Salzburg Journal, Part I

Antonio Pappano (© Musacchio Ianniello/EMI Classics)


He walks us through a variety of pieces — or part of the way through them. He suggests how to perform them, what to think about them. For example, he shows us how he begins Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — not an easy piece to begin. He conducts and sings. Then he continues with the piece, a bit. It’s positively thrilling. There is no need for an orchestra, in this lecture room. The music is there, perfectly apparent.

A little later, he sings a portion of an opera aria: “Che gelida manina,” from La bohème. His wife is in the audience: Pamela Bullock, a voice coach. I call out to her, “How’d he do?” “Fine,” she answers. “It’s one of his best arias.”

Oh, I wish you could have been there. (I’ll be saying that a lot in this journal, I think.)

I notice a store, on one of the main drags here in Salzburg: Azwanger. I met Mr. Azwanger once. His store was established in 1656: exactly 100 years before Mozart was born (steps away from the store).

Here’s a fact I remember: You know what the Azwanger store’s first phone number was? 9. Just 9.

I pass a clarinetist on the street — he’s playing a jazz version of the Albinoni Adagio. It works, amazingly enough.

As I’ve commented in journals past, Salzburg boasts exceptionally good street music. It’s better than a lot of the music you pay for, elsewhere. (Of course, you can always pay a street musician.)

Across a table from me sits a friendly sort. I ask where he’s from. “Upper Austria,” he says. I know this area a little: Where, specifically? The man hesitates, then says softly, behind his hand, and with a chuckle: “Braunau.”

Ah — got it. Birthplace of Hitler. Oh, well. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were born somewhere too.

This is kind of funny: There are some pretty well-heeled people about. They tend to have multiple homes: in a city; in another city, on another continent; in some mountains; by a seashore. A lady says to me, “Jay, where do you live, mainly?”

I love that “mainly.”

An Austrian friend of mine is not too happy with Obama — because of technological spying. He says, “You know what Obama’s new slogan should be? ‘Yes, we scan.’”

That’s a new one on me. Apparently, it has made the rounds in this country.

By the way, you remember when Obama, way back, said, “I don’t know what the term is in Austrian”? If Reagan or a Bush or Quayle or Palin had said that . . .

I learn from the papers, and from e-mails, that Regina Resnik has died. She was an important — indeed, great — mezzo-soprano. From the Bronx. I attended a couple of dinners with her. Smart, caustic lady.

Once, she said something really, really harsh about Christian Thielemann: German conductor, who, years ago, was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. He denied it — credibly, I think.

Anyway, hours after hearing about Regina, I go to the Grosses Festspielhaus — Great Festival Hall — to hear Thielemann conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony. Funny how Regina and Thielemann have converged on my day.

Let me tell you a quick thing, before I go: Some friends of mine attended an opera performance. In front of them — in front of one of them, in particular — was a lady wearing a hat with a big feather sticking out of it. The feather obstructed my friend’s view. In frustration, my friend took a picture of it (and the lady, and the hat as a whole).

“If only I had had a pair of scissors!”

Thanks for joining me, friends, and see you tomorrow.