Co-sponsored by the American-Austrian Society and the International Club of DC, the Austrian Embassy again hosted one of the finest baritones of our generation, Wolfgang Holzmair – accompanied by his trusty North Dakotan collaborator Russell Ryan. The program was one of eclectic and delectable rarities from 20th-century Austria: Eric Zeisl, Franz Mittler, and Robert Fürstenthal. Musically, Zeisl, of whom I have only heard piano trios and a string quartet, is more or less in Lieder No Man’s Land. Post-Mahlerian, not yet of the acerbic, hard-edged, and angular language of Hartmann, Fortner, and Braunfels, Zeisl and Mittler are perhaps best described as the Francis Poulenc of Entartete Musik. For one, they also share Poulenc’s delight in the whimsical. Particularly enjoyable for me was the encounter with texts from a slew of my favorite literary figures whom I have cherished since youth and adolescence. Wilhelm Busch, father of the cartoon (try to imagine 19th-century Asterix or Tintin with the didactic finesse of the original Grimm fairy tales and the dark and occasionally gory humor of Roald Dahl), is priceless and so dear to most German speakers (at least those who grew up before the cultural shift of the 80s) that every attempt at trying to convey what he meant and continues to mean to us, how funny and original he is, must end in frustration for lack of words and examples.
Wolfgang Holzmair & Russell Ryan
Joe Banno, Wolfgang Holzmair (Washington Post, December 3)
The Viennese political rants of J. N. E. A. Nestroy and Kraus, melodified by Mittler, had qualities, too, that were discernable to all in the diverse and young audience – but it was really an affair that was the prerogative of the present members of various Bavarian tribes to enjoy.