Oct 27 2012

In the Midnight Hour

Published by at 8:06 pm under PSO 2012 European Tour

Nikolaj Znaider in Madrid with the PSO

Nikolaj Znaider in Madrid with the PSO

Both Pittsburgh Symphony tour concerts in Madrid began at 10:35 pm with the traditional announcement (in Spanish) about turning off your cell phone. Both Friday and Saturday nights had completely full houses. I saw only a handful of empty seats.  Last night, Nikolaj Znaider played a highly charged Sibelius concerto followed by a Bach sarabande from the solo violin partitas. Manfred Honeck conducted a beautiful Dvorak New World Symphony with its touching solos for the winds including the famous “going home” tune played by English Horn Harold Smoliar.

Segovia aqueduct

Segovia aqueduct

Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op. 72, No. 7 was a barn-burner, faster than any I’ve ever heard live or on record. The concert goers filed out into the morning at 1:00 am. I’m told that in spite of the late night operation of Madrid, the number of late night places to get something to eat in Madrid are actually rather limited, although you can find lots of late night bars.

I joined the group of Symphony fans and patrons who are along for  this trip to visit the city of Segovia, about an hour north of Madrid. Our bus traveled through deep fog and rain. We arrived to look at the 2,000 year-old Roman aqueduct, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Cap and Cape society tours Segovia landmarks

The Cap and Cape society tours Segovia landmarks

Do you know the red hat ladies? The Spanish equivalent, the cap and cape people, were having a meeting in Segovia. They wore long black capes and black caps. But they are cheerful in demeanor. I loved seeing the choir loft and a richly-illustrated choir book in the choir stall. The choir predates the cathedral in Segovia, founded in 1,400.

The patrons are a wonderful group. Bonita Buncher  was there with Bill Fetter, Carol and Jon Walton and Kitty and Ed Clarke. Spanish tour guides were organized by the PSO’s Jan Fleischer.

 

The owner of Meson de Candida presents a roast suckling pig

The owner of Meson de Candida presents a roast suckling pig

The lunch at Meson de Candida was a wonder. White beans from Segovia accompanied the traditional complete roast suckling pig presented tableside with a speech from the proprietor, who cuts the pig with a white plate to prove it is tender – then smashes the plate with great fanfare on the floor. A vegetarian’s nightmare, but what theater! Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger have dined there, and on the wall is a photo of the owner shaking hands with Generalissimo Franco.

The predicted demonstration came off in downtown Madrid without much trouble. One musician reported seeing a smoke bomb while returning from the Prado Museum. There were lots of police lined up all day, but no violent events were shown on the evening news.

After Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony in Madrid

After Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony in Madrid

The Mahler Second tonight was really fabulous. Manfed Honeck seemed to be in the moment, and the choir and soloists were energized. I spoke to the choir director Josep Pons, who was extraordinary. I watched him warm up the choir with exercizes and key entrances at the rehearsal.

Organist Larry Allen liked the Madrid instrument very much. The organ caretaker said that Larry had tears in his eyes.

We move the clocks back one hour, but its 3:00 am and we’re off to Vienna in the morning. I noticed one member of the orchestra on crutches in the lobby. I heard that several people were pickpocketed in Barcelona. The wind turned very cold this afternoon. Everyone is very worried about the reports of the hurricane heading toward the Eastern seaboard at home.

Gerhild Romberger, Alfonso Aijon, and Laura Claycomb

Gerhild Romberger, Alfonso Aijon, and Laura Claycomb