In addition to our excellent institutional sources on the ground in Caracas - who shall remain, of course, known only as "LA Phil Staff - there's no shortage of press coverage of the LA Phil's visit to Caracas.
It's a good story, after all - Gustavo Dudamel, favorite son of the famed El Sistema music education system, becomes classical music superstar and returns home to Venezuela to combine his two musical families. Add to that the fact that no major symphony orchestra has been to Caracas in over two decades and you've got a situation ripe for coverage in the press.
That said, the media coverage of the LA Phil's trip - and of Gustavo and The Mahler Project in general - has been plentiful, comprehensive and really interesting. Here's a quick sample:
Editor's Note: Fan Fariba G. attended each of the 9 Mahler symphonies that made up The Mahler Project here in LA, including the performance of Mahler 8 at the Shrine Auditorium. She was kind enough to share her thoughts on Mahler with us. The above Mahler-inspired image, entitled "Mahler is Life," was provided via email by fan Elda C.
What can I say about Mahler's music? It's all about yearning, longing, gut-wrenching despair - it moves you like no other music. I think those who don't like Mahler's music are those afraid of allowing themselves to feel deep inside, to ask themselves questions of life and death and meaning. His music is abstract and can be interpreted many different ways, into many emotional layers.
It's safe to say the LA Phil's inaugural performance in Caracas was a success.
There's been no shortage of excitement surrounding the orchestra's first visit to the home city of Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. After all, the orchestra was warmly welcomed at the airport by El Sistema founder and Dudamel mentor Maestro José Antonio Abreu. The LA Phil's concerts in Caracas - ticket price $8 - sold out in mere hours. The energy surrounding the visit has been, as they say, electric.
However, according to all reports, the orchestra wasn't in any way prepared for the welcome given them by the audience for their first performance of Mahler 9.
After so much planning and arrangements, meetings and discussions; after the wonderful time we spent in LA with spectacular concerts and tremendous successes, the LA Phil was greeted yesterday by an ecstatic Caracas audience.
And what a trip it's been! The Bolivars have been doing their part for The Mahler Project in their home town, with as much success as they had in LA -- beautiful audiences composed of all ages and walks of life gathered themselves in the José Felix Ribas Hall of the landmark Teresa Carreño Theater to bask in the brilliance and enormity of Mahler's works.
Editor's note: Ron Andersen traveled from Alaska to Los Angeles to see Gustavo, the LA Phil and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela perform The Mahler Project in its entirety. He was kind enough to contribute this for our Mahler Project Blog.
Several measures before the last chord of Mahler 8, I can no longer hold back. Tears come and my body shakes with emotion. The emotive power of hundreds of voices combined with the large orchestra is gripping. When the music is so soft I can barely hear it, I almost stop breathing. As the music swells with the great crescendo to the powerful conclusion, my breathing gets faster and deeper until the emotions generated are too much for me, and I fall apart, somewhat like Mahler’s music does between hope and despair. Finally I gain enough control and join in the clamorous standing ovation.
With a moment or two to breathe before the whirlwind that will be the Venezuela leg of The Mahler Project begins, it seems like a good time to look back on the project's course here in LA. And who better to do it than the cheeky West Coast Sound blogger for the LA Weekly?
With a title like "Mahlerpalooza: Gustavo Dudamel Makes L.A. the Mahler Capital of North America," It sounds to us like the LA Weekly approves of a town like Los Angeles being overtaken by Mahler Madness. Here's our favorite part of their assessment:
Even before we launched the Mad About Mahler campaign - in which we encourage Mahler fans from all over the world to "show us their Mahler" - people around the offices had been referring to "Mahler Madness" as if it were some sort new malady. And, in many ways, it resembled that - for some, it was all we thought about. The Mahler Project. Mahler 8 at the Shrine. The upcoming trip to Venezuela. LA Phil LIVE.
The point at which one succumbed to Mahler Madness was the point where it became difficult to separate oneself from the WORK of putting on The Mahler Project and being able to remember that the ultimate goal here was the creation of music.
There's no shortage of media coverage surrounding The Mahler Project - it's a big project, after all - but one of the more interesting perspectives on the whole thing is coming from Laurie Niles, the editor of Violinist.com.
Laurie Martin and LA Phil Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour, courtesy of Violinist.com
As you might expect, her coverage is a little skewed towards the violin player - notes about tunings and tempos abound - but it's also got some gems, such as an interview with LA Phil Concertmaster Martin Chalifour where he discusses the instrument he plays as well as the challenges posed by the requirement of actually switching violins during Mahler 4.
If you know your Mahler, you know that the composer's Symphony No. 4 is considered to be his most whimsical and lighthearted. The LA Times' Mark Swed notes, in his review of Friday's night's concert, that Gustavo and the orchestra brought the necessary light touch to the work.
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
Dudamel has begun his Mahler escapade light on his feet. It can’t remain like that, but it’s an appealing way to start out on an epic Romantic journey.
You can read Swed's entire review of the opening salvo of The Mahler Project here.
Who's ready for a Mahler marathon? This festival is just getting started!