Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Humor: Strauss Feuerfest Anvil Steals the Show in Europe

Possibly the only thing that can come close to Vienna, Austria's New Year's Day concert would be when Andre Rieu decided to stage a pageant-like concert outdoors on a summer's night in the courtyard at Schoenbrunn Palace--one of the most outstanding surviving examples of baroque architecture in the world, and a historic site protected by UNESCO.

To make the evening special for Hoof Blog readers, Rieu kindly included in his concert that evening a performance of Feuerfest by Josef Strauss. Strauss actually wrote the piece to include percussion played on a real anvil. So look what happens when Andre Rieu calls in an anvil. Could it have come from next door at the stables of Spanish Riding School?

Rieu introduces the smith as the most talented percussionist in Paris--who also happens to be a smith. Several French jokes are lobbed at the smith until he decides to take over the performance. And he succeeds at that. When Rieu says that the anvil weighs 750 kg, I expect some eyebrows will go up!

Some Italian subtitles are embedded in this video if you mouse over the tool bar at the bottom of the frame.


Strauss may have been Austrian but his music is universal. Feuerfest is one of those uplifting Viennese polkas that buoys the spirit--even when played at a super-serious concert by the Philharmonic in Berlin, Germany. I think I saw some smiles in the dignified audience as this talented percussionist/smith went to work.

But what if the anvil is a little off-key? Or it's a little wavy across its face? Or both? Here's the anvilist for the Sibiu State Philharmonic of Transylvania in Romania (Filarmonica de Stat Sibiu) hammering on, regardless.


Ah, then there are the Ukranians. When they performed Feuerfest in Kiev, not only does the Philharmonic there pick up the tempo a notch (pity the poor dancers if this was played at a ball!), the anvilist (anvilteer?) upgraded the performance art with plates on the anvil's face and a pyrotechnic display!


Strauss' home town of Vienna gets the last word on Feuerfest. Who knew the polka had both anvils and lyrics, too? Here's the Vienna Boys Choir sharing the words in falsetto as only they can. Maybe one of the blog's German-speaking readers can tell us what they're singing.

I wish I could tell you that the lyrics are about a fire blazing in a smithy--and perhaps they are--but my research on the tune turned up the information that while the literal translation of Feuerfest is "festival of fire", Strauss took it to mean "fireproof" when in 1869 he was commissioned to compose this piece by a Viennese firm that built fireproof safes.

In addition to writing waltzes and polkas like the rest of his illustrious family, Josef Strauss worked as an engineer and invented a horse-drawn street sweeper to keep the beautiful city clean. He also wrote the Jockey's Polka, which calls for the sound of a whip in the percussion score.

Surely, Josef Strauss was a horseman at heart.

One thing I know: if I had a warmblood destined for high performance, I'd name him Feuerfest. Or, if I already had an upper level horse, I'd start choreographing a kur to Feuerfest. But, since I don't, I think I will give my cell phone a Feuerfest ringtone for Christmas!

I might need some of the Hoof Blog readers to dub in the you think you could do it?

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