Tag Archives: Sopron

The town of loyalty and freedom.


Roman ruins, Sopron, Hungary.

Originally a trade route town on the Roman Amber Road, Sopron is a small town of significance near the Austrian border, featuring a center square with medieval and Gothic architecture, interwoven with 1st and 2nd Century Roman roads and ruins.

Monument honoring Jewish citizens, placed in Ghettos and then taken to Auschwitz in 1944.

Monument honoring Jewish citizens, captured and taken to Auschwitz in 1944.

“Ebben az utcàban 1944 majusban es juniusban a zsidok elkulonitese gettó letesitettek. Az auschwitz-birkenauba hurcolt aldozatok emlekere allitotta sopron onkormanyzata. 1996-BAN”

After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, instead of joining Austria, in 1921 Sopron voted to remain part of Hungary and is thus referred to as Hungary’s ‘most faithful city.’ During WWII, Sopron lost all its Jewish citizens, was bombed, and, in 1945, was captured by the Red Army; during the Cold War, Socialists attempted to industrialize the city. In 1989 the Pan-European Picnic, a demonstration which led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and German reunification, took place near Sopron.

With the surviving medieval architecture and Roman ruins, its productive vineyards and excellent red wine, Kékfrankos, the area is now benefiting from tourism. On a different note, because of the numerous, low-cost dental clinics, Hungary, including Sopron, is also a dental-care destination.

Plaza in Hungary

Sopron’s elegant architecture – with its ornate reliefs, projecting cornices, and colorful facades – once reveling in grandeur and prominence, are now worn and threadbare, interspersed with unflattering cement memories. Its stateliness is saturated with heartbreak, tragedy, and suppression. Are pockets of construction the sights and sounds of hope, or will tolling bells continue to reverberate the heavy spirit of oppression and sorrow?

beautiful door in Hungary

This blogger was captured by the beauty of the Alps, the charm of Salzburg, and the magnificence of Vienna, yet Sopron shoves everything it has endured right in your face, a “take-away” level reminder that travel through Europe is not always about accessibly enjoyable palaces, beer gardens, and Alpine lodges. My world view and knowledge was broadened by our mere 17 hours here.

Click here to see more photos of Sopron.

~ posted by Jennifer Clary


Music throughout time.

Goat Church, Sopron, Hungary.

Goat Church, Sopron, Hungary.

We spent our last 24 hours in Sopron, Hungary. It is a fascinating city that has felt the most “foreign” of all our recent stops. The city center consists variously of 9th-century Roman ruins, 11th-century medieval walls, and 17th-century Baroque towers and cathedrals. Our first experience in a former Soviet bloc country, we all felt the long shadow cast by the distantly-fallen Iron Curtain. We walked a bit over a mile from our hotel to our performance venue, and along the way I felt a strange sense of familiarity to the rough edges of the city. I came to realize that this industrial city has the look and feel of the Rust Belt cities in the US where I have lived and worked: Detroit, Mich.; Rochester, NY; Cleveland, Ohio; and Milwaukee, Wisc.; among many others.

CSU Faculty Chamber Winds at the Ligneum Sopron.

CSU Faculty Chamber Winds at the Ligneum Sopron.

Our performance was at a gorgeous new building surrounded by a deciduous forest at the Lingeum Sopron. The glass-walled structure had an airy, open feel, and was filled with the results of engineering projects from the University of Western Hungary. We performed for a warm audience in an intimate space on the second floor amidst motorbikes, modern couches, wooden toys, and models of energy-saving homes. A truly unique venue, we all concurred. Post-concert, our gracious hosts feted us with traditional Hungarian fare in a classic setting amidst the woods and buildings of the research facility.

One of my contributions to this tour has been my orchestration of Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs” to feature our baritone, Dr. John Seesholtz. Originally for voice and piano, I found great pleasure in seeking a “Coplandesque” shimmer from our unusual combination of woodwinds and brass.

Baritone, John Seesholtz.

Baritone, John Seesholtz.

Although I had the sounds and instrument combinations in my head, it has been a thrill to hear the songs come to life in every venue since a clarinet note here or a brass pairing there appear in different lights depending on the physical space. The compact concert location in Sopron illuminated the brass for me in particular since I was placed directly behind the three horns as opposed to behind the bassoons as I usually am. From that new vantage point, I reveled most in Copland’s brilliant re-harmonization of the old hymn tune “At the River.” I set the introduction and the first verse for three horns, trombone, and solo trumpet, and for the first time since we began playing these songs I felt “inside” Copland’s harmony and my own creation. Combined with John’s lush baritone and (per his request), the darker key of D-flat major, the experience raised every hair on the back of my neck.

Christopher Van Hof performing at Mirabell Garden, Salzburg, Austria.

Christopher Van Hof performing at Mirabell Garden, Salzburg, Austria.

That has been the wonder of this journey for me: once the trains, languages, short nights, quick meals, and all other facets of international travel are set to the side, the opportunity for me to participate–however obliquely–in the ongoing unfolding of music throughout time proves to consistently inspire. It is why I studied music and why I find such deep satisfaction performing and writing, especially with my friends and colleagues.

Click here to see more photos from Sopron.

~ contributed by Chris Van Hof, DMA, Assistant Professor of Trombone and Euphonium