Salute to Austria
There are several contributory sources and countries to what is generally called German culture, because the language is the same, or at least very similar. The expression of culture however can vary considerably in the various nations that have German as a national language, as it is the case with Austria and Switzerland.
The similarities are quite a few and they tie us closer together. But the differences are the interesting expressions of culture we admire and enjoy most.
In Canada all sources of German culture are in ample supply with various organisations making sure and contributing to the continuance of such diverse cultural expressions.
The pre-Christmas gathering at the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto is such an annual affair that draws quite a crowd for an evening of cultural offerings.
As every year the evening has a standard format of introductions, of choirs singing seasonal songs and the reading of Christmas related stories appears to be of great interest to the listeners. Who comes? For the most part it is the older generation, grandparent age, only a few younger families attended. We counted only 5 children collecting presents, which Santa had left for them.
For the older folks it is a sentimental journey into the past; and as the years wear on even the stories reflect the age of the compliant attendees. They evolve around death and dieing, instead of new beginnings. While everyone was munching on Stollen, cookies, sweets and mandarin oranges, Manfred Petz conducted the Austrian Choir Edelweiss as well as the Schola Cantorum with Christmas songs and Guenther Kunzelmann read the poems and the sad stories with high literary value.
It could not be helped, it was a bit glum, but spirits rose as the official part neared its ending and the most delicious and famous Goulash soup of Josef Ebner (Regional Vice President and Managing Director, Delta Chelsea Hotel) with all the trimmings was about to be served, to be followed by some sing-a-long Lieder.
That evening there were several individuals present that have been honoured for their activities of keeping the Austrian traditions, arts and culture alive. Josef Ebner and Christine Meyer have been earlier recipients. This year Manfred Petz, choir conductor, received the "Goldene Verdienstzeichen" of the Republic of Austria for his work with the choirs and bringing cultural presentations to our local audiences. The president of the Burgenlaender Clubs, Otto Novakovics, was also presented with this honour, as were some time ago, in 2005, Marion and Attila Glatz, for bringing the joy of "Salute to Vienna" to the concert stages of North America. For more then 10 years now, since 1995, this Viennese New Years tradition has conquered city by city, 33 in all thus far, and many thousands of fans.
Sitting there among the many honoured people of our local Canadian Austrians demonstrates that it takes a lot of special effort, talent and dedication to make life special and worth living for the rest of us. As long as there are man and women of vision, ready to serve the greater good, our civilisations have a chance to exist for a very long time. That also makes it obvious that it is an individual effort, which is capable of leading, changing and bettering a circumstance with vision and persistent hard work, not the ideas of large groups of people, even though they can be contributories. This is a concept we often forget in a democracy.
Power of Music
Attila Glatz and his wife Marion had such a vision of music making the world a better place. Mr. Glatz knows that this is true from his own experience, when he lived in an oppressed Hungary. Music gave people hope to carry on for a chance at a better future. Marion Glatz believes in the power of music too and the importance of upholding traditions and making dreams come true.
This latest New Years Salute to Vienna, with the irrepressibly charming and upbeat sounds from Strauss, Lehar and Kalman compositions and the wonderful artists performing with the Strauss Symphony of Canada under the baton of Viennese born Sascha Goetzel was nothing short of spectacular! Because of the cancellation of the planned soprano a substitute singer had to be found within 24 hours. It was Canadian Janet Catherine Dea, and she was fabulous. The European tenor, Alexander Kaimbacher, was also quite taken with her when they sang together.
Yes, the programme was changed slightly to accommodate Ms. Dea, but it made no difference to the theme of the concert, nor the quality. Both soprano and tenor preformed to much enthusiastic applause. Each segment was introduced by the Maestro Goetzel. Like our Peter Oundjian he started out as violin player. Perhaps that is why his style is so elegant and fluid. His anecdotes were enlightening and caused much laughter.
Members of the Vienna International Ballet added much to an already perfect afternoon, whether they performed a classical waltz or a funny interlude.
The planned encores at the end of the concert proved that no one wanted to go home on either side of the footlights, and old acquaintances were not forgotten.
One would think that this concert was sold out to all local Austrians, but no, I noticed many members of other cultures, including Middle Eastern, enjoying this New Years extravaganza.
Nearby Hamilton had a pretty full house for the concert under the same name with different artists and so did Kitchener, even though they appear to have had a bit less of an audience there. But everywhere in the 33 North American locations people loved it as much as we did!
