Sep 14 2009

Guten Tag Aus Köln!

Published by at 11:13 am under PSO 2009 European Tour

It was a day for touring the Cologne Cathedral with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the accompanying patrons’ tour.

Jim Cunningham at Cologne Cathedral

Jim Cunningham at Cologne Cathedral

Jim Cunningham at Cologne Cathedral

You can climb to the top of the cathedral towers but it’s a long and I think strenuous climb with the wind blowing, climbers in front and back in the claustrophobic stairwell. I was happy as a clam in the gift shop picking up CDs of the glocken (the cathedral bells), a Weinachten CD you’ll hear at Christmas, and a CD of the organ with a transcription of Liszt’s Les Preludes – radio theme of yore for … was it Sargent Preston of the Yukon? Plus a DVD of the history of the cathedral.

Last night or this morning at 2:00 a.m., I switched off the NDR network broadcast from London of the Last Night of the Proms with Saint Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson (who has guest conducted in Pittsburgh) and blonde trumpet siren Alison Balsom playing Gershwin. Tuxedoed BBC hosts commented as at a sporting event, and there were lots of noisemakers in the hall. The Sat network was broadcasting an opera, Carmen, conducted by Karl Böhm. Late at night on German cable TV there are several channels devoted to misguided young women offering erotic conversation in erotic poses if you simply call the number on the screen with your credit card. Interesting combination of cultural and economic influences!

No. 4711, the Cologne that's synonymous with the city.

No. 4711, the Cologne that's synonymous with the city.

No. 4711, the Cologne that's synonymous with the city.

But I  digress. At breakfast this morning I sat with Bass Jeff Grubbs and principal English horn Harold Smoliar. Harold’s daughter Rachel is playing violin on this trip. Seems like a moment ago she was a child! Harold told me his White Tie Group jazz ensemble will play for the exclusive G20 spouses get-together at Teresa Heinz’ farm in Fox Chapel, and a string quartet led by Concertmaster Andres Cardenes is playing for the G20 cocktail reception at the Phipps. Harold said he’ s looking forward to talking about music with pop singer Carla Bruni who is also the wife of French President Sarkozy. And who wouldn’t like to play some piano favorites by Duke Ellington for Mrs. Michelle Obama while she’s in Pittsburgh?

You can hear the White Tie Group at the Pittsburgh Jazz Society fall concert at the Rhythm House Cafe in Bridgeville. Harold’s tour reading matter, which he highly recommends, is a book: The United States of Arugula.

I noticed the European version of CNBC on the cable last night had a promo of the forthcoming G20 coverage with the Pittsburgh skyline in the background.

After breakfast, I visited one of the most exquisite CD shops I’ve ever found anywhere. It’s a coffee and CD place called Carroux, which is the name of the Hamburg-based coffee they brew.

Archaeological dig in Cologne

Archaeological dig in Cologne

Archaeological dig in Cologne

I dragged along PSO fan Linda Shooer and tour physician Dr Ted Osial. Linda works for CMU’s Software Engineering Institute, which with its Department of Defense connections has special concerns about security during the G20. The shop has connections to the Edel company with lots of former East German business still active as Berlin Classics and the Eterna label.  What blows me away is the sophisticated German and European jazz  they sell there. Anymore, it’s amazing anytime you find a CD retailer since the iTunes and Amazon revolution has killed most CD shops worldwide.

Wow! While I’m typing this, the the WDR classical radio network is running a promo for its live broadcast from the Beethoven Festival in Bonn with Victoria Mullova playing the Beethoven Concerto and Manfred Honeck conducting our Pitsburgh Symphony. Sometimes you have to wonder if the tour really makes a big splash in culture-mad Europe, but hearing the national radio network promoting  our Orchestra is convincing evidence of the impact.

Mark Huggins at the Cologne Rathaus

Mark Huggins at the Cologne Rathaus

Mark Huggins at the Cologne Rathaus

It’s been raining off and on all day but not enough to prevent looking around. Assistant Concertmaster Mark Huggins and I walked over to the Town Hall, the Rathaus, where they are doing an extensive archeological dig to reveal an ancient synagogue. So much of Cologne dates back to the Romans. Next to the Cathedral there’s a museum devoted to the antiquities of the Roman era with a giant stone mosaic floor visible through the window; since the museum is closed Monday it’s all I could see.

The Rathaus is in the Altstadt, or old city, with its cobblestone streets where bass Don Evans and his cellist wife told me they enjoyed Sauerbraten with many members of the PSO last night. Also touring the Rathaus dig were cellists Hampton and Lauren Scott Mallory.

Huggins told me was having dinner with his chemist brother who lives in Leverkusen, the headquarters of Bayer — his former employer before his division was sold in a corporate shift. Mark lived in Cologne as a member of the WDR Orchestra and the Cologne Salon Orchestra where he made numerous recordings.

PSO President and CEO Larry Tamburri told me he’s off to Bonn this evening to hear a sold-out concert of the City of Birmingham Symphony and Simon Rattle.