Today's the day that Gustavo leads the LA Phil, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and a literal cast of thousands in the gargantuan Mahler 8, the "Symphony of a Thousand," live from Caracas!
Of course, you don't have to be IN Caracas to see it - you can head on over to your local cineplex and see it in HD from the comfort of your very own movie theater seat. It's the second installment of LA Phil LIVE, and it promises to be a movie-going experience like no other.
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.
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.
Well, the wheels are up, the seatbelt sign is lit and the orchestra is winging its way to Caracas to do The Mahler Project all over again!
The cargo - you know, little things like instruments - is already in Venezuela, accompanied by LA Phil Production Director extraordinaire Paul Geller. In fact, the equipment is likely already at the Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas, patiently awaiting the arrival of the orchestra. The instruments won't have to wait long, though - the first performance of Mahler 9 is at 6:00pm Caracas time tomorrow night!
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.
Saturday, FEB 4 will be a day that goes down in history for the LA Phil.
It's not just that The Mahler Project was an ambitious undertaking - it was that, for sure. After all, a single conductor leading two orchestras through nine (and a half, by some estimates) symphonies in three weeks is no walk in the park.
And it's not just that the spirit of Gustav Mahler made his namesake, LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, take him at his word when he named his Eighth Symphony the "Symphony of a Thousand." He did. After all, when the final count was in, just over 1,000 musicians crowded onto the stage at the Shrine Auditorium to produce a concert so grand in scale that it's unlikely to be replicated in the near future. Right?
Wrong. Because it WILL be replicated - in less than two weeks, from another country, on another continent. But, thanks to LA Phil LIVE, we'll all be able to see it - here in the U.S., in Canada, in Europe and Asia.
This probably won't come as a surprise to many, but Gustavo Dudamel is mad about Mahler.
So...can you understand where Gustavo is coming from? Do you wake up with a Mahler symphony in your head? Have you written a blog post about his music or a poem celebrating the composer? Or are you, like so many others, just discovering his work but somehow aware that Mahler's music is special?
Whatever stage of Mahler madness you're at - Mahler newbie, Mahler lover or Mahler maniac - Gustavo and we here at the LA Phil would like you to do something for us.
We want you to show us your Mahler.
It's easy enough to do.
You can tweet about your experience with Mahler using the hashtag #MahlerProject.