May 15 2010
The first Pittsburgh Symphony concert here in the Stadtcasino Basel was packed with an elegant crowd that heard the Brahms Violin Concerto featuring Anne Sophie Mutter. Mutter is from nearby Rheinfelden, Germany. She got a chuckle from the crowd when she introduced her encore of a Bach Sarabande from his Partitas. Her elegant bare shoulders and black satin gown with ruffles below the knee matched the elegance of her Brahms. Oboist Cynthia Koledo de Almeida has the beautiful solo in the second movement. The hall was warm, the orchestra crowded on a small stage with risers. John Soroka played the big bass drum at the top next to Jeremy Branson, who crashed the cymbals in the second encore, Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5. Guest flutist Cynthia Smith from the Atlanta Symphony took a bow for her lovely playing in Grieg’s Morning Mood and Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. Manfred Honeck was all smiles as he accepted a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Large arrangements of red roses were on either side of the podium.
I sat next to a friend of Maestro Honeck, who was dressed in the dramatic long white ecclesiastical robe with black sash of a clergyman. During the intermission there was a tremendous crush of fans having Anne Sophie Mutter sign CDs. Lots of people attempted to snap a photo at the signing table.
The hall features a dozen plaster busts of composers high above the single balcony. Outside, there was a lively scene as a local chain of Coop grocery stores sponsored the 2010 Beach Volleyball Tour. Sports lovers sat in bleachers to watch the action next to the tram stop.
The trams are a special feature of Basel. All hotel guests receive a mobility ticket for free transport on the precise Swiss tram system, which interconnects with buses that leave every 10 minutes at the most. I took the transport to the Beyeler Museum and the Tinguely Museum with delight. Speaking of delight, I made it to the flea market in St Peter’s Platz where I picked up some vinyl LPs of Basel fife and drum bands plus two 78s of a tango played by Alfred Hause and his Radio Tango Orchestra of Hamburg. I also got the immortal classic Achtung Los!, an accordion duet played by Walter and Christian Hartmann. All that and a 45 rpm of Wilson Pickett singing Hey, Jude for less than 10 Swiss francs. More tomorrow, but I’ve got to get busy sorting my photos and packing for the move to Stuttgart.