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When Mahler took Tirol

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

It was a wonderful experience playing bass with the Tirol based orchestra Sonarkraft this weekend! My first time in Tirol has surpised me with the beauty of a region that is full of life and the great outdoors. Since a child I've been interested in this part of the world, where Italy meets Austria, and I was strangely delighted to find out that our bus, as it drove us from Innsbruck to the concert in Lienz, would be passing through Italy in order to pick up some of our violinists in süd-tirol, Italian nationals who speak German as their main language - how cool is that!? Although, for me, they speak a strange, but beautiful German. I said to myself, as I reflected on the dialect, "Tirol is to German what Scotland is to English." I called it my fastest Italian trip. These musicians from Süd-Tirol (Alto-Adige) later on explained to me, in a riveting conversation, the nuances of being Italian German speakers.

We played Mahler's 1st Symphony, and although I was feeling out of practice on the double bass, I am forever grateful for having studied with Orin O'Brien of the NY Phil. All throughout the concerts and reahersals was her voice in my ear. "Quiet moment? Move the bow faster. Bow in the string before playing. Each note: rhythm, harmony, or melody?" A man told me that my bass solo gave him goosebumps.

And as a young classical musician in New York, I remember feeling proud of Mahler's connection to the city. Through my connection to the NY Phil, how I felt as part of a school which is connected to Mahler, with him having conducted the NY Phil after allI. (Aparently, if I remember correctly, they have a collection of scores with his handwriting in New York). Yet here I was on a bus in Tirol, passing through a village where Mahler vacationed, heading to Lienz, to bring Mahler to his fellow countrymen.

How these places in Austria which are connected to Mahler, from Vienna to Tirol, took on mythical qualities for me as a student in New York. Now here they were, as real as ever, and me, on a bus with local musicians, as if this were a normal Friday - and it was a normal Friday! - fitting quite nicely into a world I had only dreamed about, stepping in fact into my own dream world.

Post concert, as we drove back through Italy, gin tonics on our rented bus. I thought, this is the best time I've ever had in Italy, and also, with all its ups and downs - sore hands, old clothes, gin tonics on a bus, mythical mountains, and strange borders: so this is the life of a musician!


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