Sunday, December 30, 2007

Other radom pics

A cool shot of the Cologne Cathedral amongst the fog

So we've visited many cities so far during this break, including Cologne, Trier, Bonn, and Speyer. Next week we will head to Berlin, so many more pictures will surely come soon. Here are a few pics from these visits so far.

This is me in Trier, overlooking the city from a 2000 year old Roman city gate.

The beautiful Cathedral in Speyer

One of the organists of the Cathedral in Speyer showed us the organ loft and gave us a quick performance on the beautiful organ


On the way to Michaela's house, we stopped at the 'Steffens' brewery in Linz, Germany. We also stopped at several Steffens wineries. This area of Germany is exactly the same area my family once came from a century ago, and it is so strange for me to see my family name EVERYWHERE. It is an extremely rare name in the US, but in this area, it is very very common. I saw it on restaurants, in the cemeteries, on of course on all this beer and wine. I of course had to try it, and was quite pleased to see that the family is still keepin up the family name back in the homeland :)

A smörgåsbord of Steffens beer

Some wine from Hans-Peter Steffens

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Collage of Christmas vacation begins:

Ok, I'm currently in the middle of winter break. I've already done so much, and there is much more to come, so these next posts will probably be mostly just pictures with brief descriptions. They are a few of the highlights so far.

Michi über Bullay

Michaela sitting in the hills above Bullay

I spent the Christmas holidaywith Michaela in her little town, Bullay, on the Mosel River. It is actually more like three holidays here: they celebrate mainly on Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend). then both Christmas day and the following day are holidays. Her town has somewhere around 1000 people and is one of a series of villages along this river. Its very hilly here and famous for the wine grown on the sides of these hills. Perhaps one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. If you've ever seen a model train set, with the tunnels through mountains, the bridge over the river, the cute little houses, and all that stereotypical pictureseque is based EXACTLY on Bullay. It was an absolutely wonderful Christmas.


A shot of Alf, the village across the river from Bullay.

Schloss gegenüber dem Fluss von Bullay

A castle in the hills across from Bullay. Michi can see this from her bedroom window.

Studio recital

Kneipe nach dem Klassenabend
A few of us from the Posch studio
L to R: Johannes, Me, Martin, Matthias, Phillip, Simon

A couple weeks ago, on December 18, we had our studio recital. 7 of us from the Posch studio performed. Everything went fairly well, and of course we had to go out to celebrate after our last obligation before winter break with a beer. Ok, a few. Here is a clip of my performance of the Vanhal concerto. I used my digital photo camera, so the quality is pretty terrible....but heh, its somethin.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Orchestra Concert!!!

Last Friday I played in the only real orchestral concert that I will be playing during my time here. The system for the orchestra performances here is completely different than at Eastman. Here, there are 3 main orchestra projects each year. They rehearse intensely for a week or two before the performance, but other than that, never meet. There is usually a different conductor for each concert, and generally at least one of them is quite well-known, for example, Pierre Boulez last year, or Riccardo Muti this coming spring. Naturally, I will be back home when Muti comes.... I also play in a reading orchestra that meets once a week, but that is a completely separate endeavor. Overall, a very different approach from at Eastman, where we have 3-4 rehearsals a week and 8 concerts per year. At Eastman, the curriculum seems to revolve around the orchestra, whereas here, it resolves around....well...practicing your ass off... There are definitely pros and cons to both of these approaches.

Here are a couple of pics from before the concert during our 'team-warm-up:'

Stimmführer Johannes leads us in some warmups.

And Eric, what amazing Viennese style bow grip you have adopted...and if I'm not mistaken, that appears to be a brand new Dölling bow...

The program was very appropriate for me. An American theme:
Copeland: Appalachian Spring
(which nobody here had heard before, haha)
David: Trombone Concerto
Dvorak: 9th Symphony "New World"

Our section leader and my stand partner, Johannes, also of the Posch studio, leads us do victory.

