Viennese Delights


A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of revisiting Vienna. I had been there often in the 1970’s when I was playing in a piano trio in Austria run by my great friends the Gameriths. Since I was last in that magical city, so much has changed. It seems that the whole city has been given a facelift and now looks bright and very spick & span. The best things however seem unchanged, especially away from the slightly kitchy tourist traps. One of my favourite places has always been Hawelka’s, a superb coffee house.


When I first started to go there, Leopold Hawelka was very much in charge and he remained so until his death, aged 100, in 2011. Aside from their superb coffee, the café is famous for its yeast buns called buchteln. Alas the recipe is practically a state secret. So here is a lovely recipe for Poppy Seed cake from my great friend Gertraud Gamerith.

Butter 120g
Sugar 150 g
Egg Yolks 4
Egg whites 4
Poppy seeds 150g
Zest of one lemon
Whip the butter till frothy add sugar and the egg whites and mix well. Add the poppy seeds, finely chopped lemon rind and well-beaten egg whites. Mix everything together.
Put the whole mixture in a floured and greased cake pan. Bake in a 175C oven for 45 mins to an hour. Sprinkle with powdered (icing) sugar.

Gertaud and I gave many concerts in Austria, Hungary and Italy playing Mozart and Haydn chamber music. Sometimes her husband would join us playing the flute. We had many adventures, one of which was my first visit to the palace of Esterháza in Hungary to help celebrate the 330th anniversary of the birth of Haydn in 1982. Among the concerts back then I remember a wonderful recital by Malcolm Bilson. A storm was approaching and then, right in the middle of a Haydn Sonata, the power went out. Malcolm played on in the dark with only the occasional flash of distant lightening to give us a momentary vision of the beautiful room where Haydn had himself performed. It was unforgettable.

As it happens I was in the palace only a few weeks ago for a concert with Capella Savaria. I got a lovely surprise when I saw Monica Huggett in the audience. Here is a photo of her, me and the present prince, Anton Esterházy after our show on September 3rd. Thanks to the Prince, the marionette theatre is slowly being restored and is now once again in use for concerts. Perhaps one day the opera house will be rebuilt or will that just be a dream?


While I was in Austria and Hungary I got the very sad news that our good friend Edgar Schoen had passed away in California. He was always the most delightful company, a wearer of fine cravats, and a superb maker of martinis. His wife Fritzi is Viennese and over the years has produced many glorious dinners. Here is her recipe for Kaiser Schnitzel which we always enjoy. As Fritzi writes at the bottom: Guten Appetit!!!

Nicholas McGegan