director of the State opera have severe differences of opinion on how to run the opera’s artistic interests.

 

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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.