Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments
Wednesday - After another tasty breakfast buffet (eggs scrambled and hard-boiled, sausages and bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, diverse cereals, breads, cheeses and sliced meats...I never eat breakfast at home, but who can resist this!!), we depart the Hotel Neutor for the next stage of our adventure. Though cloudy skies still prevail this morning, there’s no rain as we depart picturesque Salzburg (hoping to return, soon!) and head back east to begin a three-day residence in Vienna. Along the way we stop first in Haag, about 20 kilometers SE of Linz where our amiable music specialist Wolfgang Kogert (who has made arrangements for all of our organ visits…a daunting task achieved with perfect organization) demonstrates the new Kögler organ (giving us another chance to hear a product from the shop we visited several days before), an elegant ‘classical’ instrument (no ‘swell box’, the option of manual wind-pumping) in a resonant and spacious 15th century church that is largely undecorated (at least not in the extravagant manner with which we have become familiar). The Kögler quality of workmanship and suavity of voicing is apparent.
We stop in the quaint village of Waidhofen, enroute Sonntagberg, for lunch ‘on our own’ (I found a whole-foods market with a deli section, and enjoyed fresh goat cheese and tomatoes, with brown bread and apple juice). Fortunately, the overcast lifts slightly as we approach Sonntagberg. This tiny village clusters around a very high hill, on top of which is a pilgrimage church built in the early 18th century with a superb 25-stop instrument from 1775 by Franz Xaver Christoph of Vienna. The church seems to be a mile into the air as Otto maneuvers our coach along the twisty uphill road...quite a sight from below, and an exceptional view from the landing at the top of the stairs just in front of the main church doors. Wow, what a beautiful setting, God’s country. I’d never heard of the builder Christoph before, but he knew his business. Fritz Putzer demonstrated the organ’s ‘classical’ and ‘early romantic’ qualities...Muffat works here, but so does Mendelssohn (except there are no reed stops!).
By the time we’ve reached Perchtoldsdorf, just 15 kilometers southwest of Vienna, the sun is out and the air again warm. The Pirchner organ shop is installing a new instrument just down the street (we explore, giving our group another example of an ‘undraped’ King of Instruments, with guts showing) from our destination, the parish church, St. Augustine’s. It’s an earlier Pirchner project, from 1985, that resident Markus Göller proudly demonstrates, built in celebration of Austrian composer Franz Schmidt, whose music is played for us. Here’s an example of a modern Austrian ‘ecclectic-classical’ design, with a Baroque-style oak case standing before another simple grill-fronted organ box that includes Pedal and Swell divisions, with the Echo division also under expression. A monumental, gold-leaf enhanced column in the square below the church honors the Holy Spirit in appreciation that this town was spared from the plague several centuries before. The church (also on high ground), built in several sections at different times in the 12th-through-17th centuries, features a tall, separate tower, up which several in our group climb to get a better view.
We make our way through Vienna’s evening rush-hour traffic (not nearly as bad as Minneapolis!) to the Hotel Favorita, our base of operations for the remainder of the tour. The location is just south of the Belvedere Palace and Gardents, located adjacent the U-bahn and only three stops from the center of the Old City, close enough to be convenient, but a bit of a walk, though the exercise is good for us, right? Compared with other hotels, this one is a bit less lovely, with slightly worn furniture and smallish rooms, and the turmoil at breakfast on Thursday morning proves a bit disconcerting (other mornings were less busy in the breakfast rooms) but it’s comfortable enough and, heaven knows, we’ll not be spending a lot of time here. Our 6:30PM dinner (cream of tomato soup, Wiener schnitzel with parsley potatoes and leaf salad, and a rather tough and dry imitation of Sacher tort) is perhaps the least good of our many provided suppers.
After dinner, we walk over to the Columbusgasse (a 5-block-long pedestrian shopping mall) to check out the neighborhood (some interesting sex shops and peep shows on connecting streets in the vicinity, and a great hobby shop just next to the hotel...I struggle but refrain from adding models of Goggomobile and Wartburg cars to my baggage), and then to bed in preparation for an early start tomorrow.