Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interval adventures: Berlin

It's been long enough since my last opera outing that I'm starting to actively plan the next one (Tannhäuser on Thursday, if the train schedule and the rush ticket situation are favorable,) but in the interim, I've spent a thoroughly pleasurable weekend in Berlin. Although it didn't involve actual opera attendance, it did involve many conversations about opera with my hostess, and the visiting of several musical landmarks. A stroll along Kurfürstendamm took us past the former residences of musicians, including Rudolf Nelson. I haven't found any of his operetta music on YouTube, but it does have his 1924 shimmy, "Der Harem von Kurfürstendamm."

My conscientious Gastgeberin made sure that I experienced the glories of the opera section at Dussmann's. I have a Really Shameful Confession to make, Gentle Readers: I was so overwhelmed by its glories that I didn't purchase a single thing.

The Wagner section alone was overwhelming. I did make one proud purchase in Berlin, though. A little mild haggling at a street market, and I was able to bring this beautiful thing home:

I apologize for the snapshot glare, but look at its fabulousness! Not only has the "L" in Liederkranz been turned into an Apollonian lyre, but there's smoke from a holy flame.

Happiness, as Charles Schultz might have said, is coming home to play Lieder in the evenings. And this volume is filled with a bounty of them--nearly a hundred. Schumann is the most fully represented, with nearly 30 Lieder; Schubert and Mendelssohn are close behind, and Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Weber round out the number. I'm left wondering about how the excerpts from Winterreise ("Der Lindenbaum," "Die Post") and Die Schöne Müllerin ("Der Neugierige," "Ungeduld," "Morgengruss," "Trockne Blumen") were selected. I now have a twofold mission: to discover what scholarly ink may have been spilled on the question of partial song cycles as parlor music, and to actually learn to play this music properly.


  1. Oh how wonderful! I'm especially thrilled by Liederkranz! It reminds me that somewhere I read a review of a JK recital in Wien (?) that mentioned a couple of songs from Winterreise as being part of their school singing program. Whut... Although that might explain why the audience started laughing at the beginning of Der Post? I thought perhaps he'd knocked a water bottle over or something... Hooray and thanks for the picture of Glorious Dussmann and of your Hostess! Wish we could have a lovely Tweet-up in Berlin...

    1. Quite - it was my friend who wrote that, though according to her school singing has now been taken off the curriculum. My grandmother was also issued some book in the 1930s in which there's a tricky duet thing she can still sing perfectly in thirds even though she otherwise doesn't read music and is somewhat tone-deaf. Then again rote learning in Austria at that time went hand in hand with corporal punishment, so this was more about instilling discipline than learning music anyway. My grandmother mentions singing after school with her sisters while frolicing in the trees of the Simmeringer Haide (which makes me think of the Do-Re-Mi montage in the Sound of the Music) - but only as practice to correct their mistakes and be spared the birch the next morning. So much for the civilizing influence of Schubert!

    2. What wonderful stories! Singing to be spared the birch does sound like a strange mashup of Sound of Music with Das Weisse Band...! "Am Brunnen vor dem Tore" is the one my father still knows.

  2. I was wondering who the babe was in the bookstore picture was, thanks ivisbohlen, wow she is stunning. (long time lurker, first time poster)


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