Sep 08 2013
The Pittsburgh Symphony swooped into Düsseldorf from Paris on Saturday afternoon. This is where the pioneering electronica art-rock band Kraftwerk lives. Robert Schumann is memorialized in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel and the lobby of the Tonhalle. The call to return to your seats at the end of intermission is a phrase from the Schumann Rhenish Symphony. The hotel looks out on the Königsallee known as the Koe. Filmmaker Wim Wenders is from Düsseldorf, The poet Heinrich Heine was born here, as were artist Gerhard Richter – whose canvases command astronomical sums, photographer Andreas Gorsky, the tortured artist Otto Dix, as well as less-disturbed artists Thomas Strüth, Candida Hoefer, Joseph Beuys, and Thomas Ruff. It is one of the wealthiest cities in Europe and it was hopping for the city’s 725 birthday party. Friday night was a big fashion night. The hotel was packed, and a new cleaning crew had things running behind schedule for some of the Pittsburgh group who waited for over an hour. I went out to the Maredo restaurant with clarinetist Thomas Thompson. Tommy remembered traveling with William Steinberg, who smoked his pipe on the bus with fellow smokers and slept wearing a sleep mask over his eyes. Steinberg had cautioned Mr. Thompson about whistling in the opera house, claiming it brings bad luck. Tommy Thompson enjoyed the trip to Vienna with André Previn when Itzhak Perlman played the Tchaikovsky Concerto. The Pittsburgh had just recorded Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with Elly Ameling, and the news of Steinberg’s death had come on the final day of recording. The gemütlich waiter at our outdoor café encouraged me to try the Dusseldorf altbier brewed by Diebels. A specialty of the region it is a slightly dark, but great! The sidewalks were packed with elegant shoppers on Königsallee which boasts one of the greatest concentrations of luxury retailers in Europe. A duo of male and female blue-shirted police clopped by on horseback in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.
After the salad bar, mushrooms in cream sauce and Gulaschsuppe, I stopped at Leysieffer’s “chocolaterie seit 1909” for the Sylter Rote Grütze. We call it forest berries, I think. A combination of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries in vanilla sauce. 5.90 Euros.Leysieffer does exotic chocolates and runs several German coffee shop locations. They are offering a special Schokoladen Radschläger as “dieses jahr feiert die Stadt ihr Jubilaeum 725 Jahre.” Your 725th birthday only comes along once a millennium so you’d better make it a good one!
As I type at the airport hotel, the NTV network is running a documentary on Hitler and Eva Braun’s relationship with all the color films from the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s country place in the mountains of Bavaria.