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).
Editor's note: While in Caracas, the LA Phil's VP of Marketing Shana Mathur and YOLA Manager Dan Berkowitz made an unscheduled visit to the Sarria Nucleo in a Caracas barrio. They collaborated on the following.
Sarria is located in a barrio of Caracas. It is poor and quite dangerous. It is part of a school, unlike most nucleos, that is owned and operated by the government. The children, ages 3-15, come from split homes, rampant with drugs, gangs and often abuse.
In the mornings, the school, with its peeling and crumbling walls, offers academics to its 600 students. In the afternoons, most students engage in the music program, at various levels, taught by the 26 music teachers.
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.
LA Phil violinist Robert Vijay Gupta takes a moment to practice during a break at the dress rehearsal for Mahler 8 at the Shrine Auditorium
Editor's Note: LA Phil violinist and Senior TED Fellow Robert Vijay Gupta penned this post after completing the first performance of the orchestra's trip to Caracas - a performance of Mahler 9. In this post, he's saying farewell to the piece, but it also serves as a fine farewell to The Mahler Project from the orchestra.
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: