Sep 18 2009
The concert goers at Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival look like holders of Swiss bank accounts.They look like they are descended from royalty young and old. The fountain outside goes up and down with some irregular rhythm and is almost as big as the fountain at Point State Park. Boats are docked right in front of the hall. Lots of folks stand at little tables outside and sip champagne. You can eat at a terrific World Café cafeteria with Austrian noodles and bacon in butter sauce, Spanish rice, many salads, tortes, cakes, coffees—macchiato with cream, Amaretti cookies, fruit and much more. Take it outside and eat your meal by the lake. Men and women are mainly dressed in elegant black and many exude a tasteful whiff of fragrance.
Rehearsal went smoothly in the morning for a full two and a half hours. Viktoria Mullova was extremely kind in staying late for a short interview. After speaking with Principal Bass Trombonist Murray Crewe, whose brass colleagues were making faces from behind me in an attempt to ruin his concentration, they turned the tables for a bit of fun while Principal Horn Bill Caballero gave his interview.
In the afternoon, CMU professor Millie Myers joined me for a taxi ride to the Wagner Museum at Tribschen, where Wagner lived for six years and where Cosima had the Siegried Idyll presented as a Christmas morning birthday gift. Richard arranged to have his musicians on the steps playing as a special sort of alarm clock. He lived downstairs and she was upstairs with the kids. Wagner had also lived for a time in the Hotel Schweizerhof where some members of the orchestra are staying. Cosima was Wagner’s second wife. I believe she met Wagner while he was on his honeymoon with Minna! Minna and Richard got off to a bad start when the minister who married them reported the two were quarreling at the altar during the ceremony.
The mood at the Museum was extremely cheerful because we joined the patron tour with Mary Ellen Miller. Steve Elliot of BNY Mellon and his wife Beverlynn who have both been giant PSO fans and helpers over many years. Steve gave me a great interview the last time the Symphony performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London with Mellon’s support. He shuttles back and forth between Pittsburgh and New York with Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays as the days in office. He’s happy that BNY Mellon is expanding in Pittsburgh. I loved seeing our FM Angels Tom and Donna Hotopp. Tom was the topper at Mine Safety Appliances for many years. We were together once at Notre Dame where they told me they’d been married in the grotto, a sacred place in many ways on the Notre Dame campus as a recreation of the shrine at Lourdes in France. I remember it because the Hotopps gave me a ride on an amazingly icy cold December night.
Ed Clark, Rick Lebeau, Dr. Michael White, Barbara Berry and a few more I didn’t have time to check in with because we all enjoyed a recital on Wagner’s Erard piano which he brought to Lucerne from Venice. Professor Raphael Staubli, who teaches in Lucerne at the music conservatory, played a little of Wagner’s Tristan. I admired Wagner’s silk-lined green felt beret, smoking jacket and pajamas. His death mask is there, and his whip for Russ the dog. The setting on the lake with the Swiss flag waving and the boats puttering by is out of a fairy tale.
I stopped by the Casa Grande to look at the cuckoo clocks. I ran into Paul Silver who said he planned on observing Rosh Hashanah with his colleagues including Penny Brill.
After Friday night’s concert, I got to meet the grandson of Sergei Rachmaninoff who is fussy about photographs and wouldn’t let me take his picture. Alexander Rachmaninoff did give me a nice interview. He lives in a fantastic Bauhaus-style villa on Lake Lucerne with granddad’s piano and a plaster cast of Sergei’s hands and lots of other good stuff. This season he is organizing 16 festivals of Rachmaninoff’s music. He said he liked the Pittsburgh Symphony’s concert very much.
Frau Manfred Honeck was backstage with three of the Honeck kids, who were perfectly poised and loveable.
The Intendant (director) of the Lucerne Festival, Michael Haefliger, told me that he’s already invited the Pittsburgh Symphony back for 2011. I thought he didn’t have much to say about Chinese superstar Lang Lang who was here in Lucerne playing Chopin just a few weeks ago, causing the New York Times critic who reviewed the concert to comment that Lang Lang was more like ‘Bang Bang.’ Mr. Haefliger’s wife was at his side, very thin, wearing a little black dress, blonde hair tied behind her head, and charmed the backstage merry makers.
It was a fabulous concert with the two encores, Grieg’s Morning Mood and Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 after an even more supercharged Dvorak Symphony No. 8, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto played by Viktoria Mullova. It’s a nice, mild night with the temperature ideal at about 71 degrees. Tomorrow is the last night of the festival and the tour.