Blog Series: In Vienna w/ KTRK TV & Andrés Orozco-Estrada — Post #3

Blog Series: In Vienna w/ KTRK TV & Andrés Orozco-Estrada — Post #3

Mark Hanson, Houston Symphony’s Executive Director/CEO, reports from Vienna:
[To read the other blogs in this series, click here].

As I await my flight home to Houston, I am fondly recalling highlights from the final 48 hours of my visit to Vienna with a crew from our official television partner KTRK, Channel 13.

Mozart statue in the Imperial Palace gardens
Mozart statue in the Imperial Palace gardens
Following a very full first day in Vienna described in my first two postings, we have had the opportunity to explore Vienna’s rich musical history for a series of TV stories that will spotlight both the Houston Symphony’s upcoming centennial celebration and the appointment of Andrés Orozco-Estrada as our 16th music director. Wanting to better understand what had drawn Andrés to Vienna in the first place, the TV crew toured Vienna on Saturday afternoon and captured footage of prominent monuments that celebrate Vienna’s inspired past. Crowds flocked with us to Mozart’s statue in the Imperial Palace gardens, but we happened to be the only visitors to one of Beethoven’s former apartments across the street from the University of Vienna. Outside of the city, we paid homage to a few members of the pantheon of music – Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Schoenberg – at their monumental tombstones in Vienna’s Central Cemetery.
Johann Strauss statue in Stadtpark
Johann Strauss statue in Stadtpark

Earlier on Saturday, the TV crew returned to the Musikverein to see Andrés rehearsing that evening’s Tonkünstler Orchester program. Channel 13’s Gina Gaston helped Andrés cope with his strenuous schedule (two different all-Mozart programs rehearsed and performed over a 36-hour period) by sharing some yoga stretches before continuing their interview from the day before. Following the driving tour, I enjoyed Verdi’s opera Don Carlos at the Staatoper while remembering Andrés’ moving story, told to Gina earlier that day, about his first concert experiences in Vienna at the age of 18. One can’t help but be inspired by Vienna’s musical history and everyday performances in its many stunning performance halls.

Marathon Route
Marathon Route
Sunday brought beautiful sunshine and the sounds of the Vienna City Marathon to this music capital. While the TV crew attempted to climb the Stephansdom’s spire for an elevated view of the city, I snapped a picture of this landmark from street level. If you look closely at the bottom right corner of my photo, you will see one of many Tonkünstler Orchester posters displayed throughout the city that feature their current music director (and our incoming maestro!). Back inside the Musikverein, I enjoyed an afternoon Tonkünstler concert and marveled at Andrés’ endurance and spontaneity. Several dynamics and phrases were noticeably different from Friday night’s performance and the concert had the feeling of a world premiere. Quite a stunning feat given that the program, as I’ve mentioned previously, was all-Mozart.
Stephansdom
Stephansdom

On our walk to Stadtpark to meet up with Andrés wife, Julia, and daughter, Laura, following the concert, Gina Gaston asked us about the Houston Symphony’s role as a cultural ambassador and about the virtues and pitfalls associated with outdoor parks concerts. While strolling through Stadtpark, Andrés and Julia shared stories with Gina about their courtship and busy life together in Vienna. Both demonstrated command of Houston’s landmarks and traditions by reciting sections of the children’s book “Goodnight Houston”, a gift brought over during a prior trip.

With the television cameras and lights turned off for the weekend, Andrés expressed his thanks to our Channel 13 friends and rolled up his sleeves for an evening of fruitful discussions with me about the Houston Symphony’s exciting future, a future that owes a debt of gratitude to Vienna’s prominent role in the development of classical music and seeks to build upon Vienna’s remarkable history of cultural achievement.

[To read the other blogs in this series, click here].

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