Our first day in Warsaw, Poland started off with an 11 a.m. rehearsal for two hours. We were preparing for the first tour performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in the Filharmonia Narodowa, a venue with a very different acoustic than that at Jones Hall. This hall was so live that we almost could not play soft enough, but it was also satisfying because we could do many things with that live quality. We then went to a restaurant for lunch called Warszawa Wschodnia, a modern European/Polish cooking school. For lunch we had the eight course tasting menu, and it was incredible. With “lunch” accomplished, it was time to prepare for the concert. For me that meant returning to the hotel, taking a nap and a shower and then heading to the hall with my colleagues. Tonight, we got through everything, once again, with rave reviews from the Polish audience. Both Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the orchestra have been extremely well received in Europe with standing ovations, followed by encores each evening. Tomorrow we have to have our luggage down at the hotel lobby at 8:00 am, take a bus at 10:00 am and a flight at 12:30 pm, then go to rehearsal at 6:00 pm with a concert at 7:30 pm! More then!!!
For me, March 15 was the pinnacle of the tour with a concert in the Vienna Konzerthaus. This is the famous concert hall in Vienna where Andrés Orozco-Estrada began his career as a young professional conductor. It has both some of the most ornate decoration and some of the best acoustics in the world.
After arriving from Warsaw at 2:30 pm, many of us went to the famous restaurant called Figmüeller where we had the famous Wiener schnitzel. We then performed for a sold-out audience. Viennese people are very formal and honest people, and if they don’t care for the performance, they simply leave. Fortunately, they loved it! They demanded an encore followed by at least six curtain calls for Andrés, who resides in Vienna when he is not conducting in Houston and other cities. Andrés was so invested in this performance, as were we all, that he was brought to tears after the encore, which moved us all. It truly put an exclamation point on an evening that we all knew was important for the orchestra and for our musical lives. The orchestra sounded absolutely beautiful in this stunning and very famous venue. I have had multiple opportunities to perform in Vienna but this was my first opportunity as the principal clarinetist of the Houston Symphony, and it was very rewarding.
After seven days of performances and travel, Friday, March 16, was the first complete day off in a week. Together with four of my colleagues and many of the patrons who came in support of the Houston Symphony, I went to see an Austrian gallery featuring many of Gustav Klimt’s paintings and the Secession building. We then had lunch in a wonderful, small restaurant called Zuniga Schwarzen Kameel. It was a fascinating day of tourism and dining. There is not a lot of downtime on these tours, and although we get to go to some nice places, we definitely have to be ready for the next city because they are excited to have us and hear our Houston Symphony. When you are on tour, we definitely play under pressure every night. You are only as good as your last concert, which may be the only time each audience gets to hear you. So far we have met with great success making the focus of our trip exactly what it was supposed to be…to Make Houston Proud! I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey—on to the next concert!
Learn more about the Houston Symphony’s 2018 European Tour here.