We were quite the international double bass section, with EVERY ONE of us coming from a different country, including, Austria, Germany, America, Hungary, India, andCoasta Rica. We were also an assimilation of 4 different bass studios here in Vienna.

A Very Velicious Viennese Vanksgiving

Well, it wasn't anything like being at home, but we were able to do a little something for Thanksgiving here. A group of us from my dorm, including 2 other Americans threw together a thanksgiving meal that actually turned out to be quite decent!
For many of them, it was their first Thanksgiving. From left to right, we are from America, Czech, Lithuania, America, America, Albania, Lithuania, Poland.
Even with chicken replacing the traditional turkey, it was still a very good meal with great friends.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

First Snow

We had our first snow! We received about 6 inches. This happened to be the first my roommate, Alex, has EVER SEEN SNOW IN HIS LIFE. Coming from Chicago, and going to school in Rochester, this is near impossible for me to fathom. Apparently they don't get very much down in Ethiopia :)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I am falling way behind in posting the amount if things I've been doing and pictures I've been taking. Possibly partially due to the discouragement of unbearably slow internet and many problems uploading pictures. It takes about 5-10 minutes to load a single tiny picture onto this blog. Photobucket, the free online picture storing site, seems to be the answer to all my problems. I will be trying to catch up with many new posts and stories in the next few days... Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Trip to Wachau

The Erasmus (exchange) students from the University for Music were invited last weekend on a day-trip to the 'Wachau,' a valley along the Danube about an hour west of Vienna. The Landscape here was beautiful. We weren't too lucky with the weather, however. It rained non-stop for the WHOLE day. It was still beautiful, despite the rain and fog.

Our first stop was at the 'Stift-Melk' Monastery. This was a massive Benedictine monastery originally founded in 11th century.

It was too big to capture all of it in pictures, but you can see more pictures and history of Stift Melk here. This is an 800 year old book of Benedictine law.

Our next adventure was a boat cruise down the Danube. Along the way, we stopped in Dürnstein, a famous little town along the river. Richard the Lion-heart of England was held captive in Dürnstein by Leopold V. It is also famous for its apricot liqueur.

As I mentioned, the rain really put a damper on the day. I can only imagine what this area would look like in the sunshine. Here is a video clip from the boat

We had a amazing dinner at a wine-house in another small town called Krems. Here are a few of us erasmus students.

From left to right: Maciek from Poland, Laura from Switzerland, Me from America, Anna-Maria from Finland, Judith from Germany, Imer from Ireland, Karin from Sweden, and Joyce from America.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Graham Dechter visits!

I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with one of my good guitarist friends from Eastman, Graham Dechter. Graham and I were freshmen together at Eastman in 04-05. He then left Eastman and is currently studying at Cal Arts in L.A. Presently he is on a European tour with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and happened to come through Vienna.

I was able to meet many of the band members, including Clay Jenkins, an Eastman trumpet professor touring with the band.

Ryan Porter, seen here next to Graham, came out with us this particular night. Ryan is a trombone player in the band. His other gigs include the American Idol band, and several funk bands in the L.A. area.

It was so good to see Graham, and to see an amazing concert. John Clayton, one of the founders of the band, is a world-renown bassist (both jazz and classical), composer, and arranger. I highly recommend seeing a performance of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra if the opportunity presents itself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lessons with Alois Posch

Well, I officially got my butt kicked yesterday for the first time by my teacher here, Alois Posch. I have now had 3 lessons with him. Apparently, the introduction is over, and it is now down to business. The first two lessons dealt mainly with some of the major technical changes I would have to make, studying here in Vienna. This mainly involves the bow. Not only have I just recently switched to playing German bow, after having played French bow my entire life, but now I must adapt specifically to the Viennese style of German bow playing. This has actually been a much easier transition than I originally anticipated. I will go into more detail about this change in the future. Other changes have included some meticulous left hand refinement, and beginning with the Ludwig Streicher method books, which I have never used before, but seem to be treated like the Bible amongst bass players here in Vienna. It must work. The technical facility of all the players in the studio here is absolutely astounding.

