29 Nov 2018
In our 2018 European Tour, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will perform 12 concerts in seven countries in some of the most magnificent halls in the world. Emma Dunch, CEO, is on the road with the orchestra and writes to us from our first stop in Austria.
Greetings from Austria!
We officially launched our 2018 European Tour with our first performance in Linz, Austria, where we had a full house at the Brucknerhaus Concert Hall on the (yes, it really is Blue) Danube River waterfront.
In our first matinee concert, we clocked a mammoth 2.5-hour concert performing Brett Dean’s Engelsflügel, Austrian composer Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto featuring guest soloist Renaud Capuçon – who recently also performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra back home at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall – Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 5 and, as an encore and salute to Artistic Director and Chief Conductor David Robertson’s own heritage, a very snappy closing rendition of the overture to Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Those familiar with this last piece will sympathise with the flautists and piccolo playing their runs at triple speed! David really gave the piece a workout and he bounced right up off the conductor’s podium a couple of times in his excitement. Thankfully, his early training as a ballet dancer enabled him to land graciously without turning an ankle and so my visions of stretchers and insurance claims can wait until another day.
David’s conducting was extraordinary across such a long concert—as was everyone’s playing—and he topped it off by winning audience hearts when he addressed them at length in fluent German to introduce the final encore.The crowd listened in rapt concentration until the very end of the concert and then went wild, giving us a full standing ovation for several minutes. It was very exciting!
Among others, David singled out our Principal Trumpet David Elton, for his outstanding playing in the opening movement, and Principal Horn Ben Jacks, for his flawless playing of the lengthy horn solos throughout Mahler 5 – everyone was positively beaming coming offstage.
The acoustics in the hall were very different from the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. A key aspect of touring is having to pivot in real time to make music together when what you play bounces around the hall very differently to what you’re used to. Our musicians did a wonderful job of adjusting their pianissimi and fortissimo accordingly, and the venue manager was backstage pronto afterwards to explain that we last appeared in Linz in 1974 (“before I was born!” he said) and that he hoped we would come back much sooner next time around. We agreed that we would love to include Linz on a future tour itinerary.
After the concert, we travelled by bus onward to Vienna, where we've settled in at the next hotel and will perform in the beautiful Wiener Konzerthaus. We also welcomed our Patrons Tour today, led by Chairman Terrey Arcus and his wife Anne, and Roslyn Packer. All of us are suffering varying degrees of jetlag, but there has been plenty of Wiener Schnitzel, Linzer torte, Lindt Chocolate, and other local delicacies to keep everyone’s spirits up and their energy high. I also have it on good authority that a diverse range of Austrian and German beer is being sampled—in completely responsible quantities, of course—by members of the double bass and brass sections.
In the coming days we will welcome a range of important artistic collaborators based in Europe to our performances, including major artist agents, and our Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles and his wife Adelle, and Guest Conductor Simone Young. Our Director of Artistic Planning Raff Wilson and I will then spend time after the tour visiting agents in London and Berlin to secure our choice of guest artists and conductors for our 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons, as well as to advance our Chief Conductor search, which is actively underway.
We are all sending best wishes from abroad as well as our shared thanks to so many of our team whose tireless efforts prior to our departure have made this tour possible. The musicians of the Sydney Symphony are doing Australia proud on the world stage!
Pictured: Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria © Brucknerhaus