Liesl Müller
    
  

About the Music

Wien du Stadt meiner Träume:

This is probably the best-known Viennese song. The author dedicated it to a Liesl sometime before the First World War in 1914. Nothing further was heard of that Liesl but the song became a world hit and still is to this day. The years preceding the First World War are usually referred to as "the good old time" when Vienna was the brilliant capital of the large Austro-Hungarian empire with over 50 million people, 11 different nationalities including Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, large parts of Yugoslavia, and northern Italy. Here the aged emperor Franz Joseph held court in the magnificent Palace of Schönbrunn, a close copy of Versaille, or in the recently completed Hofburg, in the inner city, the very heart of Vienna.

In this "city of dreams", the elegant ladies painted so beautifully by Klimt, were accompanied to fashionable balls by dashing, gold-braided and bemedalled cavalry officers. Well-fed burgers and representatives of the trade guilds had their share of the fun at fancy dress dances and at the winery-heurigens of the surrounding districts where the growers featured their current crop. In the coffeehouses, artists, writers and philosophers discussed and argued interminably and created work that broke new ground as in the music of Mahler, the biting wit of Karl Kraus, the dramatic elegance of Hofmannstal or the visual strength of Kokoschka. To the Viennese intelligentsia Das Kaffeehaus was home.

There were plenty of warning signs of approaching disaster. The Viennese continued to eulogise their city. Visitors from home and abroad gladly joined in the fun. The First World War changed everything. Austria was reduced to a country of 6 million, Vienna with its 1 3/4 million inhabitants; an anachronism was fighting for survival. The bemedalled lieutenants became gigolos, the beautiful ladies cut their ball gowns and showed their knees dancing the charleston and shimmy. Inflation was rampant but tourists came from all over the world attracted by the fame of this unique city. In the coffeehouses discussions continued - one coffee and five glasses of water saw you through the afternoon. The cabarets provided humour and glamour but also biting comment on the news of the day. Germany had enthusiastically welcomed Hitler in 1933. This could never happen in Austria they said and Jewish artists of stage and comedy, great men of science, philosophy and letters continued to thrive in the cultural life of Vienna. Only five years later Hitler made his triumphant entrance into Vienna. Those who could, fled first to Paris and Amsterdam where they congregated to dream of "home", of their Vienna. They sang "Wien, Wien nur du allein" until the invaders came again, the lucky ones managed to escape and the music moved with them. After the devastating Second World War, Vienna again successfully rose from the ashes, still the city that best represents the dreams of people in and outside its boundaries.

 

 
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