Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Erich Korngold's goose feast

In 1919, Austria had just lost a war and an empire. Vienna was plunged into austerity. Then Erich Korngold was invited to a party at which was served a pre-war luxury – roast goose and goose liver paté! As a thank-you young Korngold left the room for a moment and returned with a complete song, with piano accompaniment, which he'd whizzed up in the ante-room. Not a fool, young Korngold (he wrote the poem, too).

Die Gansleber im Hause Duschnitz

"To celebrate this day with you and contribute a little song,
I appear quickly on the spot as a houseguest in the
Duschnitz' night hotel, and throw on my best clothes and shout:
"Long may they live, the happy married couple on their
fortieth anniversary!"

"And while I'm speaking of wishes, without hesitating at all
I'd like to mention a few of my own.
I don't want to offend anyone, but I wish that, speaking of
your heating system, you wouldn't be stingy with the coal.
Otherwise, there's a certain danger of catarrh...."

"But this sort of wish is very small compared to this one:
hope that sometime again in my life I'll encounter such
a goose liver, and such a roast goose along with it. Because
a goose liver like this is a wondrous thing and gives any
dinner party an entirely, entirely different sort of splendor!"

"When it's browned, when it's crisp and crackly --- anyone
whose heart doesn't laugh for joy deserves, for such
baseness, to be forced off to bed and made to stay awake
all night with chattering teeth!"

"Oh no, I don't want to be one of those people. So I promise
you ladies and gentlemen: while I'm waiting for the Golden
Wedding (fifty years' anniversary) I hope to eat many
thousands of such goose livers!"

Now you know why I'm off to Korngold's Die tote Stadt at Covent Garden next week.

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