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First Look: Vienna in New York

Dangling high above the sidewalk like the blade of a guillotine, the steeply raked glass façade of the Austrian Cultural Forum marks the structure as one of the most startling to be built in Manhattan in decades. The dramatic, modern building was conceived after the revelation, in 1986, of President Kurt Waldheim's role in Hitler's army, as a way to present another side of Austria. Designed by Austrian-born architect Raimund Abraham, the 24-story tower may be a monumental showcase for the land of Mozart and Freud, but there are, thankfully, no prancing Lipizzaners or frothy waltzes: it looks more to the future than to the past. The Forum opens this month with performances by the contemporary music ensemble Klangforum Wien; site-specific installations by Austrian-born artists; and tributes to novelist Thomas Bernhard and playwright Elfriede Jelinek, both known for their merciless portraits of Viennese society. (Coincidentally, Michael Haneke's film version of Jelinek's controversial novel The Piano Teacher, about the secret life of a Schubert virtuoso, starring Isabelle Huppert, opens in theaters this month.) Austrian Cultural Forum, 11 E. 52nd St., New York; 212/759-5165.

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