Mahler Chamber Orchestra Academy Journal ANAM

ANAM group to the Mahler Chamber Orchestra

L-R: Rainer Saville (trumpet), Rohan Dasika (double bass), Matthew Mcgeachin (bass trombone), and the author: Nils Hobiger (cello)

Day 1:
29th Jan

So the trip to Frankfurt was fantastic until I arrived in Frankfurt. Singapore Airlines were great, food was good and the service was fantastic, and they were all informed regarding the extra seat for my cello and on every flight assisted me to strap my cello in with extra seat belts and made the passengers in front aware about reclining their seats backwards in case my cello case got squashed.

So that was great although once in Frankfurt I realised I had not set a pin code for my travel money card so I unfortunately had arrived in Germany with no money or phone… Great start! I thought things could not have gone worse. I managed to buy a train ticket to Dortmund using my signature, although from there I could not use my travel card. I went to the police station and the helpful security staff at the Konzerthaus in Dortmund let me use their phone to contact my bank, which didn’t end up helping me at all. But I used their Internet, so I managed to get my parents to wire me some money to the Western Union! Then to complicate matters the individual providing my accommodation could not speak English so I had to get a security guard to interpret him. He changed the location of my accommodation so all the maps and travel plans I had organised were now useless. So, after two hours of two degrees, trudging through snow with 40kg of luggage while asking the English speaking population of Dortmund how to get to durener Strabe, I managed to find it. Absolutely hectic arrival…happy days!

Day 2:
30th Jan

Since I have very limited money I thought I might see if I can use my travel money card to purchase my return ticket on the train to save some money – which I was able to in the end, success!

I went to the Konzerthaus where I met the very friendly set of staff and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) tutors who were to take our tutes and chamber music sessions. Registered at 3pm and attended our first tute on our repertoire at 4pm. Very very friendly cello section, easy going and good detailed work on each of the works. Because all of the cellists were the top from their academies, we managed to go through and complete all the repertoire within the first tutorial.

Meeting the Orchestral members was very interesting, as the orchestra isn’t run like a traditional orchestra; people seem more enthusiastic and more like a group of friends performing together and hanging out, more than anything else. They are all musicians from across Europe, most belong to other orchestras as well, or another line of work in music, although they all take the time and make MCO a priority and as a home-base. The MCO used to be the Mahler Youth Orchestra but in the 90s someone decided to take it further: and they did with incredible success. They play at multiple festivals across Europe and the world. They were actually in Australia last year, which I unfortunately missed. Also looked at the program this year: very hectic and full, but I saw they are playing with Giovanni Sollima, one of my favourite alternative cellists.

Day 3:
1st Feb

Today we had chamber music and tutorials. Originally, because we completed so much yesterday we weren’t going to have our tutorial. However one of our cellists was sick and was replaced by someone else, we repeated through the repertoire again with a lot of speed and efficiency.

Chamber music was awesome. I pride myself on having the ability to improvise and perform various genres of music so it was lucky that of all 30 or so chamber groups made, ours was selected to perform Jazz standards and Piazolla works for the big chamber music concert tomorrow night.

Had a bit of time in-between lunch so I popped over to the tourist centre and asked for recommendations for places to see. I went to the Museum of Art and Cultural History. There was a great section on Christian Medieval Art and on olden day apothecaries. I also had a look at the modern art section, as it’s one of my interests: although it was an exhibition on modern artistic furniture and I wasn’t so interested in multiple coloured metal chairs… some art goes beyond my personal classification of art.

Day 4:
2nd Feb

Had no tutorial today as our tutor said all was well!

Chamber music concert was on tonight and I had a great time watching all the groups perform various works, baroque to modern. Performed with my quartet, (Laura and Joan on violin both from Spain and Lilieth on viola from Armenia) and played pretty well. Naturally a nice party took place after, as the performance space doubled as a bar and club. Made friends with a lot of the Spanish people and had a great night. Chatted about the differences in the countries and academies, languages etc.

Day 5:
3rd Feb

Today we had a morning tutorial as a refresher before our first tutti rehearsal with Heinz Holliger.

The first rehearsal was on the Tonscherben, which is Holliger’s own work which involved many extended techniques so the first rehearsal was spent sorting out what everyone had to do.

Also had a lesson with Stefan our cello tutor, on JS Bach Prelude No.4. Was very interesting to see his point of view on how Bach should be interpreted and to see his interpretation of the chords and for when the tension and release occurs throughout the movement.

To finish off the day, we were provided with a talk from Steven Walter, a man who has made his business on providing classical music to an audience in an alternative way. His point of view is that classical music needs to change and evolve if it wants to keep competing as an art form. His company has a loyal fan base and are providing innovate ways to represent new classical music. He never provides programs as surprise is always better, he believes in performing in darkness, and also a lot of alternative seating and viewing arrangements, venues and collaborative arts with varied art forms such as dancing and ballet etc.

Day 6:
4th Feb

More tutti rehearsals today followed by another Academy talk with three of the MCO musicians. Discussions were about the audition process and how to help yourself and how to handle the pressure and the often-negative environment musicians find themselves in when constantly auditioning for jobs that 100 other musicians are auditioning for too.

Day 7:
5th Feb

More rehearsals today with the concert tomorrow, we did a few runs of the works.

My sister who has been living and working as a violist between Germany and Austria for the last year came to visit me in Dortmund, which was great. We caught up over dinner and went to an old traditional German pub. Showed her around a bit in the city.

Day 8:
6th of Feb

First concert today so we got to enter the Konzerthaus as we had been rehearsing nearby, beautiful white hall only 12 years old with a gorgeous acoustic. After the dress rehearsal went to lunch with my sister, played the concert, partied with the Spaniards and went to bed.

Day 9:
7th of Feb

Second concert today although this time in Essen. Unfortunately they only organised the bus for the afternoon so by the time we arrived we had literally no time to explore except for an hour or so to find dinner. So within that time I saw a little bit of the city although it was already dark and there was snow, so I could not really see much. Again another beautiful hall at the Essen Philamonie.

Day 10:
8th of Feb

Last day today, went by very quickly, although I guess this is how they always go. Again they organised the bus in the afternoon so when we travelled to Cologne/Koln for our last concert we had no time to see the city at all. We just managed to glimpse the “Dom”, the giant black gothic cathedral towering over the city, as we went from the bus to our rehearsal space, then on to the stage for warm-up. It was absolutely magnificent.

The after-function was great. We were provided with free drinks and free food and there were speeches and thanks and an invitation to return next year (provided you are accepted of course!), and for all the best for the future.


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