Another big difference with my lessons out here is that they are open to the whole studio. Anyone can listen to anybody else's lesson. This was something I first experienced this last summer at the International Festival at Round Top in my lessons with Barry Lieberman. It really makes the lesson feel like more of a performance, or a master class, since there will often 5 to 8 people in the room. I think there are both advantages and disadvantages to this concept. The personal relationship between the student and teacher is somewhat sacrificed, it seems, but on the plus side... I basically get 6 lessons a week, being able to listen to other peoples. Being here for the limited amount of time that I am, that is definitely an opportunity for me to get the most out my time with Posch as possible. I will soon be posting some more thoughts about specific technical and conceptual adjustments that I have been making.

Mr. Posch is currently the principal bassist of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Staatsoper. He has been in the orchestra since 1977, and has been teaching at the Universität für Musk und Darstellende Kunst since 1993.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I love this city...

So as I was approaching my building on the way home from the park today, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a restaurant called the 'Ludwig van.' Now, since the name sounded, well, a little familiar to me.... I decided to investigate, in hopes of perhaps finding a new restaurant for dinner, to take the place of the dozens of tuna on rye sandwiches I've consumed in the last several weeks. To my surprise, it turned out to be a restaurant occupying a building where Beethoven once lived! From 1822 into 1823 to be exact. It was well marked with a beautiful carved plaque above the door.

I find it amazing to be continually discovering little places like this EVERYWHERE I go in Vienna. This place is literally one block from where I am living. Just another reason why I love this city..

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clip from the Staatsoper

TJ Grasch, who is studying in the nearby city of Linz, came up the other night for a visit. TJ, myself, my roommate, Alex, and friend Karin all went to a Staatsoper performance of Puccini's 'Manon Lescaut.' The modern staging was a bit eccentric, though it was an amazing performance overall. I snagged this short clip of the amazing soprano aria at the end of the last act...though this clip does not do justice to the overall performance.

TJ is from Illinois, like me! Alex is from Ethiopia, and Karin is from Sweden, so we were quite the international group for the evening!

Michaela's Visit

Michaela came down to visit from Germany last week. We had an amazing time, and were able to really see a lot of the city, though, there is still so much. Some of the highlights of her visit were the Staatsoper (Barber of Seville), the Riesenrad (Vienna's famous old ferris wheel), tours through St. Stephen's Cathedral, Karlskirche, and an amazing day-trip to Graz. Here are a few of the pics!

The 2-hour train-ride through the Austrian counrtyside to Graz was absolutely astounding.

We climbed to the top of the "Schlossberg," a random hill/mountainish thing right in the middle of Graz. The view from the top was amazing!

(in Vienna)

St. Stephen's Cathedral
(Very important to pronounce it exactly like my last name...)
Possibly the most impressing structure I have ever seen in my life. It is near impossible to capture good photos of it, because it is so massive.

St. Stephen's is basically at very center of the entire city. We climbed the bell tour, and we also took the tour of the catacombs underneath the cathedral. We saw the tombs of all the Cardinals and Bishops, as well as the urns containing various organs of various members of the Habsburg dynasty. The most interesting, and freakiest, however, were the pits filled with bones, where they dumped the bodies of the 40,000 Vienese who perished as a result the last plague. Since then, in order to save space, many of the bones were at one point cleaned and neatly stacked like books in several other large stone rooms. Creepy...

The Riesenrad!

The Riesenrad is a ferris wheel that was built in 1896. The cars are massive! Like the size of a small train car. They fit about 15-20 people! It is in the Prater Park, which used to be directly across the street from my last building. I am now in a different one...and there will surely be more info to come on my new building...

I couldn't get this picture to straighten out... oh well.

Overall, it was an amazing visit. I can't wait to go and see her in Köln!!!

