LA Phil Blog


Musical and Restaurant Adventures in Budapest

It's 11 a.m. and I'm already all out of khazookies.

Hungarian dessert
Some Hungarian dessert delights, costing 350 'khazookies,' according to Jim Wilt's system of currency exchange - or about $1.75.

Last night we'd blown them all on a terrific Hungarian meal of traditional goulash soup and duck. Maybe a bottle (or two) of wine. There was a great trio of musicians playing Romani (or what used to be called "Gypsy") music on the violin, cimbalom and bass. The violinist was particularly impressive, laying down ridiculously technical passages with precision, clarity and panache. I noticed our waitress, Brigette, standing transfixed in front of them while not tending to her tables. Always a sucker for a pretty face, I called her over and asked whether she was a musician because she was listening so intently.

"No, I keep hoping they will play my favorite piece. The Opera Phantom."

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When Do We Clap?

The final measures of the Mahler 9th symphony seem to linger on to eternity...and beyond. The marking in the score is "Eberst langsam," which means almost as slow as humanly possible, and finally, the last measure is "esterbend," or "dying." Maestro Dudamel has been holding onto the moment for as long as both he, the orchestra, and the audience could endure.

The orchestra stands as they acknowledge the audience's applause in Budapest.

The patrons last night in Budapest simply would not start to applaud for fear of breaking a magical spell that had been cast by the great performance. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the applause began and would never let up until the orchestra began to leave the stage.

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To Trunk or Not To Trunk?

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.

Orchestra's Viola case
Violist Mick Wetzel's instrument - he 'trunked it' on the first leg of this tour after agonizing over the decision.

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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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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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