May 13 2010

Arrival in Basel

Published by at 7:25 pm under PSO 2010 European Tour

Antikenmuseum horse in Basel

Antikenmuseum horse in Basel

Most everyone is here, many having followed different routes. The official route was a little slow with a two-hour delay in Chicago, long enough to learn that the Penguins were about to lose in the playoffs. Then a bit of a delay to head a little further north over the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud. Eight and a half hours, four movies, stuffed shells, and a breakfast snack with yogurt and sweet roll later we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. Followed by a four-hour bus stop with autobahn rest stop at the Baden Baden Burger King. I looked at Stern and Die Zeit on the newsstand where Giulietta Siminiato, the 92 year old soprano, was remembered following her death last week. I noticed the #1 DVD rental in Germany last week was Avatar but at #9 was Vision, a film about the life of Hildegard of Bingen, the mystical nun and composer of the 14th century. I’ll have to check that one out.

It’s cold and cloudy in Basel, just like home, but lots of folks were out walking in the cobblestone old town square on a bank holiday Thursday. I visited the old cathedral where Erasmus is entombed, and walked with Pittsburgh Symphony horn Zachary Smith and guest horn player Robert Rydell who is often in Pittsburgh as an “extra” when the orchestra plays Mahler.  Bob lives in  North Carolina, plays with the Charlotte Symphony, and does a lot of work as an audio engineer for classical music station WDAV.

Basel Altstadt

Basel Altstadt

Basel Altstadt

Basel is a lovely city with green trams like our trolleys running by the front of the hotel. I never sleep on the plane, so I saw a bit of Harrison Ford in Extraordinary Measures where he is heroically trying to save his kids from a life threatening disease. Then the movie about Nelson Mandela, Invictus, and Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges. He doesn’t marry his one true love even though they are in the last scene together? Really?!! Then Me and Orson Welles which I liked best for its mention of Tchaikovsky in the first few minutes.

I enjoyed listening to HD Radio in Chicago’s airport during the layover. Chicago’s religious stations seem to be doing the most with additional audio services including the Mormon Channel on HD2. An Indian channel was on WKQX HD2 service. No blues or jazz. Classical WFMT was previewing an upcoming production of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles with its conductor.

At the newsstand, I noticed that the gossip magazine Star has a tell-all from celebrity housekeepers who say that Brad Pitt is a hoarder and has piles of books and magazines on architectural topics all around the house. Remember, it was Brad and Angelina Jolie who helicoptered in to tour Fallingwater a few years ago.  I read the letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal cautioning Gustavo Dudamel regarding any association with his native Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. The Pittsburgh Symphony’s tour advisor and organizer Guido Frackers is jumping back and forth from the Pittsburgh tour to the LA Philharmonic tour of the US (which only gets as close to Pittsburgh as Philadelphia).

Concertmaster Andres Cardenes told me this will be a bittersweet tour as his last with the Pittsburgh. He’s been trying to sell his Squirrel Hill home for a year but he’ll be in town a bit next academic year to teach at CMU. Andres has been invited to serve as a judge at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow next year.

On the bus ride from Frankfurt to Basel, I enjoyed listening to several German classical stations including Hessian Radio and Südwest Rundfunk 2, and France Musique. It’s always interesting to hear elevated talk of the summer festivals such as the Schwetzingen Festival featuring the Venice Baroque Orchestra right next to a German station playing Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and another station with that sixties light pop favorite Somethin’ Stupid sung by Nancy Sinatra.

I ran into cellists Hampton Mallory and Loren Scott Mallory and hornist Steve Kostyniak in the Swissôtel lobby. They took the direct Pittsburgh-to-Paris flight as did a few others, then took a train from Paris to Basel with success. Breakfast is included in the deal tomorrow morning, so I’ve got to get some Schlaf.