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.
Violist Mick Wetzel's instrument - he 'trunked it' on the first leg of this tour after agonizing over the decision.
We're flying from Cologne to London as I write this. The two concerts in Cologne went well - we received a very warm reception from the audiences. And, of course, it's hard not to like a concert hall when they hand you a glass of beer as you walk offstage after the concert. We celebrated Gustavo's 30th birthday with a post-concert bash until late into the night - good times on this tour so far!
(Note: Now that the tour has reached the halfway point, we thought we'd ask LA Phil Orchestra Personnel Manager Jeffrey Neville to weigh in with a "behind-the-scenes" view of the tour so far.)
It’s 11:30am on Wednesday morning, Gustavo’s birthday, Our performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at the Philharmonie in Cologne is just hours away. One of the largest repertoire pieces as far as personnel goes - 106 players strong. "All hands on deck," as they say. My phone rings and a voice on the other end says, “I’ve been up all night, I’m sick and I don’t think I will be able to play tonight.”
LA Phil Orchestra Personnel Manager Jeffrey Neville shows off the perfect combination of charm and managerial savvy that lets him get the job done while on tour.
Violinist Johnny Lee and Associate Concertmaster Bing Wang (right) at Music Director Gustavo Dudamel's 30th Birthday Party in Cologne, Germany -- right after the LA Phil finished a command performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.
We played our second concert in Cologne on January 26, which happened to be Gustavo's 30th birthday. This is simply incredible. How many professional orchestras get to celebrate their Music Director's 30th birthday? All of us knew it was a very special day and it's wonderful to be back at the Cologne Philharmonie on this memorable occasion.
A view from the Plaza a Luis de Camoes in Lisboon - watercolor painting by Caitlin Heimerl.
On this tour, I'm traveling with my niece, Caitlin Heimerl. She is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, and she is loving the opportunity to paint in all of the beautiful cities we are visiting on this tour.
After visiting the castle in Lisbon, we found the Plaza Luis de Camões and stopped to paint as the sun was setting.
In Madrid, after a morning at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which houses Picasso's "Guernica," and a walk through the cobblestone streets of the city, we found a lovely fountain on Paseo del Prado. In spite of the cold, Caitlin pulled out her watercolors to paint there in the early evening.
In the context of orchestral trumpet playing, "rotary" refers to a specific style and design of trumpet. Rotary trumpets (named for a particular type of valve construction) are typically used in German and Austrian orchestras rather than the piston trumpets we use in the U.S. They look and are played a little differently than "normal" piston trumpets. In fact, audience members often ask us why we're holding our instruments sideways.
Chris Still, of the LA Phil trumpet section, shows off a rotary trumpet, which is normally used in German and Austrian orchestras and thus was the perfect instrument to bring along on this tour.
We flew in this morning to Cologne, Germany and the pedestrian shopping district between our hotel and the Kölner Philharmonie is bustling with shoppers. Signs in most of the shop windows shout, "ALLES REDUZIERT!" (Everything reduced!). Even the trendy store, at home known as "Forever 21," is reduced to being called "Forever 18".
A lineup at the ticket window for a chance to buy one of about 100 tickets that went on sale the day of each of the LA Phil's two concerts at the Kölner Philharmonie. Percussionist Perry Dreiman spoke to two fans who waited for hours, but were able to get tickets to see the first concert.
Every so often on tour you get the luxury of seeing friends who are normally too far away to visit. For years my family has been talking about taking a trip to Belgium to visit our good friend Andrew, who used to live in Los Angeles, but it had never happened. Now here I was going to be in Köln, a mere one-and-a-half hours from his home in Leuven (yes, this is where they make Stella Artois beer - if the wind is right, you can smell it in the air.)
The orchestra deplaned to a cold and rainy Cologne; however, all on tour were impressed that the buses came right out onto the tarmac to collect them!
I'm writing this just a few moments before the musicians will be taking the stage for our first concert in Cologne, this ancient city on the Rhine blessed with a marvelous concert hall.
LA Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda, hard at work on this blog post.
The performances in Lisbon and Madrid found the Beethoven and the Mahler 9 already in stunning shape and growing every night. I find the intensity at times almost overwhelming. Audiences are wonderfully receptive with standing ovations every night.
Our concert in Madrid was a gallery of Angelenos and international friends including Zubin Mehta, James Conlon and the First Lady of Spain. It was quite the scene backstage!