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Tales from on and off stage

Carin van Heerden, co-founder, recorder player and oboist. Let the sunshine in!

In the beginning of August 2019 we had yet another opportunity to record at the abbey of Waldhausen. We have had so many positive associations with this beautiful church, playing concerts and recordings there. We felt very much at home….

It was a perfect summer, hot outside and pleasantly cool inside the church. Until our harpsichord player started complaining. The sun shone directly through the church windows onto the harpsichord, heating the harpsichord strings and causing them to go out of tune. 

Michi came up with the idea that we should find a large sunshade. Down the road there was a restaurant and so early next morning I tried to explain to the confused innkeeper why we needed one of his sunshades in the church. He eventually grasped the situation and offered to bring us the sunshade straight away. The sunshade boasted a huge ad for fruit juice and was quite a sight for sore eyes in this exquisite space. But it did its job: the harpsichord was in the shade, the intonation was fine, the harpsichord colleague was smiling again. 

Which goes to show that the Strudengauer are reliable folks, always!

Julia Huber-Warzecha, concertmaster, on the concert in Heidenheim

2006 was Mozart’s anniversary year. We played a programme with works by Leopold, Wolfgang Amadeus and a piano concerto by Franz Xaver Mozart. The young soloist was Chie Hirai. We had organised a big forte piano for her from a builder in Salzburg. Early one morning, after having rehearsed in Linz the night before, the bulky instrument was stowed away into the bus and we drove off to Heidenheim. On arrival we unpacked our luggage and instruments and realised that the forte piano’s legs were missing. They got left behind on the parking lot in Linz! Big commotion everywhere, only the soloist kept her calm. The concert was to take place in the auditorium of the Waldorf School. We piled as many chairs as we could to place the instrument at the ideal height for the pianist. Then the rehearsal started.

It turned out that the pedal construction was dangling from the top since the legs of the instrument, which normally held the pedals in place, were missing. My position as concertmaster was directly next to the forte piano. I had the idea to step onto the pedal with one foot, keeping it in place. Thank God it was only needed a few times! I added reminders in my music when to be ready with a stretched leg. It wasn’t really a comfortable position, something between a straddle and a split. But all’s well that ends well.

(PS from Carin van Heerden: I phoned the caretaker in Linz who was very helpful, he fetched the legs from the parking lot and kept them in store for us until we returned.)

Cheerful chores

Linda Pilz, violin, on her junk food job 

I think I was the first to have this job delegated to and was quite inexperienced. I mainly tried to buy as much goodies for as little money as possible. Once, as I was buying mounds of junk food, I encountered my boss from the music school in the grocery store. Thank God I could still hide my trolley, I didn’t want him to suspect me having an eating disorder! Later on, with Julia, I realised that one could buy less quantity and more quality stuff. Especially if this applies to chocolate bars.

I have to mention my biggest defeat though. We once played a concert somewhere in an abbey. We were heading home by bus through the night after the concert. Michi asked me to order pizzas. I made a list of everyone’s orders and phoned a pizzeria. I am afraid my strong Austrian accent caused great confusion on the other side, and my sniggering colleagues standing around only made things worse. It was after the concert, 22h30, and we were ready to leave. At long last a delivery truck bent around the corner. But without pizzas! The boss merely wanted to enquire if this enormous order was a joke or not. He offered to deliver the pizzas 45 minutes later but since we could wait no longer we declined. Michi saved the situation by having us stop at a garage and buying a beer for everyone. Our high spirits returned!

Actually I enjoyed this job and would do it again if need be.

Julia Faßbender-Fiegl, viola, on her junk food job

This job is generally quite a pleasure. And additionally it pleases the others. I always tried to keep a good balance between “very good (and sweet)” and “sort of healthy”. I usually bought various biscuits, chocolates and nuts and raisins, then also fruit and some salty snacks. During a project, when someone else went to the shops instead, they sometimes returned with gross things, such as mounds of jellybabies etc. But so what, it’s only a little something in the break.

Lucas Schurig-Breuß, viola, on his junk food job 

I definitely belong more to the „jellybaby and chocolate faction“. My predecessor had our good health in mind, buying apples and bananas, nuts etc. But in the end everyone eats everything in any case. By now we know each other so well that everybody knows what is an absolute must-have on the counter: sweets, super-sweets, salty savouries and fruit. The best of course is if someone bakes something at home or collects fruit in their garden. Our junk food tradition is definitely a unique feature of L’Orfeo and something our guests admire and enjoy.

Relishing reviews

All this music would be more effective with better accompaniment. The later items are marred by an obstrusive (and sometimes ill-timed) piano continuo accompaniment. But worse are the exaggerated and explosive accents favoured by conductor Michi Gaigg. I can scarcely bring myself to write about the instrumental items. There seems to me little point in using period instruments and then handling them with a coarseness and violence alien to the 18th century. Listen to the third movement of the K 138 Divertimento for some quite extraordinarily rough playing (not to mention the added pizzicato and ponticello effects), or to the ludicrous molto crescendo in bar 2 of the symphony – not asked for by Mozart, nor in his style, and absurdly repeated on every recurrence. Or try the Andante of K 138 for stilted playing and harsh, unpleasant sound. Better still, don’t.
Stanley Sadie in Gramophone (on the CD „W.A. Mozart: Konzertarien für Tenor“ with Christoph Prégardien)

In short, think bad Haydn, or better, the source for Mozart‘s „A Musical Joke“. Evidently, the composer might have thought so as well. (on the CD „Symphonies von Anton Fils“)

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