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Inside the Philadelphia Orchestra's European Tour

Dave Bilger with Trumpet

In his most recent tour with the Philadelphia Orchestra, ArtistWorks instructor David Bilger recounts his experiences and adventures on the 17-day tour of Europe. Be dragged into the narrative as he describes being caught in several political protests, playing in spectacular venues, and even meeting ArtistWorks students from around the world.


It was an action packed 17-day tour with the Philadelphia Orchestra. We started in Brussels, and had our concert interrupted by political protests around 20 minutes into the first half Once things calmed down, we dove right back into the music, and tried to make it up to the audience with extra energy!

Dave Bilger with ArtistWorks student on European TourThe concerts on the first half of our tour featured Brahms 1st Piano Concerto, Strauss Don Juan, Oquin Resilliance, and Schumann Symphony #4. It was a challenge to mix playing piston and rotary valve trumpets with “road chops,” but it all worked out well.

Night 3 was at the brand new hall in Paris. Our train arrived in Paris at the same time as another political protest. We left early the next morning, so there was zero sightseeing in Paris! That’s a pity, but all part of touring.

We were then on to Düsseldorf, and played in a concert hall that had originally been a planetarium. The look of the Hall was awesome, but the sound perhaps a little less so. Yet we had another full house, and appreciative audience.

Day 5 started a 3 day stay in Hamburg, playing 2 concerts in their brand new hall. We started transitioning to our second tour program, which was Bernstein Symphony #2 (The Age of Anxiety) and Tchaikovsky Symphony #4. Both concerts were sold out, and the new hall is amazing, both to look at and play in.

Orchestra from back on philadelphia orchestra european tourOn my free day in Hamburg, I made a trip to the Yamaha pro shop (Atelier) and taught a masterclass for college students from Hamburg and Lubeck. It was great fun, and the students played well.

From Hamburg we flew to Vienna for 2 concerts in the famed Musikverein. It is one of the greatest and most storied concert halls in the world.

The final leg of our tour was a trip to Israel. We were the first American orchestra to visit since 1996, and we had planned a trip of cultural diplomacy. Roughly 15 orchestra members were able to do a side-by-side concert (Bernstein Candide Overture and Brahms Symphony #3) with the students from Tel Aviv University, which was memorable for all involved.

Dave Bilger in Airport on European Tour with the Philadelphia OrchestraThe full orchestra played 3 concerts, one in Haifa, another in Tel Aviv, and the last one in Jerusalem. I was able to meet a long time ArtistWorks student in Tel Aviv, which was a blessing. She lives in Tel Aviv, and just finished a one year position in the orchestra in Jerusalem.

Tel Aviv is a vibrant, modern and secular city. Jerusalem was truly amazing! I was able to see the famous Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites, and it’s mind blowing to be in places built 3000 years ago. The city is a living place of history, and it’s clear why it has been, and continues to be a focal point of political conflict. But mostly it is a beautiful and emotionally moving place. Then it was a 12-hour flight back to the US.

My next several trips are domestic, and then next foreign tour is Asia! I feel fortunate that music offers me the chance to experience the world. And my ArtistWorks students get some video exchanges from hotels in far off places!

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