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,
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?
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