The desperate things we do for a good music stand...

The title explains itself....

Ingredients: 1 night stand (turned upside down), one kitchen chair, 1 pillow, one bedsheet, love.

Ingredients: 1 table, 1 chair, one pillow, 3 metronomes, one can of beer.

Tentative Schedule

So I'm falling way behind in the amount of stories and pictures I am getting up here. I have done sooo much in the last couple weeks. Most likely things will slow down soon, now that classes are finally beginning... slowly but surely. As of right now, my schedule appears to be something like the following:

M- 8:30am -10am - German class @ Universität Wien
11am-12pm - Bass Lesson @ Universität für Musik
1:30-4 - Orchestra II
4-6:30 - (Potential Orchestra I)

T- 12:15-1:45 - History of Orchestra Lecture Class @ Universität für Musik

W- 8:30am -10am - German class @ Universität Wien

Th- far

F- 8:30am -10am - German class @ Universität Wien

So my schedule is slowly being added to, but I will still definitely have plenty of practice and 'see Wien' time.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Concert Round-Up...

Musikverein, Vienna

I have now been in Vienna for three weeks. I have also attended many of the best concerts and performances that I have seen in my entire life. Not to mention, for the lowest prices I have ever paid. I just wanted to give a list of what I have experienced in the last couple weeks:


I Puritani - Bellini
@ Staatsoper
Price: 2 EUR

Barber of Seville - Rossini
@ Saatsoper
Price: 2 EUR

Otello - Verdi
@ Staatsoper
Price: 2 EUR

I will probably also see Puccini's Manon Lescaut tomorrow...


Romeo and Juliet - Prokofiev
@ Staatsoper
Price: 2 EUR


Wiener Symphoniker
@ Musikverein
Brahms Choral Lieder & Beethoven 5
Price: 5 EUR
( I saw this concert twice )

Rehearsal of Wiener Philharmoniker
@ Musikverein
Beethoven 6
Berg (I can't remember the name of the work)
Price: FREE

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Week One: Complete

I have survived week one. Everything so far has been absolutely amazing. I've settled very easily into my flat; unfortunate, since I will probably be moving in another week. Overall, the week has been very laid back. Aside from a few small necessary errands, the week was filled with a great deal of practicing and lots of exploring. I'll include a few highlights in this post...

I already talked about my building a bit, but here it is from the outside. It is a 'passivhaus,' apparently meaning an extra-energy-efficient building. It has a very curious and modern interior structure. I have a beautiful view, since I am on the 6th floor, AND on a corner, meaning I have 3 windows!

I was at the Universität for the first time the other day. My friend Indi (right) from the bass studio showed me and Joyce (left) around a bit. Indi has been very helpful in getting me acclimated and teaching me new words. That has been an adventure all by itself.... The German I have been taught is ABSOLUTELY nothing like the dialect of German they speak here. It has been quite interesting, with people often asking me questions on the street, and me not understanding a single word. Very frustrating. I'm sure I will pick some of it up in time though.

Joyce and I attended a rehearsal of the Wien Philharmoniker the other day at the Musikverein, in hopes of finally meeting our teachers. Oh my God....the Vienna Phil. I have never heard sounds like that before. It was EASILY the best sounding orchestra I have EVER heard. It was absolutely astounding. I am still in shock. I had chills the entire time, as I listened to Danielle Gatti rehearse Beethoven's 6th symphony with them. I did finally meet Herr Posch after the rehearsal, and was given my first lesson time...which will be on October 1st.

Today I went for a long walk through the Augarten, which is a few blocks down from my building. The weather was beautiful, and it was so fun people watching (and listening) in the park. The park is several hundred years old, like most things in this city.

And of course, a park just simply isn't a park without your WWII antiaircraft towers!

These massive structures definitely stood out a little bit...

Look at the tiny people walking at the base.

I have one more week before school starts, so there will certainly be more to come soon...