Monday April 18, 2011
Salzburg, meet Gustavo
Most of Saturday was spent on the bus. We arrived in Salzburg late in the afternoon and settled into our rooms. Dinner was on our own, so some chose to eat at our hotel while others ventured into the Old Town on the other side of the placid, meandering Salzach River.
Sunday started with a tour of Old Town: the inspirational cathedral, ancient churches, quaint shops and – oh yes, by the way – the house where Mozart was born. And who doesn’t love Mozart? Well, Salzburg. Salzburg positively worships its native son. It’s hard to imagine Salzburg without Mozart. In fact, without the word Mozart the city would have far fewer streets, alleys, plazas, shops and chocolates.
The Salzburg Easter Festival started this weekend so, in the evening we headed over to the regal Grosses Festspielhaus for a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic led by Gustavo Dudamel. The program started with mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn singing Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs, music that is so deliriously emotional that it is like hearing a painting by Gustav Klimt. Ravishingly beautiful and surprisingly romantic. And then, believe it or not, we got an encore. In the seconds between Stotijn and Dudamel making it clear that there would be more music, one just had to think “Will they repeat the last song “Summer Days” or another of Berg’s many songs? What else can they do?”
Then, as the audience quickly grew still, Stotijn started singing – alone for a poignant moment– the words to Gustav Mahler’s quietly rapturous, spiritually uplifting Ulricht – music that made its way into the composer’s Symphony No.2 “Resurrection.” You could hear a pin drop.
After intermission young master Dudamel returned to conduct Stravinsky’s complete Firebird Ballet. As the last triumphant note faded away, the reviews started to come in. I’m guessing you’ve heard that European audiences aren’t as inclined as American audiences to give standing ovations. Well. Following a couple of furious rapid foot stomping sessions, the audience finally rose to its feet as one. Salzburg has heard Dudamel’s Stravinsky – and it’s a very pretty sight to see.
Earlier in the day I gave a pre-concert chat to our group. At the end of the talk I warned my fellow travelers that I had good news and bad news. The bad news was that we would be getting back to our hotel a bit late following the concert. The good news was that the delay was a result of Gustavo Dudamel consenting to greet us in the Patron (Foerderer) Room following his performance. We had to wait a good part of an hour – by which time some were starting to doubt that he would ever get to us – but get to us he did. It was just us and Gustavo, who greeted us by exclaiming “My people!” He spent several precious minutes with us, shaking our hands, posing for pictures and being just as gracious and self-effacing as you’ve heard.
I fear that’s going to be hard to top during the little remaining in this trip.
– Rich Capparela