LA Phil Blog

Pre-Show Anxiety in Vienna

Pre-Show Anxiety in Vienna

I feel stressed about our concerts in Vienna.

Gustavo Dudamel rehearses
The LA Phil rehearses Mahler's Ninth at the world-famous Wiener Musikverein in Vienna, where Mahler himself performed.

The last time we played for an Austrian audience was in Salzburg, 1992. We were invited by Gérard Mortier, the new Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival, to spend a month in residence and perform a series of concerts, including Olivier Messiaen's six-hour opera "Saint François d'Assise". For our opening concert, the first piece that we played for the Salzbergers was Johann Strauss' "Emperor Waltz". Esa-Pekka Salonen intended it as a thank you, an homage, to Austria and Austrians.

It was greeted with boos.

OMG! What did we do wrong? It sounded great to me! Perhaps those Austrian ears thought the 2nd beat in our 3/4 time was placed a little too early for a truly proper Viennese waltz. Or maybe they were thinking, "These boorish Americans - from the West Coast no less - have not ingested a sufficient quantity of delectable 'apfelstrudel' to properly play the light confection that is a Strauss waltz. Or the boos could simply have resulted from the political ramifications of having an American orchestra replace the beloved Vienna Philharmonic at Europe's most prestigious festival.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear - this is a tough crowd.

So here we go again. We are in Vienna, arguably the Mahler capital of the world. I'm concerned that the audience will be thinking - "This orchestra cannot possibly have indulged in enough savory wiener schnitzel to comprehend the meaty depth of a Mahler symphony."

Regardless, I will make sure I nail the bass part. If we can rock the house at Walt Disney Concert Hall (and the Barbican and the Salle Pleyel), we can get it right for the Viennese palate. I believe in this orchestra and I believe in "The Dude".

(Note: The audience gave the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel a standing ovation after the first concert - a performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony. Bravo!)