Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last Days

August 8-10, 2010

On Sunday, we made the trip to Eisenstadt to see the Esterhazy Palace, where Haydn worked for many years. We had a pleasant train ride followed by a long walk into town! Our first stop was the Bergkirche, a funny church where many of Haydn’s masses were first performed. But, we could not convince the caretaker there to let us see the organ up close in the loft. All we could see was the facade from downstairs. Even the entreaty that Dongsok had been the organ soloist on the just-released Naxos set of the complete masses with the Trinity Choir did not move him. We tried to see organs at the chapel on the other side of this church, and another church in town, but in both cases the public was blocked from going in far enough to even see the pipe facade. Sigh. Frustrating, to not be able to see or play these organs.

Next stop, the Palace, and the usual tourist tour which includes the big salon where Haydn’s very small orchestra played many of the symphonies; this is still used, though a bit changed, as a concert hall, and the sound is wonderful. It looked like it would easily hold 500 people.

A walk down the street led us to Haydn’s house, a second floor flat which is now a Haydn museum. A bit confusing as to whether certain items we are seeing are original or replicas, though. In one room, there is a Walter fortepiano very similar to our Walter copy. Dongsok crawled on the floor underneath it to look at where the knee levers were added some years after it was first built and have now been removed. There was a video loop running in the room of a pianist with modern technique playing the instrument....over and over again...This piano is said to have “most certainly been played by Haydn since it was in the area since the late 18th century”. Hm. In other words, no documentable connection to Haydn (and he expressed negative opinions of Walters in writing, while at the same time, trying to sell Schantzes), but someone probably owned it who lived within maybe 50 miles. Sure, maybe Haydn saw it sometime. If the prince ever let him out of the Palace, which is doubtful. We asked at the ticket desk about the original organ console from the Bergkirche, which according to the guidebooks was in the Haydn House. The lady looked confused and said it was no longer there, the books were perhaps old (we showed her the text in the books on sale right there). That was a pity too.; it looked a lot like the console of the Michaelerkirche organ from the pictures, and we would have both liked to see it. All in all, mixed impressions from our trip to Eisenstadt – nice that Haydn is getting his due (a pity that Claudio isn’t in Mantua!), but a fair amount of glossing over, and a lot of really interesting things unavailable to us.

Monday, our last day in Vienna, we visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum, thinking to take another look at the instruments there, but alas, although the internet lists the Kunsthistorisches Museum as open every day in August, the instrument collection is still closed on Mondays. A little shopping instead, a return visit to the Prater Amusement Park to ride the INCREDIBLY HIGH flying swings and race go-karts (I won, of course), and then a dinner with our American friends Chris and Katherine Sharp and their daughter Elizabeth at Vienna’s best-known Wiener Schnitzel restaurant (the schnitzel entrees are twice the size of a large dinner plate!) and coffee and Viennese pastries afterwards. A lovely end to a wonderful trip.

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