There is only one thing to say: BRAVO!!!!!!!!
Männerchor Harfentöne invites
There were other occasions where we could find the Austrian culture apparent, outside of the many Mozart celebrations all year round. When the Männerchor Harfentöne invited to a Christmas concert in Toronto’s St. Patrick’s Church, the Austrian Choir Edelweiss was also there, as was Scholar Cantorum with Manfred Petz conducting. Since he took over the Austrian Choir there have been quite a few pleasant changes. The choir has improved much and sings with much more confidence.
At the beginning of the concert President of the Harfentöne Erwin Burchert reminded us of the purpose for the concert, the jubilation of the birth of Christ, and how wonderful it is to sing together with other choirs like the Edelweiss Choir, with whom they have sung for the last 30 years on a regular basis. We also learnt that the conductor of the Harfentöne, Alfred Schormann, has been leading the choir for 48 years now. Linda Marcinko on the piano has been there for them also a very long time and is always thanked with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
Luckily this year the big St. Patricks’ Church was filled to capacity. Somehow it sounds better in a full church. The mighty voices of the big Harfentöne easily filled the big space with the glorious sounds from melodies by Pappert, Grebe, Breuer, Weber, Haendel, Gruber, Sonnet und their one composition by their conductor Alfred Schormann. The Edelweiss Choir brought us the tender melodies of Maierhofer, Muthspiel and Weinschenk: Scholar Cantorum delivered Bach, Preatorius and songs from other countries, giving the concert and international flair. Baritone George Brennauer performed a Solo with the Hymn for a Christmas Day by John Gross. And in-between everyone was asked to join in the jubilations with an old familiar Christmas song like O Du Froehliche and Stille Nacht, an Austrian Christmas super hit in any language. We can never hear it often enough, not at this wonderful concert or anywhere else. This Austrian original has conquered the world and our hearts.
We must be grateful to the choirs for singing for us and bringing us back in time to our first home country. Luckily we are free to practice our culture in this country openly, something that is not necessarily allowed or easily done elsewhere.
The Chamber Orchestra by this name was founded by Mayumi Seiler. She grew up with 3 other sisters as the daughters of a musician Father, German, and a musician Mother, Japanese, who had met in New York. In Salzburg many a musician had opportunity to study and to hone the craft and develop a love for music in various forms. Thus it also was for Mayumi and Via Salzburg is the perfect expression of her energetic and enthusiastic, versatile and exciting chamber orchestra. We have in the past often reported about it and will do so again. The season opener in the Glenn Gould studio with its perfect sound was nothing short of spectacular. This time again the guest artist was of a special calibre.
The programme started with the Christmas Concerto by Arcangelo Corelli, was followed by Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, one of his most popular and beloved concertos. Bach said he composed it for music lovers, to refresh their spirit. And that it did.
After the intermission a newer work was performed, composed in the year 2000 by Linda Catlin Smith as a millennium celebration of music from the 14th century. This exciting composition was not melodious in a traditional way; it was rather the transcription of the wavelength of those "subtilitas" of the past. It would be interesting to paint these sounds on canvas and see how they intertwine in regular intervals.
During the evening the audiences relationship with a rarely used instrument became very intimate. Borys Medicky lent total authenticity to the period music with his expert playing of the harpsichord. One could almost imagine sitting in Zimmermann’s Coffee House in Leipzig during Bach’s time, sipping something delicious, tapping a foot, just wanting to dance.
At last the guest artist, Jaime Martin, Flute, dazzled the audience in Bach’s Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067 for Flute, Strings and Harpsichord. This was Via Salzburg at its best! The interplay of the superb orchestra members, the soloist who did not appear to have come from Europe but straight from Mount Olympus, increased heartbeats. Never have we heard Bach played quite so spirited and virtuously. The standing ovations at he end of the concert were very well earned indeed. We can hardly wait for the next instalment of the Via Salzburg series, which takes place January 11 and 12. It will deliver exotic sounds to us with George Gao, who plays the Erhu, the Chinese traditional string instrument. There will also be Schoenbergs "Verklaerte Nacht" and Jose Evangelista’s Air D’espange". Go to www.viasalzburg.com to find out more or call 416-927-9193. You can also email to email@example.com .
So you can see, there is a little bit or a lot of Austria to be found in many places in the greater Canadian cultural landscape. You do not have to look far.
Until next time
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send mail to email@example.com
questions or comments about this web site.