36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 258: Bernstein moves the Earth


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 258 — Bernstein moves the Earth
16-April-1972 (Sonntag–Sun.)


Bernstein and the VPO

I have to write this in English.

I decided to go again to the Bernstein concert. I got in again to the “orgel balkon”–for free, and was again able to se him conduct (from the front). In the beginning of the first movement, there was a rumble and some perceptible shaking. I, however, only noticed it slightly, but in those seconds, people started hurriedly scrambling out of the concert hall. The people near the walls—especially in the
orgel balkon with empty space below [the seats] and the hollow walls of the organ… Well, in those few seconds (especially when in confusion and doubt—mild panic?), a feeling of fear can come across anyone. It did to me. However, after those few seconds everyone calmed down.

I found out later that it was a rather strong earth tremor (6.?).

Anyway, the concert began again and it was enjoyable. Basically, very well played. I, however, think that Bernstein is not very pleased with the brass playing. While it is better than usual, there are still a few too many mistakes (anything over zero). I also found out he cancelled the radio broadcast. Anyway, I enjoyed it. I like his conducting because his whole self is “feeling” the music. Of course, it can be considered show—but not really, because he is, I am sure, sincere. I like the idea of involvement in the music.

Afterwards, got his autograph on the back of my Sinfonia card. He wasn’t extremely friendly but he appeared to be very tired. Also, I met again Mr. S. of CBS Records. He was standing next to Mr. Bernstein.


Earth shaking. Today’s Bernstein-Mahler concert brings some excitement to town. I remember that moment in the first movement. What I thought was the rumble of a bass drum roll or a subway moving under the building was actually an earthquake tremor. At the time, I didn’t know this. I simply followed everyone else out of the hall, not knowing what was going on. It calmed down rather quickly and the concert resumed. This was my first earthquake (and hopefully last). I’ll add that to my list of “firsts” on the Welcome page.

Orgel Balkon. My sneaking in to a concert is not something I normally do. I will have to ask my friend, Mike, if we actually did this. However, I’m fairly certain that we were in a standing-room section of the organ balcony of the Musikverein. From this angle, I could watch Bernstein conduct from the front-side, as if I were in the orchestra. Wonderful!

The opening picture, shows the one of the Bernstein-VPO concerts. (I apologize for the poorly exposed and blurred photos of some of these Bernstein-Mahler photos.) The photo below shows the Vienna Boys’ Choir in the organ balcony at one of the other Bernstein-Mahler concerts.

Musikverein organ balcony

Bernstein style. I am a big Bernstein fan. His recordings are legendary. His legacy in conducting and composing, will last a long time. He is certainly one of the great conductors of the 20th century. I like Bernstein’s emotional style of conducting where he puts his whole body into the music. Call it feeling, or emotion. The VPO responds and plays beautifully with Bernstein. Sometimes, I wonder how they see the downbeat on occasion.

Autograph. I even get Bernstein’s autograph. Wow. Wish I could find it. Because I don’t have a program (that’s what you get for sneaking in John), he has to sign the back of my music fraternity card. I’m certain Mike is behind all of this. I don’t have the knowledge on how to do these things or where to go to get backstage.

VPO. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is an incredible orchestra as seen in these Bernstein-Mahler concerts. Bernstein, I believe, has always had a great relationship with the orchestra. I wasn’t able to find more videos on YouTube of these specific concerts. I mention that the brass might make an occasional mistake, including the horns—remember, they are single Vienna F-horns—much more difficult to play than the common double F-Bb horn used by most players. In the professional world, the expectancy is zero mistakes. So, perhaps if there were three mistakes in the entire symphony, I might have pointed that out. The orchestra, concert, and brass sections are just wonderful. If you get a chance to see any VPO videos, check out the Vienna trumpets as well, they are held flat and have similar rotary pistons similar to the horn.

Mr. S. of CBS. It’s a small world. Do you remember the gentleman who I met at a coffee place, in the first few days in Vienna? See ay 005: Coffee and call girls">Day 005. He gave me some advice and gave me a small tour? Well, here his is, standing next to Maestro Bernstein. I believe he was in record promotions for CBS. I’m impressed. Yes, it’s a small world.


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