Hausmusik 6., Theobaldgasse 7

Sylvia Greenberg and husband David Aronson present a CD of songs by the musical legends who haunt their house

The CD Hausmusik will be available at major media outlets in Vienna starting mid April

You could say that their house is haunted: For the musical spirits of Gustav Mahler, Giacomo Puccini, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Bruno Walter all hover in the hallways of Theobaldgasse 7, in Vienna’s 6th District, a lovely 1902 secessionist building off Gumpendorferstrasse. Just a short walk from the Vienna State Opera, it had been home both to the Korngold family and Bruno Walter as well as host to the most influential composers and performers of the time.

It was only after Sylvia Greenberg and David Aronson settled in, that they learned just what kind of role their address played in the musical history that continues to define this city.

“The place just felt right,” Aronson said, “But we didn’t know why until a neighbor told us that the Korngolds had lived there.”

“It was so strong – we both felt it,” Greenberg agreed, “And we wonder to this day if there aren’t some kind of musical spirits here, that the building somehow remembers.”

Theobaldgasse 7 was a locus of the last great creative era in Viennese music that began at the beginning of the twentieth century and continued until just before World War II.

In their very flat lived Bruno Walter, who, as a conductor, ranks similarly to Arturo Toscanni and Leonard Bernstein, and the Korngold family lived immediately below. Julius Korngold (father of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold) was the respected and feared chief music critic of the prestigious Neue Freie Presse. It was natural that these giants of the musical scene would attract visiting artists, the leading composers and performers of the time, who with the exception of Puccini, all lived in or near Vienna.

As Greenberg and Aronson learned more about the history of Theobaldgasse 7, they set out on an adventure of musical sleuthery of the musicians who had lived or frequented there. The product is a remarkable series of vocal renditions of the sounds of Jugendstil Vienna – a voyage into musical-Art Nouveau. Greenberg and Aronson chose 25 pieces composed by artists intimately associated with their home. The works were initially performed live for enthusiastic audiences in Vienna, New York, Ann Arbor and Los Angeles. It was these recitals that caught the attention of the producers for the Telos label who produced the present CD of masterworks that were probably composed within the walls of this fin de Siècle apartment or energetically discussed, analyzed, and performed there.

In addition to Korngold, there are six composers represented on the CD, all friends or confidants of Bruno Walter and the Korngold family. Gustav Mahler chose Walter, for instance, to prepare the soloists – who rehearsed in the same room in which Greenberg and Aronson presented their CD – for the world première of Mahler’s monumental 8th Symphony in Munich in 1910. Alexander Zemlinsky taught Erich Wolfgang composition, likely in the large music room at No.7, overlooking the street that has remained essentially unchanged for over a century.

Carl Goldmark too, was a close friend of Julius Korngold. Best known for the opera Die Königin von Saba, one of the most popular stage works of the time, and he was one of the experts to whom Dr. Korngold turned for advice in 1909 when he became aware of his son’s astonishing talent. Another was Julius Bittner, a gifted composer who was a lawyer and judge by profession. His interests were he shared by Dr. Korngold, who had also been a lawyer before becoming a critic.

Bittner showed some of his own orchestral compositions to Gustav Mahler, who suggested he consult Bruno Walter, at Theobaldgasse 7, for advice. The collaboration produced among others the opera, Die Rote Gred, which Bruno Walter conducted in 1908. Bittner became one of Erich Korngold’s closest friends and ultimately composed 14 operas, in all.

And the great Giacomo Puccini visited Theobaldgasse 7 at least three times in 1913, 1919, and 1921 at Julius Korngold’s invitation.

The CD was presented to the public at a soirée in the very rooms that had engendered much of the music. Of those invited, few were treated to a live musical event in the truest sense of the Viennese Hausmusik tradition. Ms. Greenberg, with her impeccable vocal skills and radiant stage presence, and David Aronson displaying the musicianship gleaned from a lifetime of association with the greatest musicians of our times, was a fitting tribute to an earlier generation synonymous with the flowering of creativity when Vienna was in its perhaps fullest glory.

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