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Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 4. Wednesday, May 4, 1960

Studying In Vienna

Studying In Vienna

Cartoon of movie patron being carried out of the cinema on a stretcher

Helen Collier, a well-known N.Z. pianist, is at present studying at the Vienna Conservatoire. A pupil of Diny Schramm, Miss Collier left at the end of 1957 for three years' advanced study overseas. Miss Collier writes from Europe:—

"For several hundred years Vienna has been famous as a musical centre; some would say as the home of music. Whether this is true or not, Vienna has certainly had a very strong influence on some of our greatest composers, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Haydn, Schubert and others. Having been a student in Vienna for nearly two years I would say that Vienna still has those qualities which endear it to musicians from all over the world.

Why is Vienna different? The answer to that lies in its geographical position and in the spirit of its people. Situated as it is in the heart of Europe, Austria has been for centuries a meeting place for people of many different races and cultures, and subsequently she has a very rich heritage in the arts. The people here have a real love and understanding for music, as well as for drama and the visual arts.

Perhaps this continual "shoulder rubbing" has shaped the Austrian character too. To me they are realists, seeing life as it really is. and prepared for the happiness, the unhappiness and the hard work which is everyone's lot. Life is not so easy here and money is hard-earned, but in spite of this the Viennese still enjoy life very much! They really appreciate their good food and their beautiful Vienna. Other cities may have the same attractions but the Viennese enjoy them so wholeheartedly! They are an uninhibited people, expressing themselves freely in their everyday life. Thus it is easy for them to express themselves in the arts too, surely one reason that music has flourished here.

Helen Collier, fourth from the left, with some of her class in Vienna. On her right is the eminent pianist Paul Badura -Skoda.

Helen Collier, fourth from the left, with some of her class in Vienna. On her right is the eminent pianist Paul Badura -Skoda.

To me the most significant quality of Viennese music is its deep emotional content and the exquisite taste with which it is expressed. Perfect technical equipment is expected of course—there are too many people who have it for those who haven't to be noticed—although a few wrong notes will be overlooked if the performer has expressed himself beautifully and convincingly. One hears beautiful playing of the clas-page 11sics, and Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert feature prominently on concert programmes. Schumann and Chopin are also much loved. Not for the Viennese the somewhat patronising attitude to Chopin that one meets in some musical circles! Rather, true Chopin playing is recognised as amongst the most demanding and specialised of all.

What glorious singing one hears in the Opera—night after night. month after month, always to full houses and to audiences who know and love every note. No wonder that only the best will do, whether it be in Mozart, Verdi. Wagner, Strauss or in any other works of the repetoire.

For students it is not hard to find an excellent teacher. There are the Academy and the Con-servatorium of Vienna, as well as private institutions. I am studying at the Conservatorium of Vienna with Frau Professor Then who was the teacher of the famous Paul Baduraskoda. Frau Professor has a large class, consisting mostly of foreign students, several being from Australia and New Zealanad. As well as lessons once a week, we meet every few weeks in class to perform the works we are studying. This experience is very valuable to performers, and we are also able to increase our knowledge of the repetoire through listening to the other students. The first few months in the class are usually rather difficult, as one realises one's own inadequacies and struggles to absorb new ideas. Our teacher pays much attention to the cultivation of touch (in all its manifestations) to the development of speed and strength and to a strong feeling for rhythm and all the subtleties of phrasing. She also tries to develop each student's own personality, and to show us that we must express ourselves freely if our performances are to have life and meaning.

This is the point where we British students sometimes have rather a battle, for our own tradition does not encourage us to show our feelings! Many of us are reserved or shy and hide behind a mask, showing only as much as we think will be acceptable to polite society. This may be alright for afternoon tea-parties but it is hardly the atmosphere for would-be artists! The Europeans couldn't be more different, exchanging criticisms quite freely, and saying exactly what they think. They are not so concerned with outward appearances, but rather with the real person.

There is very much to be gained by a period of study in Vienna, a fact more and more British students are realising. However, very often it is not possible for music students to stay long enough to achieve all that could be achieved. Artistic standards have to grow, and that takes time Usually it means years of study in suitable surroundings, where one is continually hearing good music and mixing with students of the same level, and years of working with a master teacher. There are some very good pianists in our class who have already performed successfully but they will continue to work with Frau Professor increasing their repetoire and perfecting their performance until the day when they are prepared to stand alone.

We New Zealand students all hope to make a strong contribution to the musical life of our country when we return, and the longer we stay in Vienna, the more able we will be able to do it.