I've joined forces with Dudamel and the LA Phil in Caracas, who have in turn joined forces with the young people of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (also under Gustavo's direction). I'll be doing hosting duties for the LA Phil LIVE broadcast of Mahler's gargantuan 8th, the "Symphony of a Thousand," in cinemas all over the US tomorrow at 5pm EST. I also get to see two extra Mahler concerts here, to see Caracas for the first time and to hang with the big LA Phil gang like a member of the family (or I suppose more accurately like an interloper at an enormous family reunion).
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.
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.
Performing all of the Mahler symphonies in a three-week span in the world of classical music is something very unique and really amazing. Though I have conducted some of them, for me it is a great experience to have the opportunity to study all of the symphonies and to be assisting Gustavo Dudamel in this big project.
Gustav Mahler, at center, influenced LA more than most people know; his friends and devotees with connections to LA included (clockwise from top left) his wife Alma; and composers/conductors Otto Klemperer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Arnold Schoenberg and Bruno Walter.
More than midway through The Mahler Project, not much has been talked yet about Mahler in Los Angeles.
Mahler in Los Angeles? He never set foot on the West Coast, much as he would have liked to. As conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Mahler invented orchestral touring and visited 12 cities in the Northeastern U.S. in 1909-10. Had he lived longer, he might have made it out West and maybe to Los Angeles.