A feast for the senses - this applies to both music and cuisine. As a wine academic and percussionist, Oliver Madas' heart beats for both.

A feast for the senses - this applies to both music and cuisine. As a wine academic and percussionist, Oliver Madas' heart beats for both.
© Ian Ehm

Opera Ball 2024: Culinary secrets of the Vienna Philharmonic

The tour schedule as a guide for culinary journeys of discovery, an Italian with a hidden talent and a wine academic: a portrait of violinist Alina Pinchas, trombonist Enzo Turriziani and percussionist Oliver Madas.

At the age of 13, Enzo Turriziani was faced with a life decision: apprenticeship as a chef or music conservatory? The middle school student from a small village near Rome showed at least as much talent in the kitchen as he did on the trombone, which his father and grandfather already played. Turriziani followed - against the advice of many friends: "They said music is unsafe, you have talent, but there are many more ristoranti than orchestras, it's easier to find work as a chef."

Seven years later, Turriziani had his first position in the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma, soon moving to the best orchestra in Italy (Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia), and from there to "probably the best orchestra in the world" in 2017. Although he had just built a house just outside Rome, he applied for the vacant solo trombone position in Vienna. Those who make it into the State Opera Orchestra can be accepted into the Philharmonic Orchestra Association after three years. This life decision made it easier for his future wife to accompany him.

What is the beauty of the trombone?

The cantabilità is a vocal instrument that can be noisy and very masculine, but also sensitive and elegant.
- Enzo Turriziani trombonist in the Vienna State Opera Orchestra

Cooking is now also a recipe for homesickness: "Food is tradition, culture and reminds me of my homeland." He likes to enrich his repertoire of Italian cuisine with seasonal produce. Turriziani's "Austrian-Italian fusion lasagne" is filled with wild hops and bacon. And because only an Italian knows how to make prosciutto, a Lower Austrian pork shank has already matured in his cellar.

His orchestra colleagues are not only frequent guests, they also benefit from video tutorials by the father of Olivia Tosca, who will soon be two years old. These step-by-step instructions have spread as far as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. When asked about the best Italian restaurant in the city, Turriziani says with a wink: "My house would be a good address." Perhaps one day he will make his dream of "a small artist restaurant" come true. He could confidently put down his trombone at the stove: Turriziani is also a talented tenor who didn't make his debut just anywhere. During a guest appearance by the brass section at New York's Carnegie Hall in 2019, he suddenly put down his trombone in the middle of "Cavalleria Rusticana" and belted out the aria. In Vienna, he has so far only sung in his kitchen.

The loud wine academic

The wild times are seen in Oliver Madas His introduction to drums was classically unclassical; he played in a basement rock band. They called themselves "Emetic", which means "emetic" - well, yes. Even then, talent flashed through: "When we turned off the distortion and needed a melody, I went to the piano and composed." His parents sent him to lessons and the now 44-year-old Viennese discovered his passion for the orchestra. Not surprisingly, his father was a trombonist with the Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2003, his son joined the opera, in 2006 he became a member of the Philharmoniker and since 2007 he has been teaching at the University of Music and Performing Arts.

As if that wasn't enough, years ago he decided to professionalise his hobby by studying for a degree at the Wine Academy. His wife wasn't the only one who was surprised to see theory papers piling up on his desk instead of bottles of wine. But Madas is not happy to give up what he started. And he graduated before the first of his two sons was born. He only had to repeat the sparkling wine test, which his wife considered "a gentleman's deed" because of the additional tastings for this. The couple share a passion for wine and music, Maria Grün is a cellist with the symphony orchestra.

What is the beauty of the percussion instruments?

The versatility, we drummers are all-rounders, play bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, triangle and sometimes also car horns and a trough with dishes.
- Oliver Madas percussionist in the Vienna State Opera Orchestra

Orchestra colleagues call Madas their "trusted dealer"; he gives buying tips and invites them to private (blind) tastings, puts together the wine program for the Philharmonic Ball. He knows many winemakers personally. Madas doesn't want to reduce his taste to one favourite wine: "I would talk about favourite moments when certain wines go well, depending on the surroundings, landscape and food. That could be an exclusive wine or a simple wine from a wine tavern." The Interplay of wine and music he studied academically - and recognised parallels in his thesis: Winegrowers and musicians "want their product to stand out in front of an audience". And wine and music "can be described with words - but the audience has to translate them into emotion for themselves".

Having grown up in a family of musicians, Alina Pinchas-Küblböck began studying the violin at the tender age of four. She finds a balance in the culinary arts and describes herself as a "passionate foodie".
© Stefan Gergely
Having grown up in a family of musicians, Alina Pinchas-Küblböck began studying the violin at the tender age of four. She finds a balance in the culinary arts and describes herself as a "passionate foodie".

Foodie on tour

Alina Pinchas in turn, is what some would call a "child prodigy"; she played the piano at the age of three, learned the violin at four and gave her first solo concert with orchestral accompaniment at five. For the 35-year-old herself, it is simply a passion. "Even as a child, I loved being on stage and playing for an audience," she says. Her mother was a piano teacher, her grandfather a violinist and her Jewish family came to Vienna from Uzbekistan when Pinchas was one year old. She took lessons from kindergarten age with the aim of performing on stage as a soloist. She did this at a young age in Europe, America and China - and then came the "aha moment". The State Opera Orchestra was looking for replacement members, Pinchas auditioned and discovered a new world: "The interplay of music and libretto, what happens in the orchestra pit and up on stage, was an incredible experience. I didn't want to do without it any more". At 24, she was the first violinist to be accepted. The symphonic performances of the Philharmoniker are now stage enough for Pinchas.

What is the beauty of the violin?

It feels like a part of my body, you grow together with your instrument.
Alina Pinchas-Küblböck, first violinist in the Vienna State Opera Orchestra

With her husband, Thomas Küblböck, who was once a rival for the orchestra position and is now a colleague, she combines touring with their second shared passion, cuisine. "We plan restaurant visits abroad with the duty roster and make reservations months in advance." The greatest culinary experience so far was a visit to "Le Bernardin" in New York. As the young parent of a three-year-old, evenings like this are rarer. Foodie Pinchas follows chefs, restaurants and culinary accounts via social media and wields the wooden spoon herself. Traditional family cooking "only happens at mom's", the only exception being challah, a Jewish striezel, "which I finally got the hang of with the yeast dough", says Pinchas. She spoils her colleagues with cookie creations, and her cakes are also well-known and popular. Your favorite recipe? There is none, but "friends say I make the best lasagna". When her colleague Turriziani finds out, he challenges Pinchas to a video challenge.

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Jasmin Bürger
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