Pärt of the trouble

I was hoping to bring you a review of last Friday’s concert at the Musikverein by the Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, performing two pieces (including the highly acclaimed Symphony No.4) by Arvo Pärt – after Philip Glass, my favourite living composer of classical music. Having only been to the Musikverein once in my life before, I felt like an injection of high culture for once, and the fact that Pärt was attending the performance whetted my appetite even more. However, I missed the concert due to an unbelievable scheduling fiasco. The running order was billed as something by Stravinsky and something or other by Rachmaninov in the first half, with the Pärt kicking off after the interval. Since I have no interest in either of those Russian guys, and since a 7.30pm start feels pretty alien to a Rhiz regular like myself, I cleverly – or so I thought – rolled up at 8.45 or thereabouts, all ready to claim my Stehplatz after the break. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I glanced up at the screen helpfully provided in the foyer to see beardy composer and baldy conductor engaged in a touching embrace, prior to exiting stage left along with the entire orchestra. A quick ask around confirmed what had happened. The running order had been changed at the last minute, with Pärt unceremoniously shunted to the first half and Rachmaninov moved to the second.

What the fuck? What kind of venue is it that switches the running order of a concert around and then expects audiences to accept this kind of behaviour as the norm? It’s hard to avoid drawing a comparison with the rock venues I normally frequent, where something like this would never happen. As a confirmed hater of most support bands, wherever possible I time my arrival at the venue in order to avoid the opening act’s invariably mediocre contribution to the evening. I do this secure in the knowledge that I’m not going to miss the part of the concert that I actually want to see. Any venue that decided on a whim to switch the headliner and the opener would swiftly receive very short shrift from the paying audience. I think Throbbing Gristle may have done this once or twice, but that was probably done to “subvert the expectations of the audience” or some such. I do realize that the running order of a classical concert is different, in that it lacks the hierarchy implied by the headliner/opening act binary. But it’s still a pretty shoddy way to manage an event, no matter how much gold leaf is on the walls.

I’m planning to have another go at the Musikverein for a performance of Philip Glass’s Symphony No.9 in June. I guess I should get there early.

The World That Summer

This summertime business is all very well, but I have to say that I prefer winter. Having spent most of the long and hot months of June, July and August in my office cubicle in Vienna, except for two weeks on the beautiful Greek island of Crete, the pleasures of winter seem all the more distant and all the more acute.

Landlocked Vienna is not, despite the occasional pleasures of the Alte Donau, the best place in the world to be in summertime. There’s a distinct lack of pleasant open-air bars and cafés, for one thing, and it would be nice to be able to walk the streets of the 1st district without having to navigate one’s way through throngs of uncertainly pacing tourists. This particular summer is also notable for the fact that large parts of the city are currently being dug up and then laid down again, making life even more difficult than usual for pedestrians. I’ve given up any hope that the dusty wreckage of Landstrasse station will return to some semblance of normality in my lifetime, but maybe before the year is out Graben and Kärntnerstrasse will lose their current resemblance to a vast building site.

I’m also vexed by the question of clothing. An office drone like me has little choice but to wear a suit and tie all year round, which at 32°C is no fun I can tell you. Especially when you leave the office at lunchtime and are seduced by – how can I put this? – the competing distractions of summer fashion.

Sleeping in summer, meanwhile, presents its own unique set of challenges. The night-time hours are riven by conflict: too hot under the bedcovers, too cold without them. Getting to sleep on holiday is no easier, as I’ve recently been discovering. You have a choice between lying awake sweltering in the night-time heat, or lying awake listening to the incessant wheezy hum of the air conditioning unit. All told, I sleep far better in winter than I do in summer.

For me at least, winter can’t come soon enough. Let me dream of going to Peter Brötzmann concerts wearing my old, baggy black jumper, and of walking the streets feeling the satisfying crunch of virgin snow underfoot. Let the coldness of the air freeze my breath and make my cheeks and fingers tingle. Let me part the deep red curtains that guard the entrance to Café F———, and enter its warm embrace to settle down with the Guardian and the perfect melange. Let me dream of once again walking down Schönlaterngasse late at night and being the only person there.

Man assaulted by police dies on the streets of London

I’m not in the habit of making this kind of post, but I’m sickened by this film of a man being assaulted on a London street by a so-called police officer. This vicious and unprovoked attack took place in the middle of a demonstration which the man himself was not taking part in. A few minutes later the man died of a heart attack, leaving a woman without her husband and a man without his father.