Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10/26 In Search of Beethoven's Vienna Pt 2

This ceiling has heard it all.
Continuing my Vienna Journal from yesterday:

Part 2 - Beethoven Homes - Greichenbeisel - Redoutensaal - Theater an der Wien

Day 2 (continued)
After all those stairs in the Pasqualati House we were hungry so we stopped at Molly Darcy's Irish Pub and I had fish and chips (it takes me awhile to get into native cuisine).  A post-dinner wander led us into a political rally where we mingled with the progressive young folk and drank free booze.  Anyways, I'll concentrate on the Beethoven stuff...  The next 2 Beethoven homes we hit were 1 Renngasse, followed by 10 Tiefer Graben.  At 1 Renngasse B. performed here but only stayed over 1 night in 1816.  That's a short stay!  Schubert's 1st public performance was here in 1818.  Did B. attend?  At 10 Tiefer Graben there is a mural that says B. stayed here in 1815, but later research has shown he was actually here in 1800.  I'm pretty sure the buildings at both sites were rebuilt since Beethoven's stay.  Later on we accidentally ran into the Griechenbeisl.  This is a fine half-millennium-old restaurant (opened in 1447!) which B. frequented often.  It looks almost exactly the same as it did in the 15th century.  It was a bit too expensive for my tastes tho, maybe when it hits the 600 year mark...
10 Tiefer Graben.  The wall mural is actually wrong...
The Griechenbeisl restaurant opened 560 years ago.
Beethoven ate here a mere 200 years ago.

Day 3
Hofburg Palace in Beethoven's day.
Which door?
Monday we explored the Hofburg Palace and learned all about Austria's famous Princess Sissi.  Sadly, she was stabbed by an attention-seeking psycho.  Seems some things never change.  I was looking forward to visiting the Grosse Redoutensaal (Grand Ballroom) where B. premiered "Wellington's Victory",Symphony No.8, and Symphony No.7 but it is apparently closed to non-ballroom-dancing tourists.  We tried to sneak in but a cleaning lady caught us.  A couple nights later I tried to sneak in during some corporate event but I'm almost positive the security guys would have been worse than the cleaning lady.  Fortunately there is an online tour of the ballroom which I will post later in the week.  Taking a break from the "Beethoven-quest", we visited the Otto Wagner pavilion which is a famous "Jugendstil" architectural site.  We also had lunch at the Palmenhaus Cafe which is situated next to a live butterfly preserve.   We passed on the butterflies since it was kind of expensive to get in and "Butterflies are free". 
Redoutensaal today.  From Beethoven to...this?
Next was the day's highlight which was the tour of the Theater an der Wien.  Beethoven was a resident composer here for a short time and held one of the greatest concerts of all time here on December 22, 1808.  The setlist was the 5th and 6th Symphonies, the Choral Fantasia, the 4th Piano Concerto and more.  It was a 5 hour concert.  Read more about it here.  The tour was in German but since I had brought my Beethoven notes with me I don't think I missed it too much.  Inside the theater, I put the 5th Symphony on my headphones and tried to imagine sitting there in that concert hall 200 years ago and being among the crowd to hear that iconic "Ba-ba-ba-baam!" theme for the very first time!  When we got on stage I could see what Beethoven must have seen when he conducted and performed there (except for the empty seats of course).  Surprisingly the hall itself is relatively small compared to today's major concert halls.  On our last day of the trip we returned for a concert featuring the music of Kurt Weill.  Even though it wasn't Beethoven I got the feeling of what it must have been like to enjoy an evening of "contemporary" music....check out my video tour at the bottom.
Onstage at the Theater an der Wien: my Beethoven impression - except I'm facing the wrong way...
It's showtime!
After the tour we cruised thru the Nachtmarkt which is a kind of food flea market.  There are dozens of foodstalls here featuring organic vegetables to Japanese noodles to fresh octopus to indian spices.  We stopped in a local eatery and joined a table of Germans who were actually touring thru Vienna while performing in a male chorus.  Only in Vienna could you find yourself drinking with complete random strangers and talk about the Missa Solemnis!  Really nice guys.  We finished the day by visiting the site where the 9th Symphony was premiered, which used to be the Karntnertor Theater, but which is now Cafe Mozart in the Sacher Hotel.  We had a "sacher torte" which is a famous Viennese chocolate cake but I actually wasn't that crazy about it.  On the way back to the hotel we also passed thru the Neuermarkt (New Market?) area where the "zum Weissen Schwan" (the White Swan) used to be.  Beethoven use to write his friend Zmeskall, "Let us meet at seven this evening at the Schwan and drink more of their disgusting red wine."  Next door was a concert hall, the Mehlgrube, where Beethoven performed (as well as Mozart).  Now all that is gone and been replaced by the Ambassador Hotel.  Fortunately the next day we'd be visiting some places virtually unchanged since Beethoven's day....
Cafe Mozart at the site (but not building)
where the 9th Symphony premiered.
Chocolate cake over-rated.

My video tour of the Theater an der Wien:

Click on the square pic below to see more photos of Part 2. 
You can watch here on Youtube as a slide show as well...
Vienna 2
Well - this is my 100th post!  Continued...

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