Day 1: Arrival
The last time I went with the orchestra on an overseas jaunt was in 1999, when they visited the Canary Islands, Spain, and Paris. Then, major airport delays split up the musicians and brought many of them to the Tenerife airport hours late.
This time around, Austrian Airlines was right on time.
And that was part of the problem.
At about 10:30am Vienna time, over a hundred jet-lagged musicians, technicians, and support people descended on the Vienna Marriot - whose checkin time is supposed to be 3pm. About 20 lucky members actually got rooms. The rest of us? Marie-Helene Bernard, the orchestra's manager and supremely organized tour director, told us to park our bags in the Champions Bar and have some coffee or juice - on the house - while we waited.
At this point we'd all been awake for something close to 36 hours (except for the fortunate few who can sleep soundly in an economy-class airline seat), so a dozen or two of us gladly complied. About a half-hour later I noticed that the collection of parked bags had mushroomed, but there were still only maybe two dozen of us in the bar. "Where'd they all go?," I marveled.
"Oh, you know them. They're mountain climbers," offered violinist Judy Berman. "But...this is Vienna!" "Don't worry, they'll find a mountain."
I don't doubt that some of them really did. Others hung closer to the hotel desk, hoping to be first to get rooms. Not a chance: Ms. Bernard politely rebuffed all queries and stayed focused on the task of assigning rooms to players as the hotel brought them up to spec. But at least they knew right away when their turns came.
Still more took the opportunity to acquaint (or re-acquaint) themselves with the music capital of the world. It was a homecoming for oboist Felix Kraus, and by all reports his lack of sleep meant nothing. He was one of the first to get a hotel room assignment - but he was so excited to be here that, hours later, he still hadn't even crossed the threshold.
Meanwhile, Mark Urycki and I joined Richard Fried, Judy Berman's husband (one of many spouses traveling with the orchestra) in a quest for tickets to hear the Vienna Philharmonic in their own home. Sold out! But we were able to get tickets to stand with the impecunious masses for the Saturday matinee - not bad for only four and a half Euros per (about five bucks). The cheap seats go quickly to all the students, so I'd steeled myself for $75-100 a pop.
By 2:30pm or so, about the only musicians left lounging in the lobby were those who were so deep in conversation that they hadn't yet claimed their rooms. As I walked the halls of the hotel I heard several already practicing. Their first concert isn't until Saturday, but not many musicians can afford to let their instruments sit untouched for more than a day. Being a member of one of the world's top ten orchestras is a full-time job.
23 October, 11:45pm
-1C (32F), Snow Flurries
Posted on October 23, 2003
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