LA Phil Blog

Saying Farewell

Saying Farewell

Robert Gupta
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.

Even though this tour has just started for us, it seems odd to be saying 'farewell' to Mahler 9, at least for a time. Not very many orchestras in the world can say that Mahler 9 is a part of standard 'go-to' repertoire, but after our European tour last year culminating at the Musikverein in Vienna, and our concerts last week at Walt Disney Concert Hall, settling into this final leg of our Mahler Project with the 9th was like having a benevolent hand guide us into the tour, introducing us to the bright Venezolano audience and concert hall here in Caracas. The performance was received wonderfully, with our beloved principal violist Carrie Dennis elevated to rock-star status, receiving the most unbelievably raucous cheer I've ever heard from an audience.

This morning saw the rehearsals of 4, count them - four! - symphonies, touching spots on the 6th and then the 1st and 10th, before playing through a bit of the 4th with our solo soprano, Klara Ek. It's been monumental - pushed and pulled by Mahler to every possible extreme of expression through rehearsals and performances of six symphonies - from the most gentle, sweet and tender, to titanic explosions within the span of just a few measures (schizophrenic, as Gustavo says) - it's certainly left a mark on the orchestra, having brought us together as an ensemble beyond musical interpretation alone - but one of a unified, human message.

In 1967, Bernstein penned an essay on reviving Mahler's music in Vienna 50 years after the composer's death, titled "His Time has Come." And now, another half-century later, here we are, playing a truly historic Mahler cycle for the New World, amongst what could be called the very future of classical music itself - the home of El Sistema, for the venerable Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu, and with our new musical brothers, the brilliant musicians of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. I'm sure we'll be talking about this cycle for the next 50 years, and I hope I'm still around and in shape to play all the symphonies for the 150-year commemoration. I know we'll still have the composer in our hearts and fingers.

A bit of rest now after lunch, before saying goodbye to the 4th tonight.

I can already hear the sleigh bells...