My visitors today

Saturday 25 August 2012

1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 3 … Vienna-waltzing with AP

'Vienna now and maybe then'

SM and AP in Vienna 

It seems an age since I was in Vienna but it only just a little over two months ago that I nipped of the plane and on to a train to travel there.  


So much has happened since that visit. Birds hatched out on my balcony, I have been back and forth to England again, and dealt with a painful photo-toxic arm! As well there was work, several fests, a sleepover, conductive upbringing in someone’s home home and in the summer holiday group. Some of this got mentioned here, some got forgotten. This Vienna visit posting got buried in the ‘not yet published’ folder along with ‘Humour’, ‘Teeth’, ‘A certain Swedish firm’ and at least one ‘Oh, dear!’, all of which will be dealt with in due course. 

Back to Wien 

I was invited by my colleagues to join them in Vienna for the last meeting of a European project that they are involved in. As you can imagine I did not hesitate in accepting the invitation. I knew what a joy it would be for me to spend time in the city where András Pető spent some of perhaps the richest days of his life. Little did I know that the hotel and seminar rooms where I was to spend the three days visit were a five minute spritely walk from a house where AP lived for some of his time in Vienna. When I realised that I could wander along there before breakfast I was in Seventh Heaven! 

 One of AP's homes in Vienna

After the Jubilee 

I had had just about enough time to see the last boat in the Royal Jubilee pageant go under the last bridge over the Thames before getting on a plane to Germany where, after a short break I was on the train to Austria, swapping suitcases at my flat on the way.

I had joined in Jubilee fever at home having been there just long enough to catch the Thames river-pageant celebrations and pick up a bit of the, perhaps only temporary, joie de vie on the streets. At the railway station in Germany I dished out to my colleagues the Diamond Jubilee goodie bags that I had picked up at M&S so that we could all carry our victuals on to our train in Union Jack-adorned lunch bags, making for a festive atmosphere. 

Meeting nice people and NICE people 

Sometimes I wonder about the outcomes of all these European meetings, Comenius, Grundvig, and Leonardo, and the benefits gained. The centre where I often work in Nürnberg has been involved in all three of the conductive-related projects over the past two years. This has entailed about thirty journeys for conductors and other staff. It has meant more work for those travelling and more work for those left behind, but I think on the whole, especially for the conductors who I met in Vienna, there have been more positive than negative outcomes. One of the positive outcomes was that having spoken at one of these meetings three Hungarian conductors, who work in Britain, were invited to speak at the last German Conductive Education conference, in Rosenheim –  

I have attended only one Grundvig meeting, in Budapest, and two Comenius meetings, one in Newcastle in 2011 and this more recent meeting, exactly one year later, in Vienna.  

I presented a paper in Newcastle – 

I have also helped my colleagues prepare papers about our work together, in English and I have assisted with their various homework projects over the two years that the various projects have taken place. I am, therefore, up to date with the proceedings. 

Before the Vienna meeting I had as usual helped to prepare the homework, a summing up of the work over the two years, but I did not present a paper of my own. I could relax and sit back and listen to the others. 

I would not have wanted to travel to more of the meetings that took place over the past two years. The three that I did attend were enough to take time out of my already busy life and made planning work quite difficult.  

I did, however, enjoy being involved just a little bit in person and a lot in the background, helping my colleagues to prepare presentations about our work and I also enjoyed doing it all in English, the language of all European meetings. 

I enjoyed attending the meetings as they gave me a chance to hear Conductive Education discussed in my mother tongue. This is something that is still quite foreign to me and I enjoyed being able to contribute much more spontaneously and confidently than in either Hungarian or German.  

I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet people who are involved in Conductive Education in Britain, not something that I have been able to do much over the past twenty years. I regularly meet Germans, Austrians and Hungarians involved in conductive work at different centres. We get together at conferences and of course there are many Hungarian, and two German, conductors who work in all three of these countries also present.  

To speak to a few people in English about conductive work in England is something that I have really valued from attending the European meetings. I have also renewed my connections to the National Institute for Conductive Education, NICE, in Birmingham.  


Discovering the world of AP – a world he must have missed terribly 

I have been to Vienna just once before. Long before I had ever heard of AP or Conductive Education. In 1982 I attended a Reggae Sun-Splash weekend with a Reggae band from Birmingham. While they rehearsed for concerts I discovered Vienna, I walked from the city centre to the Prater so that I could see the big wheel that featured in the film of Graham Green’s The Third Man, and I saw a wonderful exhibition of work of artists from the Vienna Seccesion at the Art History Museum. 

