Classic Mornings

A Fistful of Oboes

 

There’s a concert hall coming to your riding school! In fact, you might have been on stage already – or where the future stage will be.

OK, maybe the hall won’t be arriving that soon. But you never know. Just within the past several months, I’ve come upon two CDs that were recorded in concert halls that once were riding schools.

Both of the riding school/concert halls were in Europe, so perhaps you can relax a bit. I realize that it may well have been a coincidence. And it just might be that they’re the only two riding schools that ever were converted into concert halls. On the other hand, someone may have discovered that riding schools make great concert halls.

Just in case you think I’m taking you for a ride, let me tell you about them. You probably guessed I was going to.

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of a CD of Franz Schubert’s music for piano 4-hands by Duo Tal & Groethuysen, which features pianists Yaara Tal & Andreas Groethuysen. The recording location was the Grafenegg Castle some 40 miles northwest of Vienna. The onetime riding school was converted into an auditorium for all sorts of gatherings and events. Just the image of horses and riders once present in the space hosting a piano and pianists is an interesting backdrop for the several marches by Schubert included among the works on the recording.

A couple of weeks ago, I played selections from one of the so-called French Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, which pianist András Schiff recorded 30 years ago. That was done at the concert hall known as the Reitstadel in Neumarkt, Germany – in Bavaria.

I was curious about it. I learned online that in the 14th century, there was a building on the town’s castle grounds, which was used to store animal feed. Later, it was used to store ammunition. It burned down and was rebuilt in the 16th century. Beginning in the late 19th century, it became a riding school. In 1945, it was bombed by the Allies, with only remnants of the walls still standing. A concert hall was built on the site 40 years ago, preserving the memory of the riding school in its name: Reitstadel. It was there, during the 10th anniversary of the hall, that pianist András Schiff recorded the Bach suites. I wonder if he was aware of all the history.

Those are the stories that sometimes stay hidden in the details of recording notes, which I don’t always read closely or follow up on. I’m glad I did a little searching this time. And as usual, I was excited about sharing all that I found with you.

There are other things that have been right in front of me for so many years that I still haven’t noticed. Maybe it was St. Patrick’s Day that opened my eyes to one of those last week. Glancing at the cover of a recording that’s been in the Friends of WILL Library for over a quarter of a century. I was reminded of a fun and impressive encore at a concert featuring James Galway. He played two tin whistles (or penny whistles) at one time. You have to be good to do that. He’s good.

But the cover photo featured oboist Burkhard Glaetzner. He’s good too. And in the photo, he’s sitting on a couch and holding four oboes – two in each hand. I said holding, not playing. Nor does he look like he’d ever be able to play any of them in that situation. In short, he has his hands full. Oboes are much larger than penny whistles. He also has one resting on his lap, two others resting both on his lap and the couch and six other oboes in an upright position – reeds on top, resting against the back of the couch.

Have you been counting? That’s 14 oboes. I never was sure what it all meant, though I have to admit that it’s an amusing picture. It’s on the cover of Glaetzner’s recording of oboe concertos by the Haydn & Mozart contemporary Johann Wilhelm Hertel.

I remembered reading that Glaetzner is a painter too, particularly during the years since he retired from music. And sure enough, I came upon his online gallery. As you might have expected, some of his paintings are inspired by music. Among those titled “Etude,” there’s one that brings to mind the company of the “couch oboes.”

Were you expecting me to add that the gallery is housed in a former riding school? It’s a fun thought. And I would have enjoyed ending this by telling you that.

Instead, I’ll ask you to join me for Classic Mornings. Tune in Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu.