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The Gifu Symphony Orchestra

The Gifu Symphony Orchestra


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Hitoshi Watanabe
22.10.2009


The Gifu Symphony Orchestra Vienna tour, “our biggest dream has come true”

Our longest-cherished aspiration and biggest "dream", playing on the stage of "Musikverein" in Vienna, the City of Music has come true in May, 2009. There was no bigger honor or happiness for us than to play in front of an audience which has one of the greatest musical and cultural traditions in Europe.

 Background of the tour

Originally this event was suggested by Maestro Komatsu, GSO’s honorary conductor, because this year is the 55th anniversary of the orchestra, and at the same time the 140th year of Austria-Japan relationship, and the 15th year anniversary of the Vienna Meidling Ward - Gifu city sister city relationship. 

For the amateur orchestra, this event is so challenging. Do we have the skills to play in the world's best hall? Are we so immature? or reckless? Can all of us pay the travel expense to Vienna? and so on. We discussed this for a long time. Fortunayely we had supporters, government offices and business circles, they are so happy and excited by this event. They promised to support us, and they organized some group tours for the concert.

We finally decided to go to Vienna. The real reason is, Vienna is Vienna, sacred place for all musicians, this is the only chance we will ever have to go and play at Musikvereinsaal in Vienna. If we miss this chance, it will probably never happen again. We love music so much, this event brings together all our efforts, enables us to concentrate on music, spend time and, of course, a lot of money!

 The way to Vienna

30. April – 2. May, our orchestra players made 3 groups and left from Japan, through Centrair, Kansai and Narita. I left from Narita and arrived at first in Prague, and stayed there 2 nights. This is my second visit to Prague, the first after the collapse of the Berlin’s Wall. I wanted to visit Prague because we will play Dvorak's symphony No. 8 this time, and I wanted to see Dvorak’s home city again. We left Prague and arrived at the Vienna-West station in the afternoon of the 2nd of May. It took 4 hours from Prague to Vienna by train. The train’s name is “Schubert”. Musicians are so respected in these countries.

 Concert at Musikvereinsall in Vienna

On 2 May in the evening, we started rehearsals in Vienna. We gathered at the ORF building. Fortunately all the players had no trouble and we could start rehearsal on time. Rehearsals on the first day are very tough because of the jet lag. The conductor knew the situation very well and overlooked many of our mistakes.

On 3 May, before the rehearsal, we went to a concert at Musikvereinsall. Berlin Staatsoper Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim played Mahler’s 9th Symphony. This was a very good chance to understand the acoustic conditions in the hall, but of course we could not compare our orchestra’s skill with that of a professional orchestra. We rehearsed again in the afternoon.

On 4 May, we moved to Musikvereinsaal Glass hall, in the basement of the building. We rehearsed untill 5 pm, then we waited until the Vienna Symphony Orchestra finished their rehearsal. The hall is so busy and we could rehearse only for 1 hour in this “dream hall”.

The concert started at 7:30 pm, and the hall was almost full, many Japanese people came to the concert, some wearing Kimono. In a very gorgeous atmosphere, we showed our best and the concert was so successful. We played J. Strauss' “Thunder and Lightning” as an encore twice, the audience looked so satisfied with our performance and the applause continued for so long. Many of us were crying, we are sure we will never, ever forget this moment.

Vienna now

The day after the concert, at last we could relax and had time to do some sightseeing. Vienna, the old capital city of the Hapsburg Empire, is changing very fast. Beside the Stephansdom, modern shopping malls intrude. Along the Kaerntner Street, the main shopping street, there are Starbucks, Burger King and Mac Donalds. Even so, in Vienna, there is something that never changes. The warm heart shown towards travelers, the great orchestras and Operas, and the love of music!

The Gifu Symphony Orchestra
The Gifu Orchestra
The Gifu Symphony Orchestra
The Author in full regalia
The Gifu Symphony Orchestra
The Venue in Vienna