Nov 10 2012

Luxembourg Deluxe

Published by at 8:04 pm under PSO 2012 European Tour

The Pittsburgh Symphony’s 2012 European Residency Tour has closed with another rapturous audience roaring its approval of the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Stucky program – with encores and Manfred Honeck conducting.

It was a slog to get here – a five-hour journey in the rain and fog from Stuttgart this morning. We made a 25-minute stop at the Serways highway stop “Das Beste an der Autobahn” in Ludwigshafen. It was a great roadside experience. The café has fresh salads, pre-packaged sandwiches, Chips Frisch, pepperoni, lots of Leibniz cookies, Ricola lozenges, Ritter Sport candy of every kind, energy drinks Rothaus, Billy Boy and Rock Star; and a large beer selection including Bitburger, Krombacher, Beck’s and a giant can of Faxe, from the 110-year-old Danish brewer. The guy making a selection next to me smelled rather as if he was a beer expert. I was just admiring the choice.

I spent my time checking out the news stand. The Mannheimer Morgen marked the 125th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes with a story in today’s paper. The Obama re-election is still front page news. Die Zeit‘s headline “Mach’s noch einmal–aber besser–Obama.” The newsweekly Stern‘s cover story: Der Traum Lebt–the dream lives! Jenny McCarthy is on the cover of the German edition of Playboy this month.

At the concert tonight, I spoke with Michael Kaiser and his wife Kate. Michael is a former board member of the Pittsburgh Symphony, having worked for Adtranz and Bombardier in Pittsburgh. He still gets back from time to time and was in town just a few weeks ago to hear the Mahler. He remarked on the beauty of the Philharmonie, a showplace for Luxembourg and the European Union, on which no expense was spared. The city of Luxembourg is home to banks and financial advisers, wealth managers, and mysterious characters with royal ties, as the only grand duchy remaining in the world. The shopping street near the hotel was chock full of luxury – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Mont Blanc pens, a shop named in french for the passion of the automobile included elegant driving fashions sporting the Gulf Oil logo, the Ladurée macaron shop, jewelbox grocers, Hermes, Tod’s, Freh Wille, and many others, one right after another. At 6:00 pm, the church bells of St. Alphonse rang for 15 minutes.

The vending machine in the orchestra lounge included Madeleines and Ritter Sport candy. In the lobby, there was lots of champagne sipping. Eight Euros for a taste of Veuve Cliquot. There is a wash of pink, yellow and green lights on the white walls, which shift hues through the intermission. I have never seen a Twix bar displayed in such an elegant fashion along with sandwiches.

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s Suzi Pegg, VP of Global Business Development, and President Dewitt Peart entertained potential business for Pittsburgh with guests including representatives of steel maker ArcelorMittal and blast furnace builder Paul Wurth, which has an outpost in the Strip District.

Cellist Irv Kauffman mentioned his memories of the 1964 visit to Luxembourg with William Steinberg, and a concert on the way in Saarbrücken, Germany.

At 6:00 pm, I bumped into Nikolaj Znaider in a red T-shirt and shorts on his way out to take a run. He gave another Bach encore tonight and charmed everyone backstage and in front of the stage lights.

Mathias Naske, the Director General of the Philharmonie, told me he was thrilled with the concert and looks forward to the Pittsburgh Symphony returning as soon as possible. He looks forward to Valery Gergiev conducting later this season and many events alongside the regular concerts of the Luxembourg Philharmonic.

There will be still more photos and Facebook posts and audio on QED 893. Tour reports turn up in the PSO’s Sunday (WQED) and national (PRI) broadcasts. Please thank my colleagues because it is a true team effort. Please thank Helge and Erika Wehmeier, Richard and Ginny Simmons, and Bayer Corporation for supporting WQED’s tour coverage. It truly would not be possible without them. Thanks to the long-suffering producer and editor Stephen Baum, the best possible colleague; Anna Singer and Ted Sohier, whose programs and studio peace are dramatically affected, and enlightened QED leadership which feels it is an important story to tell. Bless you dear blog reader! In just a few hours the tour heads out by way of bus to Frankfurt at 5:00 am. Bon soir for now!