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Old 23rd July 2004, 08:25 PM   #1
SY is offline SY  United States
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Default My trip to Vienna

Much to the relief of all, I've been rather quiet the last several weeks due to some extensive work-related travel. My last stop was a couple of weeks in Austria which included some very enjoyable time in Vienna. Like most tourists there, in the past I've gone to concert halls and formal venues- and I treasure those experiences. But this was the first time I've been there during the summer and I have to say that of all the places I've been, Vienna has the BEST street music.

Unlike the concert hall experience, there's no requirements for formal dress (I absolutely despise having to wear anything fancier than jeans and a t-shirt). There's a real interaction between the audience and the performers. The music is acoustic, live and unamplified. And the musicians are EVERYWHERE, so there's a vast range of ambient acoustic to enjoy. It seems like every archway and tunnel in the Zentrum has at the minimum a couple of violinists, and sometimes a bit more than that. For a more "open" sound, you can find various ensembles playing along streets and pedestrain walkways.

Two outstanding experiences were a Saturday afternoon band concert by a wind and percussion ensemble called "Weingut Koch" (sounds like a winery, not a band!). They played arrangements of some traditional German and Austrian songs with real feeling and a sense of fun (or as much sense of fun as you can project on a hot sunny day while wearing dark, heavy band uniforms). Intonation and precision were of the good amateur level, but the enjoyment quotient was thoroughly professional. Moving to the other end of the spectrum, Kaleidoscope is a Russian trio consisting of a balalaika, a contrabass balalaika, and button accordian. They play arrangements of classical chestnuts but with real style and brio. Sounds goofy and it is, but I kept going back to hear more and bought their CD. They play in the early evening along the broad pedestrian walkway which runs from Rotenturm to the Opernring. If you're in the area, they're worth going out of your way to see. The precision of the playing is thoroughly pro.

A few minutes away from Vienna is the sleepy town of Baden bei Wien. This is famous for its hot baths which attract people of all ages from 70 to 100. It's the Florida of Austria. Made me feel like a kid; it's not often that I'm the youngest person in sight, but there it is. But the Kur orchestra puts on live concerts near the casino and they are 100% enjoyable. One can get a certain sense of enjoyment observing the other visitors swinging their canes and walkers in time to the music. The orchestra doesn't play anything particularly challenging, but they do have a nice energy.

You know, if I lived around there and had that much live acoustic music going on around me, I'd dump this hobby. Hifi is a poor substitute.
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