2019’s event, broadcast by PBS, celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the network’s coverage from the Austrian capital. Host Hugh Bonneville commended the State Opera for currently holding its 150th season. The program also explained the relationship between the Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic. You’ll have to watch it here, as I can’t embed it.
The concert opened with the overture to Johann Strauss, Jr.’s operetta The Gypsy Baron, which Bonneville aptly called a piece full of “Hungarian spice, dripping with Viennese schmaltz.” The tempo moves from fiery to languid to flowing. Much the same could be said of the czardas from Strauss’s opera Knight Pasman, which came half-way through the program. Some passages evoke an air of mystery found only in Hungarian (or Magyar-inspired) music, rather like the lingering phrases of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody number 2. In any event, Knight Pasman is representative of the multi-ethnic influences in the old Austro-Hungary. It’s based on a narrative poem by Janos Arany, a leader of his nation’s Romantic movement, and the libretto was written by Jewish-Hungarian Ludwig/Lajos Doczi.
That’s the sort of thing I widely remark on in this blog – for examples, see posts on The Czardas Princess and the breakup of Austria-Hungary.
The hour-and-a-half show also introduced a Turkish march by showing the “Turkish Room” in the Hofburg imperial palace complex. It was decorated in this style by Crown Prince Rudolf following a visit to Upper Egypt shortly after the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. Although I’ve been inside the Hofburg three times (and passed by scores of times), I’ve not actually managed to see that room, so I’ll be looking for tours that include it in future visits to Vienna. But back in 2014, I did see a good selection of artifacts Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand brought home after his round-the-world tour.
One other travel tip from this PBS production is Castle Grafenegg in Lower Austria, which holds the Grafenegg Music Festival every summer and hosts a composer in residence each year.