One for three ain’t bad.
Today was a free day (until our rehearsal and concert this evening). I didn’t feel like just wandering around aimlessly nor did I want to go to one of the many huge, standard art museums yet again. Believe me, I’ve seen enough Klimts for a lifetime.
So this morning I got out a city map and looked for destinations off the beaten track. I came up with two that seemed especially promising: The Museum of Fantastic Art, and the Collection of Anatomical Pathology in the Madhouse Tower.
Strike One: It was about a twenty-minute walk to the Museum of Fantastic Art near the center of the city. When I finally found it, a hawker outside grabbed me and said,
“You want tickets for the show tonight?”
“I’m working tonight.”
“How about tomorrow night?”
“I’m leaving tomorrow. What’s the museum like?”
“It’s closed for two months.”
So much for the Museum of Fantastic Art.
Strike Two: I got out my trusty city map and plotted my way to the Madhouse Tower. Another hour of walking to find the Madhouse Tower. After inquiring in a few places along the way, I finally found it on the campus of the University of Vienna. When I arrived at the monolithic cylindrical tower at 11:45 it was not difficult to see it was under major renovation. I wasn’t even sure it would be open, so I ask a workman how to get in. He showed me to a back door with a broken window, but told me it was closed until 1:00.
So I bided my time at a nice outdoor cafe on campus and had some really good weisswurst (steamed, not grilled, as is proper) and a beer and went back to the madhouse at 1:00. Inside the broken door were a few young people wearing white lab coats, but they looked very perplexed when they saw me. I asked if I could get a tour. They asked if I were part of a group.
“No, just me.”
“Sorry, we only give group tours on Tuesdays. Come back tomorrow.”
“I’m leaving for Lucerne,” I said, and explained about the concert tour.
“We have a group that is supposed to come at 1:00. If they show up you can join them. Otherwise, I’m sorry.”
“I’ll pay for a tour if you want.”
“My boss isn’t here. I’m not allowed.”
So I waited a while. No group showed up so I never got in, but I did speak to a nice guy who was a medical student/tour guide and told me about the history of the madhouse. I was comforted to know it’s no longer a madhouse nor, as it was for a long time, a residence for university professors, but simply a museum which displays an excellent exhibit of skin diseases and a Siamese twin. Next time, perhaps.
Home Run: At 4:30 I met a Viennese clarinet player for the first time, though we had maintained a correspondence for eight years. Proposed get-togethers on two previous BSO tours to Vienna hadn’t panned out, but this one did. First we had some excellent coffee at a coffee shop whose name I can’t remember, but Mahler used to go there, so it was very meaningful. Then, after I told him that I was music director of the Vivaldi by Candlelight chamber orchestra series in Salt Lake City, his eyes lit up.
“You know, Vivaldi is buried right down the block.”
I didn’t know that.
We strolled past the Musikverein and very soon found ourselves at the massively ornate St. Charles Cathedral. Once upon a time there was a graveyard next to it, and that’s where Vivaldi was buried. (The funeral had taken place at St. Stephens a half-mile away.) There was a plaque on a building indicating the fact. Sadly, Vivaldi died impoverished. It is believed he had gone to Vienna to try to resurrect his flagging career under the sponsorship of Emperor Charles VI, who appreciated Vivaldi and his music. But unfortunately for Vivaldi, Charles died, leaving him without a source of income.
A sad ending for Vivaldi, but a happy ending for my excursion. And then, of course, was the performance of the Bernstein Serenade and Shostakovich Fourth at the Musikverein. Not exactly the Four Seasons, but I’ll take it.