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Kirsten Petersen


Kirsten Petersen

Kirsten has been part of the coin world for most of her professional career.  For more than 20 years now she has worked for the Austrian Mint helping to establish and build the Austrian Mint presence and successes in the international markets around the world.  Kirsten began her numismatic career with the Royal Canadian Mint where she distinguished herself by creating numismatic programs such as "Canada 125", the proof Maple Leaf issues and the original Aviation silver program.

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Archive for '2015'

    New Year’s Concert – Vienna

    December 2, 2015 10:25 AM by kirsten petersen

    Already we are in the later part of November and of course, I realize that the festive season is almost upon us and the dawn of 2016 is not far behind.  To celebrate, I need to plan ahead or simply stay home with friends and family and enjoy some of the many New Year’s traditions available to all of us; college football, the Rose Bowl parade and the annual New Year’s concert.  No special tickets required just a bit of relaxation time for the first day of the year.  Football is beyond my ability but flowers and music are right up my alley.  Who does not enjoy the fantastic fantasy floral displays floating by in the parade. All one needs is a bit of sun outdoors to highlight these superb constructions.  On the other hand, indoors inside a superbly constructed architectural wonder, also be-decked in massive floral arrangements, one may listen to the melodious strains of music from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

    It is tough to become a member of this 170 year- old orchestra as direct auditions are not possible.  If interested a gifted musician must audition for the Vienna State Opera.  If accepted by the State Opera the musician must successfully perform with it for three years, a sort of proving ground, before he may apply to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for an audition.  No wonder the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is regarded as one of the finest in the world.  The standards that one must pass to be accepted are set phenomenally high. 

    By far the majority of members are men.  There are a few female members in recent years, 6 or so – I guess that this progress.

    But the uniqueness of the orchestra does not end upon admission.  The member musicians are a self-governing group.  In essence every year there are meetings in which the members determine their plans for the coming weeks, months and year by voting on various points, alternatives and decisions to be made.  Those that receive the majority of votes are accepted.  Its just that simple.  In order to have a complete overview of what will be happening there is a 12 member group elected by the orchestra members who action the numerous activities and plans for a year that require some management aspects.  If these twelve get re-elected then they know the rest of the orchestra is happy with how the year unfolded.

    The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra does not have a permanent conductor but rather they invite top-notch conductors from various parts of the world to join them for awhile in Vienna and lead the group through their performances.  The honor of being invited as the guest conductor for the New Year’s Day concert is highly prized by these leading and very gifted musicians.

    Knowing this always makes me smile when enjoying the New Year’s concert not only the musicians but the conductor leading them represent some of the finest performers of classical music in the world.  Quite the way to begin a year.

    Chandeliers and Horse Feed

    February 23, 2015 10:05 AM by
    On a recent trip to Vienna, I finally visited the Spanish Riding School, and wow, was I ever blown away.  These horses live in style!  Here are a few historical tidbits on the Lipizzaner breed.  This is the oldest horse riding school in the world and the oldest school that continues to train, ride and teach the classic “haut école” of the equestrian world.

    Turns out that the Lipizzaner breed was developed during the Renaissance period when classical equitation was back in favor. The Hapsburg Imperial family recognized the need for agile light horses by the military.  So they crossed a Spanish horse, which had Arabian and Berber stallion origins, with Iberian mares.  This was at a time when the Hapsburgs controlled Austria as well as Spain.  (I think the connection was something like this - the Habsburgs in the mid to late 15th and early 16th century experienced a great expansion of their kingdom largely through the “peaceful” strategy of dynastic marriages.  So Philip the Fair, son of Maximilian I, was married off to Joanna of Castille, aka Joan the Mad. Definitely a strategic move since the marriage of Joanna came with Castille, Aragon and most of Spain.)

    The Lipizzaner’s are born with dark colored coats – variations of brownish black.  They become light grey by the time the horses reach the ages of between 6 and 10 years.  Their trademark large eyes and small perky ears give them an endearing face.  The Lipizzaner is considered a rather “small” horse but the physical power of the stallions is very evident in their well-defined muscles and tendons of their hindquarters, shoulders and legs.  

    During early centuries horses were extremely valuable.  Some compare owning such horses in the time to the prestige of owning a Ferrari today.  The Habsburgs continued to breed the horse always having several hundred at any given time.   In fact the apartments of the crown prince were built directly above the stables of the Lipizzaners, clearly reflecting the prestige and value of these handsome animals.

    If you had to describe it in one word, the Spanish Riding School is Vienna is elegant.  There is just no other way to describe it.  The school as an entity was founded in 1572.  However, the rich baroque building that is the “winter riding school” where these horses still perform today was built more recently: 1729 to 1735.  This palatial structure is part of the Imperial Palace complex in the very center of the city. I suspect that when it was being built no expense was spared.  

    The performing hall is huge.  The riding ring has an earthen floor.  There is no foundation under the vast riding area.  The four walls that surround this area are stunningly beautiful: gorgeous columns, palatial windows through which sunlight streams in, baroque flourishes, gold trim and sparkling crystal chandeliers.  I sat in awe when I was in this performing hall (I just cannot bring myself to call it a riding ring). And picture it when I was there: there were no horses performing, the building itself is that breath-taking.

    I looked up from the few seats that are in the hall to a portrait of Emperor Charles VI who commissioned its construction.  The riders at the beginning of each performance still salute his highness, which I can understand because they get to “work” in an amazing and historic institution.

    I was very fortunate to be able to also visit the stables, which are located beside the “Winter Riding School.”  These stables are the cleanest I have ever seen.  They really do not smell.  If anything perhaps there is an air of fresh hay.  The mighty horses are nestled in their palatial stalls with marble water troughs, and brass railings, and sculpted horse heads peering down from the high walls.  Each horse has its own stable stall.  Each of the stalls is signed with the name of the horse inside and the custom feed that they will receive at the specified meal times each day. Yeah, each horse has its own individualized meal plan, depending on its nutritional needs, its duties and its age.   The names of the horses are really something because once you understand the logic of the compounded names then the horse’s lineage is totally clear.

    The sophisticated science and depth of knowledge with which these Lipizzaner stallions are treated is evident in many of the things one sees in the stable area.  Even the horses that have allergies get special treatment and are assigned to the stalls with doors that open to the outside.

    The tack room is more than precise and oh-so orderly.  It would be easy to spot the one thing that still was not back in exactly the right place.

    Of course, with such a long history, there are also superstitions.  The longest running one dates back to the beginning of the school, and has to do with a black stallion.  For whatever genetic reason, from time to time the coat of one of the stallions does not become the classic soft whitish grey colour as it matures but remains dark, almost black.  The belief is that if there were not one very dark coated mature stallion at all times, it would mean the end of this riding school.

    The stallions in Vienna also now have an automatic walker, the largest one in the world.   It is computer controlled and walks the horses round and round.  The horses in the walker are clever enough to recognize the quiet churning of the machinery when the computer changes the direction of the walk, and the horses start to turn around almost before the automated walker has completed the mechanism change.

    I was so impressed by all that was around me when I visited the stables and the performing hall or “Winter Riding School” that I am planning to visit the Spanish Riding School again in the near future.  And hopefully I’ll secure one of the coveted performance tickets to enjoy first hand this centuries-old tradition.