Jessas Na

Long live the Central Cemetary! The scene is macabre...

...With his song, Wolfgang Ambros struck a nerve in every Viennese soul – the primal fear of the existence of man. Since then, a ghost hovers over the city inspiring everyone from common folks to artists to ponder the topic of death. 

While there is an abnormally large variety of words for death in the Viennese dialect, many of which make light of the subject,  there are also harrowing masterpieces by composers like Mozart, Schubert or Mahler that portray the premontion of death in a completely different manner.
A kindred spirit to the morbid Viennese mentality of Helmut Qualtinger (“In Vienna, you’ve got to die, so that you’ll be appreciated, but once that happens, you’ll live really long.”) or Georg Kreislers (“Death, that must be a Viennese guy”) was also the pianist and composer Friedrich Gulda. His staged performance of his own death was one of the most recent highlights of Viennese black humor.  



Friedrich Gulda was also the man that breathed life into the traditional Viennese song of the 1960s. By doing so, he created a revival of Viennese song that has lasted until the present day. As his pseudonym “Golowin”, Gulda impersonated a “Blues singer in Ottakring spirit” and connected Viennese music with jazz music in an artful way.

In “Jessas Na - G’schichten vom Spittelberg”, a commissioned work by the CrossNova Ensemble, Mathias Rüegg illustrates morbid atmospheric pictures with melancholy, dour texts that could not be more typical Viennese. 

Roland Neuwirth, who sees himself as a kind of “last dinosaur” of the Viennese song art form, understands better than anyone else how to pour the grumbling-aggressive timbre of the Viennese mentality into a song form. 
Michael Radanovic selected songs from Neuwirth’s comprehensive body of work and set them to a baroque style Partita. The resultant work is a combination of grooviness and “Schrammelndes”, while at the same time having a deeply Viennese spirit.  

From here, musically and contentwise, it is only a short distance to Ambros’ Central Cemetery. This Viennese cemetery – one of the most popular attractions of the city – is, though it’s only half as big as Zurich, reportedly at least double the fun. 

With works that are equally full of the idioms of Viennese music and also various styles of contemporary music, the CrossNova Ensemble approaches this peculiar tradition in a new way, going beyond the highly-stylized, commerical clichés, making the dark Vienna audible.



Audio Samples, Videos

Jessas Na (Mathias Rüegg)

Unserana im Nirvana (Roland Neuwirth)*

Wann i geh' (Friedrich Gulda)*

Ein echtes Wienerlied (Roland Neuwirth)


*live @ Wiener Konzerthaus, Mai 2010