Today started with an hour’s train ride to Neunkirchen to meet my school colleague Elisabeth and her boyfriend Martin, my ski instructors for the day. Loaded with borrowed ski gear, I felt ready (and a bit nervous — my one previous ski experience was a day in Gatlinburg as maybe a 10-year-old) for the day’s adventures in Stuhleck, a ski area south of Vienna.
What fun! Elisabeth and Martin are both teachers, and both have taken the ski course for accompanying school students on skiing outings; so they were the perfect people to learn from! Very patient and ready with just the right amount of praise and instruction. …Lots of falls, lots of laughs, and a satisfying amount of success made for grand fun — and probably difficulty getting out of bed tomorrow morning!
We stopped mid-day for some very typical Austrian food. I enjoyed tasty sausages and Germknödel (yeast dumpling filled with plums, topped with poppyseeds, and veritably swimming in butter). There was a TV in the Hütte, with a downhill ski race on (what else?).
In the afternoon, Martin headed for a higher slope, and Elisabeth showed me tricks for stopping with a bit of finesse and using my poles for more effective turns. When my legs wore out, we headed back to Neunkirchen to her parents’ place and a couple of hours of chatting (mostly in German — hurrah!) over coffee and cake. As a good Southerner would say, they “spoil’d me rotten”!
On the train again later, I felt gloriously happy — a wonderfully tiring day outdoors and the warmth and generosity of my Austrian hosts. I had to just sit and give thanks for a bit before I could settle down for the train ride home with the riveting tale of Sam rescuing Frodo from the Orc tower in Mordor. (If you don’t love Tolkien, you are really missing out!)
February started out with a week of holidays from school (the semester break and also peak skiing season) and the (month-long) semester break from university. (I know it sounds like I have holidays all the time. Just wait till May comes and all the religious holidays!) I’ll admit, it wasn’t exactly a vacation, though I was glad for fewer responsibilities in some arenas.
Anyway, the first day of break, a Korean cellist (another music uni student) and I spent the better part of the day recording Rachmoninoff’s cello sonata. It was a big project — 35 minutes of music, and Rachmaninoff wrote the piano part for his own virtuosic self! Anyway, after something like 90 takes (anywhere form a whole movement to just a couple of bars), we hopefully ended up with a good result. Hopefully, because it will still be a week before we hear what the Tonmeisterin [sound engineer] has come up with!
I’d anticipated spending part of the week off from teaching doing a bit of traveling with a friend from church. When those plans fell through, I was bit sad not to leave mostly-cloudy Vienna. But, upon learning Monday that applications for the University of Vienna were due mid-week, a number of hours were immediately allotted to filling out applications and writing letters for five different master’s programs (the likeliest way to secure a visa to stay on in Austria — and also sort of a game to see if I could get into the musicology, Austrian studies, religion, or theology department). My dear friend Julia offered to translate everything. She lives in New Zealand; so, she translated while I slept, and we compared notes before she went to bed the next day! …Hopefully, I’ll know something about the applications in a month or two.
The other big project so far this year has been putting together a chamber music recital program with Ernesto, the Italian cellist I played with last spring. As always, the project turned into more work that initially expected — organizing concerts venues, figuring out how to rehearse when we live in two different cities, and the music itself (for those interested, a solo pieces each [Ligeti sonata for Ernesto and a Rachmaninoff etude for me], Schumann’s “Allegro and Adagio” and “Fantasiestücke,” and Brahm’s F Major Cello and Piano Sonata). But, well worth the effort!
Our first two concerts were here in Vienna, one for a local music society (the Gesellschaft für Musiktheater) held in a quaint, old hall and one at my church. Next month we’ll play in Graz. In case you are in the area, do pop in!
Friends and Fun
A couple days “off” from piano practice have been so refreshing, and I’ve been reminded that rest is a very good thing! Also refreshing has been the starting up of new small groups at church.
Despite the pile of musical deadlines and the list of friends and acquaintances to whom I owe phone calls, emails, or visits, the past weeks have also included a good dose of friends and fun.…A wonderful evening at the Musikvererin for a Chanticleer (a capella men’s ensemble) concert….A couple of evenings catching up on BBC’s Sherlock with friends from church….A sunny, springlike Sunday afternoon at Schönbrunn gardens with Sarah…..A splendid afternoon strolling around the botanical gardens down the road from my apartment — countless crocuses and snow drops, not to mention a wonderfully blue sky framing evergreens and a bamboo grove. …An evening ice skating with Kathryn and another with Yuri. (You really can’t beat sailing around the ice in from of the neo-Gothic city hall, and a good bruise on the knee is a reminder of the fun!)….An unusual portrait photography exhibit, also with Yuri….And, of course, the ski trip!
Ah, the weekend is gone. Time to sign off and get to work!