Too Many Notes

Of all cities in the world, there is none so closely identified with Mahler as Vienna -- he was conductor of the Court Opera here, and it was here that he wrote much of his most famous music -- but you'd never know it to visit Vienna. The guys in the wigs and breeches -- with whom I am obsessed -- are all Mozart Mozart Mozart and Strauss Strauss Strauss, and so are all the gift shops, even at the Opera House itself. Not even on Mahlerstrasse can one find any Mahler tchotchkes. Where are the Mahlerkugel? Nowhere to be found.

We go to a concert, but due to my ignorance of German and of the Konzerthaus floorplan, I wind up in the wrong seat. About five minutes later, there is a Catholic churchman -- I don't know my ranks and insignia, but he looks pretty impressive -- glowering down at me. He examines my ticket, and sends me packing, because the Regierungsloge, as he dismissively explains, is one of the boxes on the sides, rather than the regular seating at the back. Were this the Middle Ages, I have no doubt that he'd find a way to send me to the stake: he has the scowling face for it.

To borrow one of Sarah's phrases, the concert -- Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting Handel's Israel in Egypt -- is the musical equivalent of the pictures of Jesus we've been seeing: technically perfect, historical as all get-out, about twice as long as it needs to be, and exquisitely boring except in the big finale and a couple of other nice bits. Also, "keine pause" is not the same as "kleine pause," as we learn when the expected intermission turns out to be just a retuning break for the orchestra.