Rapid await Sturm for playoff showdown

Sturm Graz need to prepare for a difficult away match in Vienna in the newly introduced playoff mode.

Roman Mählich’s team face Rapid at the Allianz Stadion tomorrow (5pm) after the Green-Whites’ convincing 2-0 win over Mattersburg last night (Tues).1

Midfielder Christoph Knasmüllner and striker Aliou Badji found the net within the first 15 minutes against a badly disoriented Mattersburg back-four before Thomas Murg and Philipp Schobesberger missed numerous great chances to increase the lead in the second half.

Mattersburg were unable to produce any serious threat to Richard Strebinger’s clean sheet throughout the match which was also attended by former Rapid stars Christopher Drazan and Louis Schaub.

Rapid coach Dietmar Kühbauer knew systemic changes were needed after a second-rate Rapid line-up put in a rather disappointing performance against Altach (1-2) last weekend. Kühbauer’s trusted keeper Strebinger, midfield strategist Murg and skipper Stefan Schwab slid back into the starting eleven last night as some of their teammates with fewer appearances failed to convince their coach.

Sturm Graz must compete in the new playoff after reaching just fifth place in the championship group. Fans of the venerated club have surely expected more following the instalment of Roman Mählich as head coach in November.

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Barisic is back, Pastoor stays

A power void emerged at Rapid and Altach but new people have stepped in to fill the gaps ahead of the clubs’ upcoming encounter (Saturday 5pm, Allianz Stadion).

Rapid (pictured: Richard Strebinger) recently named Zoran Barisic their new sporting director. The former player and coach replaced a visibly frustrated Fredy Bickel. Rapid’s failure to qualify for the new championship playoff was the beginning of the end of Bickel’s two-and-a-half year tenure. In the 1990s, Barisic was a versatile midfielder at Admira, Rapid and FC Tirol who riffled in numerous free-kicks from impossible angles.

Altach – who did not make the title battle cut either – managed to avoid being relegated also thanks to their new Dutch manager Alex Pastoor. Earlier this week, the club bosses announced that the former Sparta Rotterdam coach’s contract has been extended until summer 2020.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Altach will welcome two Premier League sides for friendlies in July. On 11th of July, the Vorarlberg club face West Ham featuring Austrian national team star Marko Arnautovic before playing against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton three days later.

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Tulln’s towering talent

The journey Egon Schiele has undertaken in his short life has been nothing short of miraculous. “Ich ewiges Kind. Das Leben des Egon Schiele” is taking us back in time to Austria around 1900, a period of poverty and starvation under a glamorous surface.

Gregor Mayer recounts not just Schiele’s stormy relationship with lover Wally Neuzil and how Gustav Klimt and other pioneering artists of the era inspired him. The author also takes a closer look at the famed painter’s childhood in the Lower Austrian town of Tulln: observing arriving and departing trains from a windowsill, becoming a notorious troublemaker at school, trying to cope with his father’s death.

Mayer has analysed numerous letters and publications to illustrate how Schiele became an outstandingly innovative and truly game-changing artist. Schiele created a completely new kind of nude studies and self-portraits. Painting with urgency and passion, the artist was constantly confronted with financial bottlenecks and sexual offence accusations. He was eventually incarcerated for more than three weeks.

Schiele – who died from the Spanish flu just days before the end of World War One – is still one of the most powerful assets of Vienna’s holidaymaking business as thousands visit the Leopold Museum and the Belvedere gallery each week where a substantial part of his phenomenal legacy is on display.

Ich ewiges Kind. Das Leben des Egon Schiele
By Gregor Mayer
Published by Residenz Verlag (www.residenzverlag.at)

Swiss spies, Sacher cake … and anti-Semitism

It was a pivotal moment for Austrian baking traditions when a young apprentice had to step up and creative something extraordinary to please notorious Chancellor Klemens von Metternich. Franz Sacher boldly took this opportunity of a lifetime to create a chocolate cake which has become a globally celebrated delicacy.

