Bucharest Enescu Festival

Published by on September 08, 2017

The Pittsburgh  Symphony European Festivals Tour 2017 ends in Bucharest Romania with two concerts. The first of the two began an hour late with arrival drama owing to a mechanical failure of the charter plane. A police escort down the broad boulevards that lead to the center of the city made for a nail biter but CEO Melia Tourangeau made a gracious apology to the audience before the Dvorak Rusalka Fantasy and Mathias Goerne with Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs. The Palace Hall or Sala Palatului is the former meting place for Communist party sessions where Nikolae Ceausescu detailed the progress of the people. Now nearly 4,000 Tchaikovsky fans heard the Sixth Symphony with a Pathetique “wait there’s more”  finale that always fools the audience into clapping. So much so last night that the stage crew briefly brought up the lights an quickly dimmed them again as the music continued.

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Lucerne Festival Fondue

Published by on September 05, 2017

The Pittsburgh Symphony moved from London to Lucerne Switzerland through the pristine Zurich airport and a one hour bus ride. Principal Bass Jeff Turner and I called Anna Singer standing in front of the Harrod’s store at Heathrow airport. Jeff has the off kilter folk song bass solo heard in the Mahler First Symphony which provided a big roar from the Royal Albert Hall on Monday night. British superstar chef Gordon Ramsay has a restaurant at Heathrow and travelers were taking pictures in front of the Harry Potter store.

Pittsburgh Symphony Principal Double Bass Jeffery Turner at Heathrow airport

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Pittsburgh at the Proms

Published by on September 05, 2017

The Beatles suggested in A Day in the Life that we now know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Albert’s  hall was filled with fans of the Pittsburgh Symphony  September 4 from the prommers standing 800 or more at the front of the stage in the Arena to the seven levels of seating with more standing at the top most level. They cheered, they stomped, they heard a Bach encore from Anne Sophie Mutter after her Dvorak Concerto and two more encores by Johann Strauss after the Mahler First Symphony on the second half. The horns stand dramatically and tilt the bells of their instruments to the side in the last few measures making you feel like the roof could blow off. It all went out live on BBC Radio 3. You can hear it on demand for the next month by simply Googling BBC Proms Pittsburgh Symphony. The BBC’s Petroc Trelawny who hosts morning drive and conductor Nick Chalmers were the hosts. They sit near the stage in a box on the audience left describing the action.

The prommers occasionally chant statements in unison. This evening they encouraged the audience to contribute to their benevolence fund saying that they had raised 97,000. pounds so far.

Anne Sophie Mutter

Anne Sophie Mutter was radiant as ever in a fire engine red gown, harmonious with the burgundy and  red details in the color scheme of the hall.

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London with the PSO and Highclere Downton Abbey Fans

Published by on September 03, 2017

Moving from Krems Austria to London  was a little wacky for some. I was on the bus with the driver who took a wrong turn right away and wound up using GPS into the Wienerwald following  a switchback of the narrowest steepest kind up and then down into the west side of Vienna. We were late but wound up waiting for the flight at the Vienna airport. British Air offered drink service where one must pay for anything but water. Everyone uses a credit card, some are refused so it is painfully slow but the sun was shining and the turbulence low.

Arrival at Heathrow

Arrival at passport control at Heathrow airport happened to be at peak time with more than an hour wait but someone in our tour party worked magic and the Pittsburgh Symphony jumped the line with a quick manipulation of the black stretchy tape line markers.

Today I had the great fortune of going along on a patrons side trip today to Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed.  

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Two Grafenegg Concerts

Published by on September 02, 2017

The Grafenegg Festival is amazing. Just ten years old, it includes a  beautiful castle on farmland and vineyards with a centuries old family history to the present from the Metternich tree. There is a shop where locally grown wine can be tasted and purchased. There are elegant dining options  inside and out. Picnics and reclining chairs spread out across vast lawns. Concerts happen outdoors and in.

Grafenegg concert hall combines the old and the new

Pittsburgh needed to move in as the rains arrived for both concerts. The acoustics are great in the indoor facility so no one was deeply disappointed. Everything gleams. The concert hall sports blond wood. The public areas are shiny white. The audience is exquisite. There were more dirndls and elegant loden jackets in Grafenegg than Salzburg. Manfred Honeck and his brother Rainer, were beaming at the warm applause from the festival fans for their Mozart Third Violin Concerto. The orchestra played two encores each night. Mathias Goerne sang a Mahler encore after his Mahler songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn on night 1. The American Embassy was represented by Stephen A Hubler the Botschaftsrat fur Wirtschaft und Politik who told me he listens to WQED-FM when he drives in to the Pittsburgh area. He and his wife were delighted to hear the orchestra and stressed how important it is to have the cultural export from the US. They live in the Harrisburg area.

