LSM-ONLINE-LOGO2JPG.jpg (4855 bytes)


Back Issues
LSM Issues
LSV Issues
Throat Doctor
Concert Reviews
CD Critics
Books Reviews
PDF Files

About LSM
LSM News
Guest Book
Contact Us
Site Search
Web Search

The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

The beginner's guide to Salzburg

By Norman Lebrecht / August 1, 2001

DON'T expect to see me at Salzburg this summer because I shall be giving it a miss. After a dozen years' faithful service, man and boy, I am owed time off. Besides, I cannot bear goodbyes. This is the last summer of Gerard Mortier and Hans Landesmann, the ill-matched pair of energetic modernists who awoke the festival from decades of supine kowtowing to Herbert von Karajan.

Mortier violated Karajan's Festpielhaus with a penile-motif decor in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex. Landesmann disrupted the worship of dead composers by whipping in work so new that Maurizio Pollini hardly dared turn the pages of his piano music for fear of smudging wet ink.

All over now, bar the memoirs. The new boss is called Peter Ruzicka, and the nicest thing his friends have to say about him is that he is "very quiet". Mortier, with a parting swipe, assures us that "there will be no controversy".

Certainly, Ruzicka's regimes at the Hamburg State Opera and Munich Biennale did nothing to frighten the horses, and his music (he composes) is heavily pastiched. The latest orchestral piece is a lament for the late conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli, who had played a massive part in Ruzicka's Salzburg plans. He will struggle to plug that gap, and I think I might give Salzburg a miss for the next few years.

Still, this does not prevent me from passing on a few tips to those of you who have yet to experience the world's most exquisite summer diversion. First, if you want to get ahead, join the press. This will entitle you to one free single ticket for select performances and a flutter of invitations to sponsor receptions, where you can learn many things in six languages about cocoa prices and car exhausts. Warning: when nuzzled up to Nestle, don't mention Africans or baby milk; when talking to BMW, don't mention the war.

Those who cannot join the press should apply to join the Friends. (They are in the London telephone directory.) This will entitle you to advance bookings at one or two hundred pounds a seat, as well as some intelligent daytime talks and social events. Do not turn up mid-festival expecting to buy returns at the door. In good seasons and bad, Salzburg remains an elusive ticket.

Getting there is a variable game. Some years there is a direct flight from London, other years not. I have just spotted a BEA advert in the 1955 programme promising a mere six hours' flying time from Heathrow. It's quicker now, though not much when you take in summer delays, air-traffic-controller strikes and other delights of modern life. Myself, I catch a budget flight to Munich and hop on a train, by far the most civilised mode of arrival.

Where to stay? The bowing-and-scraping Oesterreichicher Hof and Bristol are crammed with artists, music-business types and hangers-on. Other town-centre hotels are corporately expensive. Ten or 15 minutes' walk away, however, there are pensions to be found for £60 a night - and you may welcome the stroll after sitting through five hours of Tristan or Les Troyens. The tourist offices, in London and Salzburg, are unfailingly helpful.

The most exclusive gaff I have ever graced is the Schloss Fischl, a lakeside villa reserved for reigning monarchs and persons of refinement - a rolled copy of The Daily Telegraph should get you in - about 20km outside the town. A hotel minibus shuttles to and from the festival performances, and the remoteness removes you mercifully from the milling crowds.

It also gives your family something to do in the daytime, like mountain hiking, sailing and swimming. Salzburg itself has little to offer beyond shopping, but it likes to keep you shopping and does not advertise external attractions, other than the incredible Sound of Music tour and the obligatory trip to Berchtesgaden, Hitler's summer lair.

Most of the day, the main occupation in Salzburg is eating, a pastime that can be indulged at high quality and no vast expense. Try to avoid the apricot dumplings if you ever want to breathe unaided again. The seasonal mushrooms are sensational.

I refrain from mentioning the delightful vegetarian place just around the corner from the Festspielhaus because I don't want to have to queue there next time behind a mile of rolled-up Telegraph s. Go find your own place to eat. The summer rule in Salzburg is that no one ever got there by giving too much away.

2 August 2000: Salzburg teaches the French a lesson [Norman Lebrecht reviews last years Salzburg]
1 March 2000: Not resisting but gesturing [Norman Lebrecht on the politics of Slazburg]
10 February 2000: Why artists have a duty not to ostracise Austria [Norman Lebrecht on politics and Salzburg]
11 August 1999: Bring back fun [Norman Lebrecht on summer festivals]

Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]




(c) La Scena Musicale 1999