May 17 2010

Stuttgart to Paris by TGV

Published by at 7:58 pm under PSO 2010 European Tour

Click any photo for more pictures

Click any photo for more pictures

Click any photo for more pictures

The past two days’ schedules have been extremely tight, with travel and concerts back to back. From Basel to Stuttgart was smooth with a rest stop at Pforzheim Nord in the midst of hundreds of buses. I rode on the family bus decorated with a brightly-colored cartoon theme.

Stuttgart on a Sunday seemed extra quiet at first, but a short walk to the Königstrasse found a lively scene where the shops were closed although lots of Stuttgarters were out for a Spaziergang. The Kunst Forum was open with a huge video exhibition and a hip lobby bar. The old Schloss was impressive as were its fountains. In the Schillerplatz, Friedrich Schiller the author of the Ode To Joyour hero is remembered while all around him hundreds of vendors are having a flea market.

I looked into the Stiftskirche where a youthful praise service was underway with a rock band and a big projection screen with camerawork from the band and the words to the hymns shown in English and German. The prayers and readings from the psalms were in German. It had a very relaxed and open appeal even if the hymns were an organist’s nightmare.

The Liederhalle was full and the crowd loved Anne Sophie Mutter, too. The Mahler First Symphony roared to a close and we were off to pack up the bag for the early morning 8:05 departure.

Joann Vosburgh, Manfred Honeck, George Vosburgh with daughter at left

Joann Vosburgh, Manfred Honeck, George Vosburgh with daughter at left

Joann Vosburgh, Manfred Honeck, and George Vosburgh with daughter at left

At the Stuttgart train station we had a half hour, long enough for a stop at Starbucks, where the Schoko chip cookie was just like in Pittsburgh across from Heinz  Hall. The TGV took off right on time with every seat filled. I sat with bassist Jeff Grubbs who told me he has several jazz dates lined up this summer. He’ll play at the Backstage Bar on June 8th, next to our Byham Studio, where he will also do the late show with a group called MAJI–the Murray Avenue Jazz Initiative. Jeff played jazz for the Mother’s Day brunch at the Fairmont Hotel, and who walked in? None other than PSO Music Director Manfred Honeck and his family.

The TGV roared along past Karlsruhe and Strasbourg at up to 200 miles an hour past sheep, farms and bright yellow mustard fields. Jeff shared an iPod game of Boggle with cellist Aron Zelkowicz.

Four hours later, we arrived right on time and enjoyed a fabulous sunny cool day in this most romantic city. The ride to our Paris hotel went right past the Phantom’s Palais Garnier Opera, the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps shopping meccas.

Pleyel pianos for sale across from the Salle Pleyel, Paris

Pleyel pianos for sale across from the Salle Pleyel, Paris

Pleyel pianos for sale across from the Salle Pleyel, Paris

We only had a few hours so it was a quick walk to the Arc de Triumph then a stroll underneath the Eiffel Tower and a Metro Ride to gaze at the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral. I enjoyed a Croque Madame sandwich at the Café Deux Palais across from the Palais de Justice in the oldest part of Paris. Violist Paul Silver and cellist Michael Lipman walked to the Louvre and through the Tuileries Gardens before we hailed a taxi for the return to the hotel. I love Paris in the Springtime.

The Salle Pleyel was the best of the three concerts with three encores. Khachaturian’s Galop from the ballet Masquerade includes a special quote from the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony heard earlier on the program in a solo played by Principal Clarinetist Michael Rusinek. The audience cheered and applauded in the special European rhythmic manner. I sat next to the Secretary General of the Salle Pleyel, Hugues de Saint Simon, who was very impressed by the Pittsburgh Symphony. He told me they’re already invited back in two years and they’d be invited every year, if they could come that often.

Jim Cunningham with the Eiffel Tower

Jim Cunningham with the Eiffel Tower

Jim Cunningham with the Eiffel Tower

Outside the Salle Pleyel, built in 1927, I admired the Pleyel piano showroom. Pianist Rodrigo Ojeda played a Pleyel in the Shostakovich. The sound was very good from my seat in the Salle Pleyel, thanks to the concert hall’s redo just five years ago by CMU graduateand master acoustician Russell Johnson and his Artek Associates. There was a large Harmonia Mundi CD shop in the lobby, but I didn’t buy anything. And you didn’t believe me when I said the schedule was hectic.

My suitcase is already on its way to Frankfurt and I’ll soon follow it, if my alarm clock works. Get Smart was showing on the Arte Channel when I left my room at 7:00 pm. Now it’s broadcasting I Pagliacci. If you’re not clicking on the photos in this blog you are missing half the fun.

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