Due to the fact that recently I have spent a considerable amount of time driving, I decided that there could be no better opportunity to revisit the Ring Cycle.
Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing the Hagen Quartet play at the Konzerthaus (I am in Vienna and will be here for the next 2.5 months, so I am certainly looking forward to a lot of concerts!). This ensemble is one of the premier string quartets in the world and as usual they did not disappoint — except for the fact that they did not play an encore! The program was Beethoven op. 18/4, Bartók’s String Quartet no. 1, and Brahms’s op. 111 Quintet, also featuring Antoine Tamestit as the second viola. Needless to say, the performance was virtually flawless and highly appreciated by the crowd.
As a genre, opera is not a high earner. Indeed, the amount of money that must be invested to produce one is staggering: the costs are high and possibility for success unpredictable. Thus the question of programming has been a primary concern since the start of public opera. What will audiences want to hear? How can balance be achieved between the composition and its execution? Which works will keep the reliable patrons coming and draw in new audience members to the performance?
As I’m sure many of you know already, each year the Vienna Philharmonic presents a concert from the Musikverein showcasing primarily the music of Johann Strauss Jr. This tradition started in 1939, just after the Anschluss which made Austria a province of Germany — as you can probably imagine, there is a whole story to this, and I will elaborate on it further at another time and in another format. Since the 1950s, the concert has been broadcast around the world. There are several traditions associated with this event, including a minimum of two encores (Strauss Jr.’s Blue Danube Waltz followed by Strauss Sr.’s Radetzky March), and this year’s concert followed in the typical vein. Daniel Barenboim was the conductor.