Budapest at Night

      This is the spectacular view from our hotel in Budapest. This is what you get when you work with a world-class band like the Los Angeles Philharmonic!

      Budapest at night
      A photo of Budapest at night, taken by Kelley O'Connor, who's traveling with the LA Phil as a featured guest artist during the 2011 European Tour.

      And its a good thing, too. It is FREEZING here and even though we aren't having a "snowpocalypse" like some parts of the US, the lack of snow doesn't mean that I am wandering around the streets of Budapest. We ventured to the Great Market Hall today. A charming place with plenty of food vendors as well as Hungarian folk souvenirs - lots of them! But just because it is called a hall and it is covered doesn't mean it is inside. By the time I returned to the hotel I couldn't feel my hands or feet - brrrrr!

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      Great News!

      There's some big news out of Budapest today!

      Gustavo Dudamel
      The LA Phil's Music Director, now through 2018/2019!

      LA Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda announced that our beloved Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil have agreed to extend his contract with the orchestra through the 2018/19 season!

      The news was made official after the second program in Budapest when he announced it to the orchestra.

      His original contract as Music Director of the LA Phil, which began in 2009/10, was for five years. This extension will keep him in LA through the LA Phil's centennial season in 2018/19.

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      A Warm Reception in Chilly Budapest

      It's below freezing cold in Budapest, but we are playing with such warmth and vigor. Last night's concert was a big success. In fact, even at intermission the audience started to clap in unison. This is the ultimate “bravo” from a European audience. (Feel free to do the same at home!)

      Bartók National Concert Hall
      The exterior of the Bartók National Concert Hall at the Palace of the Arts in Budapest (photo courtesy of KUSC's Brian Lauritzen).

      During our rehearsals on this tour, Gustavo has been preparing us for the last two concerts in Vienna. We have not played at the Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic, since I have been in the orchestra (24 years, believe it our not). Obviously the standards are very high from audience and critics alike and Gustavo is trying to find the right sound and approach to playing in this very small jewelbox of a shrine to the orchestral art.

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      (Not) Groundhog Day

      (Note: LA Phil Principal keyboardist Joanne Pearce Martin wrote this entry on February 1st, 2011; however, we think you'll agree it's perfect to publish today.)

      Tomorrow is “Groundhog Day”. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, the protagonist wakes up each day, faced with the same recurring events, repeated ad infinitum. To the uninitiated, touring with a symphony orchestra might seem like Groundhog Day: Eat, Travel, Sleep, Wake up, Practice, Perform. Repeat.

      Olivier Messiaen's organ

      A necessary pilgrimage for any keyboardist - Olivier Messiaen's organ at Église de la Sainte-Trinité.

      But touring with the LA Phil is anything but that. Each day brings forth new sounds, new smells, new sights, and an air of exuberance for the new city to be faced.

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      Bringing It All Back Home – Lionel in Paris

      Bonjour et Bienvenue à Paris!!!

      Salle Pleyel

      Salle Pleyel, where the LA Phil played its two concerts in Paris, and where LA Phil Associate Conductor Lionel Bringuier grew up going to concerts while studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.

      I’m really excited to be here with the orchestra! Four years ago I came from Paris to Los Angeles and was hired by the orchestra as Assistant Conductor. Later on that season, I happened to be in Paris during their tour in November 2007, and was incredibly happy to see my new family on stage in Salle Pleyel. Now, it is with much joy that I am here again with the orchestra as Associate Conductor and to see them perform on this stage.

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      Ah, Paris – C’est Magnifique!

      Bonjour from Paris! This is day 14 of our 20 days away from Los Angeles. For those of us who have been in the orchestra for several years, there is a familiarity with performing in this city.

      LA Phil rehearses

      The LA Phil rehearses at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

      In 1996, the year I joined the orchestra, we had a one-month residency which reignited the push to build Walt Disney Concert Hall. We performed the Rite of Spring with Esa-Pekka and the Paris audience absolutely loved it. The Rite went on to become one of our signature pieces, which we later performed for the opening concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

      In 2007 we played at the Salle Pleyel and stayed in the same hotel as we are currently in. We performed the Sibelius symphonies with Esa-Pekka.

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      Trailing Spouses

      Toby, my husband, has just arrived in Paris for the remainder of our tour. He refers to himself as the "trailing spouse" - those husbands, wives, partners, and significant others who accompany orchestra members during tours. They have the advantage of enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the cities we travel to, but without the added responsibilities of performing. We have a number of family members with us on this tour; the European cities we are visiting this time are hard to pass up.

      The LA Phil arrived in Paris on Saturday and plays its second concert tonight, has a long-awaited free day tomorrow and leaves for Budapest on Wednesday.

      The last time Toby was in Paris with me was during the Philharmonic's residency here in 1996. We had been married just 3 years and reveled in the romance of the city.

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      London Calling

      (Note: This post is by Gretchen Nielsen, the LA Phil's Director of Educational Initiatives. These are her thoughts on a rehearsal led by Gustavo Dudamel for an orchestra of young musicians involved in community music projects in east London, alongside several members of the LA Phil and the LSO. These students participate in programs similar to the LA Phil’s own Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and the El Sistema program in Venezuela.)

      I write this post from the Eurostar on the way to Paris…

      Gustavo Dudamel
      Gustavo demonstrates the technique he wants to see from the young musicians while they play the last movement of Beethtoven's Seventh Symphony.

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      Briefly Noted – From Cologne to London

      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!

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      The Show Must Go On!

      (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.”

      Jeffrey Neville

      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.

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