|1st May 1926|
May Day is a great day to have a birthday (am mentioning this for no particular reason! Though if you are of a gift-giving disposition then please do consider Zerbinetta’s pledge drive). More significantly, in the Austrian public holiday stakes International Workers’ Day is regarded as second in importance only to the National Day on 25th October. The marches started here in 1890 and were important events for the burgeoning social democratic movement and its thinkers, whose actions had been both limited and shaped up to this point by the 1867 law on associations. (The associational culture cultivated by what would later become Lager factions, i.e. ‘high’ culture meeting the politics of the masses with all its attendant aestheticization of politics problems, is something I work on.) This brings me to the first of Tuesday’s events, hosted by the Schoenberg Center, which will mark Schoenberg’s involvement with workers’ choruses with an open house in Mödling and a concert given by the Kapfenberg choir ‘Stahlklang’ (a common workers’ chorus name). Tuesday is my only chance to see the Konwitschny Don Carlos so unfortunately I can’t go to this. Details here.
May Day also marks the founding of the Berliner Philharmoniker, and this year they are in Vienna with Gustavo Dudamel. Their annual concert for Europe was announced the other week and once I’m done marching I’ll be going to this. I’m no expert on the event but do know that apart from taking place in a different European city every year there’s not much European significance to it, and that the venue tends to be unconventional. (Warning: the grumbling starts now). I presume there are reasons for choosing the Spanish Riding School beyond those given here, but really Berlin Phil, is this the best you could do? For one thing, this concert has been selling very slowly and today I received my second email offering a discount on the $$$ ticket prices (it seems that the Viennese are of the opinion ‘Beethoven amid the stench of horse shit for €200? No thanks’). Then there are the optics of it, or as the Phil puts it on their website, the ‘cultural significance’ of the venue. Presumably the Viennese tourist office can’t be too displeased that a major televised event is showing off some local attraction other than the Musikverein and Schönbrunn, and from the Berlin Phil’s perspective we don’t need to push the rarebreed stallion and k.u.k. analogies too far. In addition to horse droppings there’s the whiff of a page lifted wholesale from the Vienna Philharmonic’s book.
In the spirit of Simon Rattle’s Kabelwerk Oberspree concert in 2007, this event could have taken place at the Expedithalle of the former Ankerbrot factory in the tenth district, now, like Oberspree, a cultural centre and venue for (among other groups) the Neue Oper Wien. There’s a Tag der Arbeit connection there and the space is big enough for the Phil still to make $$$ while offering a range of ticket prices and perhaps, with the appropriate outreach and marketing, even showing the TV cameras something of the changing face of Europe (the tenth district has one of Vienna’s highest immigrant populations). The significance would not just be cultural but also historical, pointing to Germany and Austria’s shared past (not to mention the Berlin and Vienna Phil’s): the Anker factory was aryanized in 1938 but became a centre of resistance and was monitored closely by the Gestapo during the war. Naturally this would never have made it past the proposal stage – the immigrants and uneasy historical resonance are all far too close to the bone for the Viennese – but it is just one of many alternatives which would have some actual cultural significance beyond showing the world, yet again, a complacent city living off its imperial past.