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European Tour Dispatch: A Cultural Exchange in Vienna

By Eric Dundon


Throughout the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s five-city European tour, the orchestra is serving as ambassadors for music, for the United States, and St. Louis—and not just in the concert hall.


On March 24, Music Director Stéphane Denève, Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress, and SLSO musicians David Halen (Concertmaster), Kristin Ahlstrom (Associate Principal Second Violin), and Peter Henderson (frequent artistic collaborator and pianist), became impromptu diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria.


Pianist Peter Henderson, left, and SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève embrace following a performance of Schubert's Fantasy in F for four hand piano at a cultural exchange event in Vienna, Austria.

“We believe music is a universal language, so we are happy to be here and share music with you,” SLSO President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard said in remarks to the group of about 30 people at the America House. “We are strong believers in these types of cultural collaborations which are so important to humanity and also to the work we do.”


There to mingle with musicians were a group of Austrian and American music lovers, as well as alumni of U.S.-Austria arts exchange programs. The group connected over their love of music.


Teta Moehs of the U.S. Embassy welcomes the crowd.

For Teta Moehs, the Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, the opportunity for a cultural exchange with SLSO musicians came at the right time—the event was the first such held since the before the pandemic.


“We are honored today to bring together music lovers from Austria, from St. Louis, and from other countries as well, because the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is here for the first time in many years,” Moehs said.


Following brief introductions, Denève and Henderson performed Franz Schubert’s Fantasy in F for four hands piano. At the conclusion of the performance, the music lovers gave the duo a warm reception. Among the attendees were participants in music exchange programs, invited because of the SLSO’s strong history of supporting students.


“One of the hallmarks of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra that I find so fascinating is that there’s a huge element of youth outreach, and having music be a part of people’s lives,” Moehs said.


A cultural reception held at American House with SLSO musicians.

The visit came on the heels of the SLSO’s first concert in Vienna since 1993, earning a rousing ovation to a nearly sold-out crowd in Vienna’s Konzerthaus.


“Last night was one of the most memorable performances the orchestra has given, and we are so pleased to share music with you,” Bernard said.


 

Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Director.

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