TRAVEL PURSUITS – Sachertorte and Paprikash, Sept. 27 – Oct. 7, 2011

Heaven, Vienna mine
I’m in the spell of your charms divine
Dressed like a queen, with life so gay
You are the love of my heart today

Heaven, Vienna mine
Laughter and music and stars that shine
Wonderful city where I belong
Of her I sing my song

Dear Friends,

The quote above is from the song “Vienna, The City of My Dreams,” and I can attest. I’ve visited Vienna many times, and it has become one of my favourite European cities. Of course, for a music lover Vienna is hard to beat. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, the Strauss family and many other composers were inspired by Vienna and called it home. It’s the home of the Vienna State Opera, The Volksoper, The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the world-famous concert halls theMusikverein and the Konzerthaus, the Vienna Boys Choir – need I go on?

Few cities in the world glide so effortlessly between the present and the past like Vienna. Its splendid historical face is easily recognised: grand imperial palaces and bombastic baroque interiors, museums flanking magnificent squares and, above all, the Hofburg – where the Habsburg rulers lived, loved and married into empires. But this historical aspect often makes us forget that Vienna is also one of Europe’s most dynamic urban spaces. Just a stone’s throw from Hofburg, the MuseumsQuartier houses some of the world’s most provocative contemporary art

The 20th Century alone offers enough ‘culture’ to fill an entire textbook with intricate descriptions. Starting with Freud’s Vienna, to Art Nouveau or the paintings of Gustav Klimt, the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, and the plays and novels of  Elfriede Jelinek who won Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, Vienna .

Downriver on the Danube is Budapest, the stunning capital of Hungary, dating back to the 9th century. In 1873, Buda on the west bank of the river, and Pest on the east bank, were united to form the single metropolis, now a World Heritage Site. The view from the Danube at night with the Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament Building lit up, can take your breath away. A long-time commercial, transportation and cultural hub, in 2009  Budapest was ranked as central Europe’s most livable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Of course, musically it can boast of Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, Erno Dohnanyi, as well as the Franz Liszt Academy of Music and the spectacular neo-Renaissance style, Hungarian State Opera House.

Ann Kirkland and I request the pleasure of your company this fall in two beautiful cities for Sachertorte and Paprikash: Musical Meanderings Along the Blue Danube , September 27 – October 7, 2011. It is a lovely time of year to immerse ourselves in Viennese and Hungarian culture, music, food and wine.

The Austrian white wine, Gruner Veltliner, is enjoying a surge of popularity now, worldwide, and the sweet Hungarian dessert wine, Tokai, has been a favourite of emperors and monarchs for centuries. I’ve selected several wonderful concerts for us to enjoy, and will offer informal talks on the music, the history and the culture. I’m always keen for questions and discussions, especially before and after concerts. We’ll visit the famous sites, museums, concert halls and galleries, but I’ll also steer you away from tacky tourist attractions and into the heart and soul of both cities. We will connect with working musicians to hear of their experiences and to question them about life in Vienna and Budapest. At the risk of sounding like a snob, the musical standards are higher than in North America, and I know it will be a stimulating, rewarding experience that you will cherish forever.

Performances we’re hoping to see in Vienna (schedule permitting) include the Wiener Staatsoper’s brilliant new production of Handel’s Alcina with Marc Minkowski conducting. And at the Musickverein, one of the world’s concert halls, the Wiener Orchestra Mozart with Claudio Abbado conducting, and the Wiener Symphoniker with Andrey Boreyko conducting. Our schedule in Budapest will be finalized shortly.”

Rick Phillips
For 14 years, Rick Phillips was the Host and Producer of SOUND ADVICE, the weekly guide to classical music and recordings, heard across Canada on CBC Radio. As well as broadcasting and webcasting, he is also a busy freelance writer and reviewer, lecturer, panel moderator, consultant, musical tour guide, artistic director and concert host. Rick is an ever-popular seminar leader at Toronto Pursuits.


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