Spanish Riding School 2005 American Tour

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Extreme Vienna: Waltz Like a Conversano, Neapolitano, Favory, or Siglavy on New Year's Day

One of my fondest memories of the Spanish Riding School took place neither in Vienna, nor Piber, nor at any of the USA tour performances. It was on TV.

A few years ago, perhaps it was 2000, master conductor Seiji Ozawa conducted the Vienna Philharmonic at their annual New Year's Day concert. This is a highly traditional, mostly-Strauss, mostly-waltz concert held annually and if you'd like to go...well, you might be able to book now for sometime a decade from now.

What Ozawa and his producers on PBS did so magnificently is that they cut from the concert hall to scenes of Vienna. Skaters in period costume glided on a rink as Ozawa conducted Strauss's "Skaters Waltz". You could see where Strauss got his inspirationn--they glided in time to the live music. Amazing.

Cut to the Palace ball room. Gowned ladies and gentlemen in tails whirled under chandeliers as snow fell outside leaded crystal windows. Ahhh, Vienna!

But Ozawa confessed that one of his most fascinating scenes was the one done with a monitor on his conductor's stand showing the Lipizzans of the Spanish Riding School performing next door in the Winter Riding Hall.

It was all done live. No possibility of a second take! Ozawa became intrigued with the horses, and watching their footfalls. His baton hovered in the air as he re-syncopated the famous waltz (sorry I can't remember which one it was, possibly "Blue Danube") to suit the rhythm of the horses' gaits.

PBS produced the concert for television, with a simulcast in stereo over NPR (radio). It was such a memorable broadcast.

Fast forward to 2005: Today I read an offbeat travel article in one of the British newspapers about the ball season in Vienna (yes, there is a ball "season") and how one, as a tourist, can be part of it.

The article tells of renting ballgowns, learning to waltz, and soaking up the incredible culture of winter in Vienna. What century is this, you will wonder!

Of course, the Spanish Riding School is right in the middle of it all--the center for learning to waltz like a Masterpiece Theater extra is right next to the stables at the Hofburg Palace!

Note: if you are visiting Vienna this month, you can see special working sessions of the apprentice riders and young stallions.

I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did, even if just for the fantasy of it all. Here's the link:

Vienna New Year's Day article from


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi -
So happy to see a note about Witez (or Witez II, as he became when he moved to the US), one of the great Arabians rescued with the Lipizzaners and other breeds by Patton's troops!
Thanks again for the blog - I'll email you privately about some suggestions for keeping this going! Sandy

1:17 PM, December 19, 2005  

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