The copyright quarrel concerning the original recipe of Vienna’s Sachertorte is one of the finest parts of Charles E. Ritterband’s new book “Grant und Grandezza”. The Swiss journalist reflects on his experiences with Austrian mentality – this obscure concoction of charming courtesy and thorough grumpiness – ever since he settled in Vienna nearly 20 years ago.

Ritterband can be a dazzlingly entertaining writer when he tries to analyse the characteristics of the average citizen of Vienna: unfriendly and dissatisfied, but at the same time aware of the outstanding infrastructure of the city – from its excellent tap water to the magnificent cultural opportunities. Ritterband also proves being a sagacious connoisseur of life in (upper class) Vienna when musing about winning over the city centre’s infamously eccentric waiters.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung journalist certainly has a point as he meticulously documents the most recent anti-Semitic scandals involving high-ranking representatives of government party FPÖ. He does not shy back from underlining the dark legacy of Austria in World War Two including repression and persecution of the local Jewish community.

However, this is probably not what readers came for. They are without a doubt longing for other subjects when a book named “Grant und Grandezza” has a caricature depicting a grumpy fellow on its cover.

Thankfully Ritterband provides enough material to please them – going to the opera with his Viennese grandmother, a bizarre Swiss-Austrian espionage controversy, sarcastic analysis of Austrian meals, plans to get Austrian charm on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Subjects as these are certainly the special appeal of “Grant und Grandezza”.

The only lamentable aspect is that the terribly vapid caricatures of Michael Pammesberger cannot keep up with the author’s wit.

Grant und Grandezza. Randbemerkungen zu Österreich
By Charles E. Ritterband
Published by Ueberreuter (www.ueberreuter-sachbuch.at)

Exit trolls

A play documenting an election frontrunner’s inner struggles is about to hit the stage for one last time at Vienna’s leading theatre.

“Der Kandidat” (Le Candidat) by Gustave Flaubert from 1874 portrays Mr Russek, a shrewd retired banker who decides to engage in politics in a desperate attempt to earn recognition from friends, family and enemies. After having accepted one party’s offer, the notorious egomaniac secretly agrees on a deal with a rival faction.

Audiences have been spellbound as leading actor Gregor Bloeb, Sabine Haupt and Sebastian Wendelin prove being on top of their game in a play which could not be more relevant.

Populists who got that I’m-just-like-you quality voters really seem to appreciate have sent shockwaves through Europe’s moderate political establishment. Donald Trump’s US election triumph was somewhat of a pivotal moment in times of aggressive campaigning and the widespread determination to produce attention-grabbing stories aiming at tarnishing political competitors’ reputation.

Visit http://www.burgtheater.at for information on ticket availability for the performance of “Der Kandidat” this Thursday (9th of May) and other acclaimed Burgtheater productions such as Ödön von Horvath’s “Glaube Liebe Hoffnung” and “Die Ratten” starring Sven-Eric Bechtolf, Marie-Luise Stockinger and Roland Koch.

Photo: © Georg Soulek / Burgtheater

The long and winding road

The incoming Burgtheater director has underlined his intention to bring in some fresh spirit.

“I’m interested in the Burgtheater’s long-term future. The decisive question will be how such a tradition-rich institution can gain some new, fresh meaning,” Martin Kusej told magazine Profil.

The Viennese city centre stage is still regarded as one of the finest places for performance in Central Europe. However, a soaring number of critics have recently claimed that numerous venues in Switzerland and Germany have managed to catch up. Kusej’s task is considered challenging but doable.

Kusej, 57, pointed out: “I’ve started preparing my five-year term calm and professionally. It will be a long, long walk.”

The Carinthian will take over from Karin Bergmann in autumn. Bergmann managed to end the full-scale conflict which had broken out concerning spending volumes and artistic direction.

Kusej reportedly managed to convince award-winning movie actress Birgit Minichmayr to return to the Burgtheater while several popular current members of the theatre’s line-up including Christiane von Poelnitz and Petra Morzé must leave.

Asked by Profil whether some of the plays introduced at the theatre during Bergmann’s term will remain on the bill in the upcoming season, Kusej said: “Yes. I need a solid foundation for my repertoire. There are several popular plays which I do like. Around 13 productions are set to stay.”

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