Meeting an orchestra too early in the morning

Meeting an orchestra too early in the morning


norman lebrecht

June 30, 2018

From a review I have just written in the Wall Street Journal:

As a young radio journalist in Jerusalem in 1972, I would come off the night shift at 8 a.m. and go to breakfast at Café Alaska, where orchestral players were kvetching away the half-hour before rehearsal. As the musicians ­filtered out, the place filled up with black-gowned lawyers reading their briefs before court opened. Their seats, in turn, were taken by actors dropping in to read reviews and by frazzled mothers in need of a shot after leaving the kids at school. Café Alaska was not so much a place of refreshment as a carousel of human comedies spun around the noisy grinding of coffee beans and furnished with a rack of ­polyglot newspapers on the far wall.

The best cafes, I learned there, were the ones that the old-timers sighed over, the Herrenhof in Vienna, the ­Romanisches in Berlin and the Garden Cafeteria at 165 East Broadway, on New York’s Lower East Side, where Isaac ­Bashevis Singer weaved his tales. The best cafes, in other words, exist in a mist of ­aromatic memory to sustain our weakened civilization through cardboard slurps at Starbucks….

Read on here.


  • Julien says:

    If anybody cares, the photograph is of the Café Schwarzenberg in Vienna. Nice place, with good classical viennese food and a short but very acceptable wine selection. It’s conveniently situated, five minutes away from the Musiverein, the Konzerthaus and the Opera.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Paywalled, alas.

    The archetypal coffeehous of Vienna is copied everywhere, where the need for a civilized corner is felt amidst the hysteria of the modern world.

    There is something particularly ironic about the Viennese coffeehouse. In those public haute bourgeois salons, all the ideas which would bring down ‘bourgeois culture’ were the subject of heated debates, so: within the creations of the very tradition where the plotters had their leisurely coffee and cakes, they developed their utopias – all meant to destroy the pre-1914 culture which had given them the place to cultivate such ideas in the first place: Schoenberg, Freud, Loos, and the killer prophet of communism Lenin. One can imagine them, sitting in the comfortable halflight, with their cigars, complaining about how bad the current culture is and the strong need to be done with it.

    And now, more than an age later, we nostalgically think back at those times, and mourn the culture that the utopias destroyed, and try to recreate something of those salons. And it is good business, of course.

  • mrwien says:

    The photo is Cafe Schwarzenberg in Vienna, no?