LA Phil Blog

2011 European Tour

When In Köln…

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.

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Well Worth The Wait

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.

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An Overseas Reunion

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!

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Happy Birthday, Gustavo!

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.

Deborah Borda
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!

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Free Day In Madrid!

Musicians all over the world know each other, so it is a happy coincidence that I am able to meet my friend Anne, who I've known since junior high school, on tour with her orchestra. The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Zubin Mehta is playing tonight in the same hall as we did last night. In fact in Madrid this week is a venerable quartet of transplanted Angelenos: Mehta, Placido Domingo, James Conlon and Gustavo Dudamel. Heady company, indeed.

LA Phil in Madrid
Gustavo leads the LA phil in rehearsal for the single concert in Madrid. After performing Mahler's Ninth Symphony, those on tour enjoyed a much-deserved day off in Spain's capital city.

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Travel Day – Lisbon to Madrid

Lisbon was fascinating.  A beautiful city, rich in history and culinary delights.  I could easily spend several weeks exploring its winding, cobbled streets and diverse cultural offerings.

Luggage at the airport
A long luggage queue, courtesy of the LA Phil, awaits its spot on a plane from Lisbon to Madrid. Despite problems with the luggage tag printer, all bags arrived safe and sound in Madrid.

However, it is not to be as this morning we are en route to Madrid.  I'm traveling with my fourteen-year-old son, Keith, who is finding the food challenging but enjoying the sights.  We'll squeeze in a trip to the Prado Museum on Sunday afternoon, then Mahler 9 for me and homework for him.  After that, we head out for some authentic Spanish Flamenco, sangria and last, but not least, a good night's sleep!

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The Tour So Far…

Thursday- free day: met with friends from the opera orchestra, toured the opera house Teatro de Sao Carlos. The building was originally destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and modeled after La Scala. We ate lunch by the river at their favorite location. Great fish, pastries and espresso.

Went for a walk and stumbled across the Re-Rite exhibit featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia. Needless to say, he looked rather familiar! Dinner in the Bairro Alto neighborhood at Largo- wild boar and local wine, excellent!

Friday- jet lag jet lag jet lag.  rehearsal at Gulbenkian. Fascinated with the automated espresso machine at the hall. I recommend the 'long' cup. My daily espresso average- 4, I am a local.

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Backstage Pass

"Orchestrating" a tour blog isn't the easiest thing in the world. But if we had an overriding theme that defines the kind of content we like to provide, it would be content that offers a unique perspective -- whether that's a European city through the eyes of one of our orchestra members, the way the LA Phil staff sees a pile of luggage or how the entire operation moves from Point A to Point B.

How's this for a unique perspective -- an excited smile and wave from our own Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel, as he walks onstage to kick off the first of thirteen concerts that will eventually make up the 2011 European Tour.

Or how about a glimpse of our Principal Concertmaster, Martin Chalifour, seconds before he walks onstage to tune the orchestra.

The clips are short and shaky, but we pretty much guarantee that you won't see them anywhere else. Like we said, it's all about unique perspectives.


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The First Concert!

This is our third day here - I think - hard to tell because of the travel time to get here. Lisbon is a gracious city; hilly like San Francisco, with a suspension bridge that closely resembles the Golden Gate. It is paved in cobblestones, and peppered with little shops and very old churches and crowned with an 11th century castle from which the views are sweeping and astonishing.

Yesterday, I walked probably 7 or 8 miles, getting my fill of brisk air and sunshine to help speed my adjustment to the 8-hour time change. The sights here are filled with history; of 14th century explorers and cartographers, ancient towers used to protect the city from invasion from the Tagus River shores, and statues of generals, kings and saints.

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Reed All About It!

I am typing at the break of our first rehearsal and think the orchestra sounds quite good this morning in spite of our jet lag!  Having awakened at 3:00am each of the two nights we have now been in Lisbon, it always gives one a bit of anxiety wondering how that first rehearsal will feel.

Also, as an oboe player, I am never able to predict how my reeds (yes, we think of reeds constantly!) will react to the trip.  I have to try to gauge how to adjust them in my hotel room, hoping it will translate to the concert hall.  This is constantly a work in progress, especially on a tour such as this where we are traveling to many cities and will be in different hotels and playing on wildly different stages across Europe. These factors combined with the stress of flying, since the different altitudes have an effect on them, makes for interesting reed making.

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