A visit to “the Land of Mozart”
On my 10th birthday my parents offered me the choice of a visit to Disneyland Paris or to “the Land of Mozart”. Needless to say I didn’t give it a second thought and we were off to Salzburg and Vienna – little did I know that I would be back twelve years later staying in both cities so close to where Mozart and Beethoven once lived! I found the proximity with these legendary composers to be both emotional and inspiring.
I had been advised in advance by fellow students to present works by these very composers of the Viennese school to my professor, Michael Frischenschlager. I was curious to start a new work with him without prior influences and decided to learn Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor during my stay. I worked on the whole sonata with him, acquiring a deeper understanding of the composer’s musical language such as through his use of dynamics, phrasing and articulation. Collaborative work with class pianist Nadia Höbarth was equally enjoyable and we performed the piece in the first class concert of the semester.
Thanks to Professor Frischenschlager I stayed at his friend’s apartment right next to the university and just around the corner from one of Beethoven’s ex-residencies. Furthermore, I began playing in a piano trio with fellow Erasmus students and we had chamber music coachings with Peter Schuhmayer learning Beethoven’s Archduke trio. The library has an extensive collection of music, so we were able to explore our options before choosing a piece to work on. I also borrowed other scores in preparation for a concerto performance back in London and photocopied several works months in advance for future commitments.
Moments from Laure’s Erasmus Exchange from October 2017 – January 2018 at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna:
Participating in Professor Frischenschlager’s course at the Salzburg International Summer Academy a few months prior to my Erasmus experience was extremely helpful as I gained an insight into his style of teaching and met a few of his students before starting the academic year. Already then we established a friendly rapport, which led to an invitation to perform in a beautiful, ornately decorated baroque church in the centre of Vienna. I was also lucky to meet and play with the class pianist, Veronika Kopjova, who mentioned my name to an organiser of a Wien Modern project after I expressed my interest in exploring contemporary music. Before I had started my Erasmus I was already offered a paid project to perform at Wiener Konzerthaus, one of Vienna’s main concert halls! In addition, I signed up to the festival’s German language course to learn some basics and continued with an intensive two weeks course at the Goethe Institute in London, conveniently located just next door to the RCM. This turned out to be rather useful especially to know which numerical figures I was expected to play at during rehearsals spoken entirely in German! On the whole, most people in Vienna speak good English, so I generally felt comfortable getting by.
Professor Frischenschlager is well renowned for his technique programme, which will be published this year. Every week his class as well as external members would gather for two hours to explore basic principles of good violin playing. I found some exercises rather interesting, at times extreme that awakened a new dimension in my playing. Since my experience, we have remained in contact and I will be continuing lessons with him at the Orford Music Festival in Canada this summer.
After carving its reputation for centuries as the capital of classical music, the spirit of musical legends live on through its parks, cemeteries, even its supermarkets (Mozartkugeln) and naturally in the concert hall. For years I had longed to experience performances at the Musikverein, which I had previously heard to be dubbed as “the Stradivarius of halls”. A personal highlight of my stay was listening to operas at the Staatsoper. They have reduced prices which allows the public to watch fine productions at merely €3 – €4! It works on a first come first served basis for a standing ticket, typically people queue at least an hour in advance, and you can select the language of your preference on the translation screens of the production you are watching. The tradition is to reserve your place by wrapping your scarf around the railing.
Exploring other cultural aspects of Vienna, I enjoyed visiting the Belvedere Museum, Schönbrunn Palace and obtained a student membership to the Albertina Museum, featuring a temporary exhibition of Rafael as well as Monet to Picasso. As my Erasmus took place during the Winter Semester, I was in Vienna during the Christmas Markets season. I must have visited at least four different places in my quest for the tastiest waffles and Glühwein (mulled wine)! Filled with lights, food and decorations, it certainly put people in the Christmas spirit!
I have been travelling regularly for concerts, courses and festivals since I was a child, but this was my first experience living without my family in another country for an extensive period of time. Personally, I felt it changed me in a positive way. It gave me a confidence boost to sort out daily problems in life and become more responsible and independent. Vienna is geographically conveniently situated, allowing short trips to other countries and cities by bus or train. During my stay I arranged a lesson with the Head of Faculty of Historical Performance at the Salzburg Mozarteum as I also play baroque violin. I even made a day trip to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, to explore a new city and culture.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Erasmus experience at the mdw in Vienna, on a musical, cultural and personal level and warmly recommend this destination to fellow students who are considering an Erasmus exchange.