Question: How do you get the funds for producing such an ambititous project?

Percy Adlon: I wrote a kind of poem. I read it, faxed it, e-mailed it to three TV executives, three great woman who had the courage to take the project into their program meetings. All three executives – of ZDF, ARTE, ORF – succeeded. Of course, they got only half the money I had asked for, but it was enough to produce my shorts. With less money, I had even more artistic freedom. We shot them with this little high end consumer camera but with a full orchestra and dozens of participants. Here is my poetic pitch:

When my Mother wore the Pretty Hat

I would like

to express my love for this music

of the sensual delight

the way I felt it as a young boy of three

sitting under the conductor’s podium

at the Regina Palast Hotel,

when the dance orchestra

played these waltzes,

my mother wore the pretty hat

and whenever I turned to her nodded to me

while I was conducting along for hours

with an incessant feeling of happiness

Munich, “city of movement”, 1938 –

a feeling of joy, expectation, warmth,

that I since then always feel when I hear this music.

 And also in the years after,

in the country in Bavaria,

I would stand on the radio stool

(as we called the piece in front of the big Telefunken-radio)

and conducted along

when the waltzes and polkas of Strauss

were played at the lunch concert of the Bavarian Radio

between the, as my mother called it, “ghastly” commissioned entertainment music

by Aryan composers

(while she feared for the fate of her not too Aryan Bohemian mother!).

 When I turned ten

the Americans came

with Big Band sound

and Rosemary Clooney,

but I still loved alongside the “Roses from the South”,

the “Morning Papers”, the “Annen-Polka”.

 At the boarding school we learned the Fledermaus-Quadrille

from the couple Giebel from Traunstein

who owned a dance school there;

he with a pointed nose made for leading;

she with a hart, bony housewive’s grip.

They placed us across from the girls,

seven against seven,

and we stepped on each other’s shoes

until we were really good by the next carnival.

It was the time of Catharina Valente, Elvis, The Beatles,

but I danced happily to the melodies which I had

stored from the Regina.

 Even Wagner, Bartok, Dixieland,

or Mahler, Schumann, Orff and Egk,

or Sinatra, Lionel Hampton

and Carl Amadeus Hartmann’s Musica Viva

could not replace this sweet delight

that the Wiener Blut unleashed inside myself.

 I listened to The Emperor’s Waltz with Furtwängler,

the Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka with Clemens Kraus,

The Blue Danube with Karajan at the Teatro Fenice,

but my favorite was Kna…

the infinitely slow tempi of Hans Knappertsbusch

with his blaring, burlesque brass,

and the melancholic zither of Rudi Knabl,

G’schichten aus dem Wienerwald

(Tales from the Vienna Woods)

And then, like crazy,

Carlos Kleiber

with “Thunder and Lightening” in a New Years concert

that almost made me burst with Straussian joy of life.

 Yet, they all played almost always the same,

the same twelve waltzes, polkas, marches and quadrilles,

as we all know them by heart and love them, love them…

But where are all the others;

the work catalog contains hundreds of works;

are they all trash?

Not worth mentioning?

Had Schani (how his friends called him)

to compose so much garbage

to land his few hits?

 No!!!

At the blue Pacific,

on Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood,

I grabbed into a box and drew my lucky number,

the number seven of a series,

which promised the entire work of Johann Strauss, Jr.

The box contained a few more odd numbers,

I researched further and soon I had found all eleven CDs available by then.

A trip of pure delight;

discovery over discovery,

never heard quadrilles on touring operas of the day,

in which the beautiful Jean sets his famous colleagues, Verdi, Offenbach, Mayerbeer

to dance.

 Unheard masterpieces. Heavenly waltzes, delightful polkas,

never ending ideas, musical jokes,

infinitely sweet, melancholic melodies

about searching, finding, farewells and longings.

 Now everything is available!!!

Now, something has to be done!!!

This must not collect dust in the archives,

must not be hidden in the shelves and hearts of a few Strauss-maniacs!!!

How can I express my happiness?

How can I share it with many ?

A film about Strauss?

No, it is not about his life,

not about imaginary dialogues.

It is about the music, the discovery

that the Mozart of dance did not only compose The Jupiter,

The Magic Flute and the kleine Nachtmusik,

but that there is a large-scale canteen “kücheling” cooking!

 Now let me come back to the box.

My box this time.

A box of 24 pieces.

Tales without words,

only with music;

tales from Vienna

of the past mixed with a dash of today’s.

Viennese faces, fashion, jewelry, reminiscences,

flowers, desserts, photos, chambers,

craftsmen tools, fiacre, dachshunds,

a polka only with desserts,

zestful mouths, sparkling eyes,

seduction.

Enchantment by the Magic-Polka where a magician

makes the big Madame from Rosenheim appear,

and she makes him disappear.

A nostalgic waltz-landscape around Vienna in the early morning hours,

and a very old couple

looking together at photographs from when they were young and danced the waltzes

at Sperl’s, Donmayer’s, at the Odeon.

 But then, where to put all this?

What to do with it?

 Well…

Now the author is looking for six people

in the form of daring and curious TV executives

to whom I would make the following speech

Highly esteemed, urgently needed ladies,

the 100th anniversary of the death of the greatest…

Bad.

You know who Johann Strauss was. But what are you going to do on the 3rd of June 1999 with a man, a work that like no other is suited

to sound out our old millennium?

Repeat the Fledermaus; a New Year’s concert? A bio.

His St. Petersburg romance.

Will that do him justice?

 Imagine,

you will have 24 homages of the beautiful Schani at hand,

24 different films without words,

funny, melancholic, turbulent, fresh, tipsy

pieces, in love and lost in thought,

with or without plot,

from a world

where this kind of amusing liberation was still possible.

With these 24 homages you intersperse, spice and celebrate

June 3, 1999,

and you give your audience the sensation

of masterpieces by the most popular genius of entertainment music

which, the devil knows why, had remained unknown.

 I’m not done yet, my dearest TV executive,

just think further.

From the 24 pieces you can choose your favorite ones;

you rather prefer the marches with the political collages to the Dessert-Polka;

you particularly like the nostalgic pieces;

you like the shorter ones;

you the…

 Just grab into the box,

play your favorites between the programs on the occasion of the turn of the millennium, take them as appetizer, filler or bouncer;

take them to Cannes

to a short film festival,

or have the Philharmonic play along live under a big screen…

I won’t tell the best ideas;

I don’t know them,

as they will come from you.

 I gather from your smile that I don’t have to convince you anymore

but that you’ll have to convince your president

as this all is far away from “the slots”,

and without slots

there is no program

and without program…

 Alright then, I see it’s impossible.

I’ll pack up magic persuasion flute;

you have been a wonderful and patient listener;

I kiss your hand

and I remain

your everlasting Strauss admirer,

P.A.

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