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Salzburg Fortress, Cafes, Karajan and Kugeln

Published by on August 30, 2017

During his lifetime Herbert von Karajan became the most recorded conductor of all time. He helped to design the Salzburg festival large hall working on the plans for the new facility where the Pittsburgh Symphony played starting in 1956. Boxed sets of his recordings and videos are for sale in the gift shop in Salzburg. Karajan’s widow widow still has a home nearby and his life size figure looks out from a center city  shop.

Herbert von Karajan in the lobby of the Grosses Festspielhaus

Herbert von Karajan in a Salzburg souvenir shop window

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Pittsburgh Returns to Salzburg

Published by on August 30, 2017

Michael Cooper in a front page article in the New York Times said Salzburg is the classical music summit, the Davos of the music world. Pittsburgh presented the last of this summer’s programs on Monday August 29 one day after the Berlin Philharmonic said their farewell to Simon Rattle as Music Director. The audience members wore long gowns, often black with gold adornments. Men had bow ties and the Austrian loden jackets with a low collar. Some lovely dirndls were showcased by the  ladies. Schlumberger and Roederer champagne was served outside and in. I stopped at a red carpeted refreshment stand operated by Nestle for a Wurstel. This is a challenge for a vegetarian but the Senf mustard and finely shredded horseradish with side roll hit the spot.

The snack was 9.50 Euros. A red carpet for a hot dog stand!

The snack was 9.50 Euros. A red carpet for a hot dog stand!

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Wiesbaden Germany

Published by on August 27, 2017

Wiesbaden is known as one of the oldest “spa towns”  in Europe, famous for its hot springs—at one time, 26 hot springs ran,  14 still flow today.  It’s a casino city too. The Prussians banned gambling in the 19th century but the Casino reopened in 1949.  The Pittsburgh Symphony is a sure bet to appear at the Rheingau Music Festival on Monday night. The US Army headquarters is still here following the takeover of the Luftwafffe headquarters at the end of WWII. There have been many famous musical residents of Wiesbaden. Elvis Presley was in town while he was in the Army and composer Max Reger too. Richard Wagner spent time as a composer as did Johannes Brahms while he wrote his Third Symphony.

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PSO European Festivals Tour Begins

Published by on August 25, 2017

Inspiring young musicians is one of the many benefits of having a great orchestra. Pittsburgh Symphony violist Marylene Gingras Roy taught our 18 year old college student Jim IV who is off next week to the University of Michigan and his friend Devin Moore, both members of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony and the Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra earlier. Just before heading out on tour I  spent a week at Chautauqua New York where George Gershwin wrote his Concerto in F.  Devin and Jim heard Donna Dolson french horn who will join the horns of the Pittsburgh  Symphony on the tour which begins August 25.   Chautauqua was the summer home of Pittsburgh Symphony musicians for decades until the 1960’s when William Steinberg helped to establish a 52 week season for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Violinists Christopher Wu and Sarah Clendenning and French Horn William Caballero all played as guests of the Chautauqua Symphony this past summer.

Devin and Jim on the air at WQED-FM for Pittsburgh Foundation Performance in Pittsburgh

Devin and Jim on the air at WQED-FM for Pittsburgh Foundation Performance in Pittsburgh

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Brussels and Stuttgart

Published by on June 02, 2016

There was lots of kissing going on in the great square in Brussels, Belgium, known as the Grand Places. Passionate young couples, just lost in the moment, kissing at length on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. More than you’d see in Market Square, I’m sure. I walked with Paul Silver and his daughter Sarah, the amazing WQED-FM Musical Kid. Members of the orchestra said they saw soldiers in the square in front of the Sheraton Hotel. Two even chased down someone suspicious. The soldiers at the airport were in full regalia – green and brown camouflage outfits with large rifles at the ready. Three were at the door when we first walked in.

On our walk through Brussels, we wound past Gretry Street, named for the composer Andre Ernest Modeste Gretry, and past the front door of the Maurice Bejart Dance Theater – a company which has performed in Pittsburgh for the Dance Council. There was a fromagerie and lots of beer stores.

Beer is extra fizzy in Belgium. It’s very tasty, but can be very expensive – like the Belgian brews at the Sharp Edge. Some of the very yeasty lambic beers can only be found in Brussels, so it’s a beer mecca. Pittsburghers can find Lindemann’s Framboise beer at Giant Eagle (also expensive.) Lindemann’s fruit beers, in varieties flavored with raspberries, sour cherries, peaches, or black currants, disguise the extra-yeasty taste that you may find odd.

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