It was that weekend in Vienna that I got well and truly hooked. Hooked on Vienna, just like I imagine AP probably got hooked too. I did not get hooked on the Vienna of the 1980’s but on the early twentieth-century Viennese life that I had caught a glimpse of as I walked through the wide streets, with huge buildings on each side of me and as I went through that wonderful, comprehensive exhibition, that included the painters, the psychologists, the musicians, the jewellers, the architects and dress designers of the time just before AP arrived. At that time Vienna was a hive of cultural activity, just as it is today, but different. It was into that hive of activity that AP moved in the early years of his life. 

I was already a fan of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele when I made that first visit to Vienna. After seeing their work in reality and in the places that it actually produced for, and after learning at the same time about the other aspects of Viennese life, I had a much wider picture, and that made a huge impression on me.

That is how I can now appreciate what AP’s life was possibly like in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, I imagine that perhaps he missed it so much after he was forced to leave. 

Musings about that time in AP’s life 

There are a lot of imaginings and maybes and perhapses going on here! Of course we do not know anything about what AP thought about life in Vienna so there is no option but to imagine and to think about all those perhaps  and maybes!  

I like to imagine and feel and soul-search. I like to do this more when I am in Vienna than I do when I am in Hungary. 

I can maybe do this better than others but maybe not. I have visited sanitoria in Bavaria that are possibly similar to those that AP worked in, but maybe not. I have trained as a conductor and lived in Hungary at a time when things had still not changed too far from Pető’s days. I have interviewed people who knew him, people who trained as conductors under his watchful eye or who learned from him at the university, but how good were their memories? 

I have recently got to know Vienna a bit better and have read more about the Seccesion, and I have tried to understand how it all was when AP lived there. I have read and read and read as much as I can find, both by him and about him, by the people he knew and in the papers he probably read and wrote for. Still all I can say is ‘I imagine’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. 

I came away from Vienna after three days of meeting and a day of searching for AP haunts, having come to the conclusion that AP must have missed that place dreadfully when he returned to Hungary. Perhaps not at first, but certainly in the last year of the war and the proceeding years when Hungarian life became more and more confined and restricted but life in Vienna was flourishing again post-war.  

AP had connections who sent him books and kept him well informed but what little is written about AP informs us that he never left Hungary after returning and I think he most probably missed the cultural capitals of Vienna and Paris very much. 

Back to reality 

Vienna waltzing and eating Klimt paintings 

Dinner had been organised for us on the second evening of our visit at the Central Café. This is one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses and I am sure one that AP would have known and used, to read  newspapers, meet friends and possibly enjoy a lovely cake. To keep the wonderful atmosphere with us as we went off to an evening of culture I purchased a selection of gorgeous cakes to eat later. I carried them in a pretty box tied with string as I remember seeing in films, The Third Man comes to mind. I am not sure whether this really happened there or whether it is just because it is one of my favourite films and I love the idea of walking the streets with a box of cakes! 
 Cafe Central and Dobos Torte

I carried them to the Kursalon where I was forced to leave them with my jacket at the cloakroom. (Leaving coats at the cloakroom – well that’s another story, something very foreign to the ‘non-continental Europeans’ amongst the group and something I that missed dreadfully at the 1210 World Conference).  

I had not thought that I might have to hand over the cakes and that the champagne interval would be on the roof and nowhere near the lovely arty cakes. So after enjoying an evening of music and dance we ended up hurriedly eating them at the tram stop at a few minutes to midnight, before everyone dispersed into the Vienna night, instead of sedately devouring them in the interval with sparkling wine!

This did not matter they were still beautiful and actually tasted as good as they looked. Mine of course was the cake with the Klimt painting on the top — a Dobos Torte, something known and well liked from my Budapest days and many a visit to the Vienese Café beside the Chain Bridge! 

As you can tell I was lapping it all up in Vienna, cafés, cakes, Klimmt and AP. What more could I wish for? 

And the rain came down 

There was more to come and quite my chance I ended up with something very nice to bring home with me. 

I spent my last evening walking through the avenues and admiring the huge palaces theatres and museums when the clouds turned ominous and, just as I  reached a Moszkva Tér-like tram and metro centre, the heavens broke. 

It was warm rain, that continental torrential rain with blitz and donner (lightning and thunder), and stair rods, it was not cold, damp English rain. It came down so heavily on that last evening out in Vienna that I had to take cover beside the Trafik kiosk at the tram terminal. Fortunately I was able to purchase, at that tiny kiosk that sells everything, an umbrella, an umbrella with a picture of Klimt’s Kiss printed on it. 

I put my new brolly to good use the following morning too when I visited one of seven exhibitions of Klimt that are on at the moment to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the year of the artist’s birth. I chose the one exhibition where I was also able to view some of Egon Schiele’s less well-known works in the same building. How I wished that I had lived there as AP did so long ago and could have soaked up this culture instead of getting soaked by the rain. I experienced enough to be convinced of what I said before, I am sure that AP must have missed it all terribly when he returned to Hungary. 





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