LA Phil Blog

2011 European Tour

Magical Mahler in Vienna

Vienna, our last stop. Last night, playing in the Musikverein was magical. Thinking of Mahler in this same building was so inspiring.

The Vienna venue for the 2011 European Tour party -- seven cities, 13 concerts, 21 time to relax!
The Vienna venue for the 2011 European Tour party -- seven cities, 13 concerts, 21 time to relax!

The stage was very crowded for the 105 musicians needed for our last performance of Mahler 9 and I looked across the stage and saw some audience members standing by the bass players!! The backstage of this absolutely gorgeous hall was very confusing - the instrument trunks were on one level, the wardrobe trunks on another and the stage on yet one more. And the stairs!

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Vienna, At Long Last

Ah, Vienna!

A poster in Vienna announces the final concerts of the LA Phil's 2011 European Tour.

It's still cold, especially for us Angelenos, but the sun is out and should be for these last days of the tour. Last night was a special one - playing Mahler 9th in the hall where Mahler conducted - the Musikverein, one of the best, if not the best, in the world.

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And Now, A Word From Our Concertmaster

What an exciting prospect to be entering Vienna, the quintessential Musical Capital, after such a long time!

Martin Chalifour
You run into all sorts of people on tour - here's LA Phil Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour with legendary violinist Ivry Gitlis.

The famed city is the last stop on our tour and arguably the most important, one that my wife Nancy and I know well from our student years. We both studied here and have fond memories of the place.

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Pre-Show Anxiety in Vienna

I feel stressed about our concerts in Vienna.

Gustavo Dudamel rehearses
The LA Phil rehearses Mahler's Ninth at the world-famous Wiener Musikverein in Vienna, where Mahler himself performed.

The last time we played for an Austrian audience was in Salzburg, 1992. We were invited by Gérard Mortier, the new Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival, to spend a month in residence and perform a series of concerts, including Olivier Messiaen's six-hour opera "Saint François d'Assise". For our opening concert, the first piece that we played for the Salzbergers was Johann Strauss' "Emperor Waltz". Esa-Pekka Salonen intended it as a thank you, an homage, to Austria and Austrians.

It was greeted with boos.

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Musical and Restaurant Adventures in Budapest

It's 11 a.m. and I'm already all out of khazookies.

Hungarian dessert
Some Hungarian dessert delights, costing 350 'khazookies,' according to Jim Wilt's system of currency exchange - or about $1.75.

Last night we'd blown them all on a terrific Hungarian meal of traditional goulash soup and duck. Maybe a bottle (or two) of wine. There was a great trio of musicians playing Romani (or what used to be called "Gypsy") music on the violin, cimbalom and bass. The violinist was particularly impressive, laying down ridiculously technical passages with precision, clarity and panache. I noticed our waitress, Brigette, standing transfixed in front of them while not tending to her tables. Always a sucker for a pretty face, I called her over and asked whether she was a musician because she was listening so intently.

"No, I keep hoping they will play my favorite piece. The Opera Phantom."

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When Do We Clap?

The final measures of the Mahler 9th symphony seem to linger on to eternity...and beyond. The marking in the score is "Eberst langsam," which means almost as slow as humanly possible, and finally, the last measure is "esterbend," or "dying." Maestro Dudamel has been holding onto the moment for as long as both he, the orchestra, and the audience could endure.

The orchestra stands as they acknowledge the audience's applause in Budapest.

The patrons last night in Budapest simply would not start to applaud for fear of breaking a magical spell that had been cast by the great performance. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the applause began and would never let up until the orchestra began to leave the stage.

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To Trunk or Not To Trunk?

This blog entry isn’t about any particularly cool city on this tour. They are all cool. It is instead about getting my viola from point A to point B. As members of the Philharmonic we have two options with regards to our instruments. We can hand carry our instruments or we can “trunk” them. If we hand-carry them it means that we have them with us at every turn. Can you imagine the overhead bin space on a trans-Atlantic flight if over 100 musicians hand carried their instruments? Besides, that's not really an option for cellists, bassists or percussion players anyway.

Orchestra's Viola case
Violist Mick Wetzel's instrument - he 'trunked it' on the first leg of this tour after agonizing over the decision.

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Budapest at Night

This is the spectacular view from our hotel in Budapest. This is what you get when you work with a world-class band like the Los Angeles Philharmonic!

Budapest at night
A photo of Budapest at night, taken by Kelley O'Connor, who's traveling with the LA Phil as a featured guest artist during the 2011 European Tour.

And its a good thing, too. It is FREEZING here and even though we aren't having a "snowpocalypse" like some parts of the US, the lack of snow doesn't mean that I am wandering around the streets of Budapest. We ventured to the Great Market Hall today. A charming place with plenty of food vendors as well as Hungarian folk souvenirs - lots of them! But just because it is called a hall and it is covered doesn't mean it is inside. By the time I returned to the hotel I couldn't feel my hands or feet - brrrrr!

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Great News!

There's some big news out of Budapest today!

Gustavo Dudamel
The LA Phil's Music Director, now through 2018/2019!

LA Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda announced that our beloved Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil have agreed to extend his contract with the orchestra through the 2018/19 season!

The news was made official after the second program in Budapest when he announced it to the orchestra.

His original contract as Music Director of the LA Phil, which began in 2009/10, was for five years. This extension will keep him in LA through the LA Phil's centennial season in 2018/19.

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A Warm Reception in Chilly Budapest

It's below freezing cold in Budapest, but we are playing with such warmth and vigor. Last night's concert was a big success. In fact, even at intermission the audience started to clap in unison. This is the ultimate “bravo” from a European audience. (Feel free to do the same at home!)

Bartók National Concert Hall
The exterior of the Bartók National Concert Hall at the Palace of the Arts in Budapest (photo courtesy of KUSC's Brian Lauritzen).

During our rehearsals on this tour, Gustavo has been preparing us for the last two concerts in Vienna. We have not played at the Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic, since I have been in the orchestra (24 years, believe it our not). Obviously the standards are very high from audience and critics alike and Gustavo is trying to find the right sound and approach to playing in this very small jewelbox of a shrine to the orchestral art.

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