Posts Tagged Beethoven

Four beautiful cities in Europe – Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg – July, 2017


We arrived in Munich, Germany and spent the day on our own touring the city, specifically the Central Marienplatz Square surrounded by Neo Gothic landmarks and high end modern stores. Next day we joined organized tour by Cosmos and started driving towards Prague.  On the way, we stopped at Nuremberg, a city in northern Bavaria, distinguished by medieval architecture. The Hauptmarkt (central square) contains the Schöner Brunnen, the gilded “beautiful fountain” with tiers of figures, and Frauenkirche, a 14th-century Gothic church. Strolled the square and enjoyed gelato.

 

 

Prague is capital of new Czech Republic. Part of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic was in a sort of a time wrap behind the Soviet iron curtain until 1989. When the curtain fell, a McDonald’s opened within 29 minutes and the country has not looked back since. Along with many trappings of the modern society, there are stark reminders of the past. The countryside is still lined up with insipid looking 10+ story buildings, many of them without an elevator, that were used to house the factory workers. The capital city Prague is bisected by the Vltava River and Charles bridge that is lined with statues of Catholic saints. Prague nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” is known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show. Time was too short to enjoy this city with medieval charm and strong Austrian influence. Prior to World War I, Czechoslovakia was part of the mighty Austro-Hungarian empire. We did a quick deep dive into the history, palaces and churches of the city but I would have loved to spend time with the locals and learn more about how they lived under Soviet influence and relentless propaganda and what was it like to drink change through the fire hose when the curtain fell.

 


Wowed by
Vienna, capital of Austria. If Prague had a medieval feel, Vienna felt regal OR as locals say… It is very ShikiMiki…Situated on the Danube River, Vienna’s artistic and intellectual legacy has been shaped by it’s well known monarch, Maria Teresia and other Hapsburgs and genius artists like Mozart, Beethoven, Strausse and also Sigmund Freud. Strolling through the main square and landmark St. Stevens Cathedral and plague memorial was amazing. Besides tons of gelato, I also greatly enjoyed sunflower seeds bread and Saher chocolate torte at the world famous Saher cafe. Visit through the incredibly gorgeous Schönbrunn Palace and gardens gave an insight into the Habsburgs might and opulence.

 

I was completely blown away by Budapest’s beauty and medieval charm. I did not expect it. Budapest, Hungary’s capital, gets it’s name by merger of two cities Buda and Pest, bisected by the River Danube. Its 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. Nicknamed Paris of the East with sweeping vistas all around, and vibrant nightlife, this is a city to enjoy… Hungary, once part of the mighty Austro-Hungarian empire, is now a very small country of 10 million residents of whom 2M reside in Budapest. Hungarians feel bummed out as they were invaded, annexed, and ruled by many Invaders. But I feel due to circumstances or whatever the case may be, Hungary also happened to be on the losing side in both world wars and that loss exacted a stiff price. In WW II, Hungary made a choice to side with Hitler to get away from the Soviet Union but when Germany lost then in the global arena it was a very small country to have a say and it came under the Soviet control…. So Hungary got dinged both ways; first the Nazis took a toll and then under the communistic Soviet control. Fortunately Budapest’s incredible architecture stands intact. There is SO MUCH BEAUTY TO ENJOY HERE. The dinner cruise on the Danube was the highlight of the trip. While the vegetarian food was nothing to swoon about the gorgeous views all around and lighted buildings kept us riveted, with camera in hand.

 

Salzburg, Austria birthplace of Mozart, where the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music lived prior to escaping Hitler and where the movie is shot has sweeping views of the Eastern Alps with medieval and baroque buildings. To me, Sound of Music epitomizes freedom that sets you free to be a better human being and the courage it takes to do what’s right because freedom is a right but it’s also a responsibility and a privilege. On the way to Salzburg, on a rocky outcrop overlooking Danube river, adjoining the Wachau Valley, we saw Melk Abbey, originally built as a castle, it was gifted to become a church and survived threats and political upheavals. What’s an ordinary looking church from outside has entirely gold and gold plated interior with 40 kg of GOLD, its opulence meant to resonate with Benedictine tenet of “Glory to God in Everything!!!!!! At Salzburg, visited the places associated with the filming of the movie, walked through the town and ended up at the main square with it’s landmark cathedral, Mozart’s House, and shops and food.  Bought Austria’s famous marzipan Mozart chocolates and Salzburg Schnapps and of course a day in any city in Europe must include gelato.


We had our farewell dinner in Munich and took pictures, exchanged emails and departed next day with many beautiful memories.

 

 

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Joseph Haydn (Chamber Music) by Saint Michael Trio at Villa Montalvo Arts Center


This trio of super talented ensemble, entertains and enthralls, delights the audience, and delineates the music of diverse range of composers and genres.  In addition to the classical masterworks, they perform jazz and even rock tunes.  The artists (Daniel Cher, Russell Hancock, and Michael Flexer) make the concerts informative, educational, interesting, witty, and funny.

I attended the performance titled “Haydn on Trial”.  Franz Joseph Haydn, one of the most prominent and prolific composers of the classical period (1732-1809) has also been accused of being simplistic, mechanical and at times, also trivial.  Rising to his defense, the trio performed various pieces of Haydn’s music, interspersed with interesting commentary.  Speaking as if to a jury, Russell Hancock made a strong case to get Haydn acquitted, from the unfair accusations.

Haydn was one of the first composers to write ...

Haydn was one of the first composers to write a pitch change as well as a written out solo for the timpani in a symphonic movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph Haydn pioneered the sonata form of music that would dominate the world of classical music, for over 200 years.  Unlike Bach whose music is precise, controlled, and mathematical, Hayden’s music is a story-telling enterprise.  Hayden introduced narrative aspect to the music.  After the stage is set, the tension is built up to introduce additional themes (like characters in a story), then it is developed further, eventually leading to reconciliation, and finally there is coda or the end with recapitulation.

Haydn was a prolific composer.  He has written 104 symphonies, 54 piano sonata, 24 operas, 76 quartets, 31 concertos, 16 masses, 3 oratories, and 30 songs.   Haydn needs to be compared to the context and the constraints of his time.  Haydn spent nearly 80% of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterhazy family, at their remote estate, in Austria.  He did not enjoy the kind of liberty in composing his music, like Beethoven, for instance.  Haydn wrote pieces requested of him.  Haydn was instrumental in the development of chamber music, such as the piano trio and he is also widely recognized as the pioneer of Symphony and String Quartet.  Haydn was born on the border of Austria and Hungary and he brought the Hungarian folk music elements into his music.  Haydn was also a friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven.

St. Michael Trio performed fantastic pieces of Haydn’s compositions and made a brilliant case on behalf of Haydn.  They proved unequivocally that Haydn if not held to contemporary standards, was a brilliant composer, who also introduced “surprise” elements into his music.

Russel Hancock (Piano), Daniel Cher (Violin), and Michael Flexer (Cello) performed beautifully, presenting the music in highly engaging and interesting manner.  Each of the artists hold high profile careers in the private sector and balance their professional roles with their passion for music.  They are artists-in-residence at Menlo College, perform frequently at Stanford University, and are artists-in-residence at the Villa Montalvo Arts Center.  What San Jose Mercury News says is right on the money, “If these guys were a company, I’d buy stock”.  For further information or for tickets to their performances, go to http://www.saintmichaeltrio.com .

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