May 19 2010
Leaving Paris on Tuesday morning on the bus we experienced the Parisian tradition of the one-day strike with a parade of hundreds of postal workers in the traffic lane next to the bus. The strikers seemed to be in a happy frame of mind even if working conditions are in need of improvement. Conditions improved for the sleepless on this tour, with a day off in Frankfurt today.
I joined clarinetist Ron Samuels and other players on a rainy day visit to the Goethe Haus and Museum in the city where the author of Faust was born. Goethe is near the top of most revered German writers and turns up often in song settings. You can stroll along Goethestrasse to the Goetheplatz to see the Goethe statue. A large statue and fountain devoted to Gutenberg and his printing press is just a few steps further on. Perhaps you parked at the Goethe parking garage or took the subway to the Goethe stop. The Haus was destroyed during WWII bombing raids in 1943 but it has been carefully restored. I was tempted by the marble bust in the gift shop but the 150 Euro tab was steep and no, they don’t take credit cards. The CDs Am Goethe Haus shop did accept plastic, so I picked up a collection called Chilling Cello with Jim Sweenie’s CD pick, Sol Gabetta, Yo Yo Ma, and Jan Vogler our soloist in the Schumann concerto on this tour. I also bought a collection of Deep German Jazz Grooves and a few other treats. They had vinyl LPs, including a Pittsburgh Symphony record with William Steinberg conducting Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
On the way back, I bumped into Resident Conductor Lawrence Loh who was investigating the Frankfurt Apple Store. The mood is very similar to the store in Shadyside and the store clerks wear the same blue T-shirts.
I joined cellists Hampton and Lauren Scott Mallory, and violinist Sarah Clendenning for Spargel. Spargel is the gigantic white asparagus that Frankfurt is famous for. It’s very delicate in spite of its size. The Hilton features a Spargelzeit menu with over a dozen specials including the Erdbeer Spargel Crisp with strawberries and asparagus slices for desert. I had the Spargel Klassisch with boiled potatoes and Hollandaise sauce and some thinly sliced ham. The choices included Spargel with veal in a crepe, risotto Spargel, Spargel Suppe, Spargel and ricotta ravioli. Sehr Gut!
Die Alte Oper, where the Pittsburgh Symphony played last night, was beautiful by day and night. The smiling faces of former Pittsburghers Mariss Jansons and Anne-Sophie Mutter were featured on posters in the Platz. You get a strong sense of the old Frankfurt that vanished set against the modern high-rise skyline. Chilling to think of our Music Director William Steinberg conducting here in 1929, giving the world premiere of Von Heute auf Morgen by Schoenberg and then fleeing the Nazis just a few years later. The opera was in ruins until 1967 when the Wiederaufbau, or reconstruction, began with a reopening conducted by Sir George Solti in 1981. PSO Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh played that concert as a member of the Chicago Symphony. The new and the old, side by side, is especially strong in the Opera Platz, and at the Goethe statue where you can see the skyscrapers including the Commerzbank building designed by British architect Norman Foster. The building’s jagged top impresses by day or at night with yellow lighting. We need a Foster building in Pittsburgh!
“Herzliche Grüsse and Guten Tag!,” to the Studenten of Linden Schule in Point Breeze and Mrs. Cunningham’s Fifth grade class! If you ask a person from Frankfurt for a Frankfurter you’d get a strange look. They call hot dogs Wiener or Wurst. You could ask for green sauce. It’s delicious served in a potato. Grüne Sosse is a feature on the menu in the weeks close to Easter. Did you know Pittsburgh has a German speaking elementary school? They are wrapping up the year with a look at the German speaking countries. I wish I had gone to Linden so that my German would be more fluent.
We’re hoping for a gute fahrt in the morning and maybe some Sonnenschein. We’ll be on the bus at 10:00 am, and a little over four hours later we say, “Bonjour, Luxembourg!,” for the concert with Emanuel Ax in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and the Dvorak Eighth Symphony at the Philharmonie.
I’ve heard American Girl by Green Day on the radio more than any other song in the past week and in every country, plus it’s on MTV Germany as I type. The Hessian Radio HR2 is broadcasting the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz with the SWR South West German Radio Orchestra conducted by Roger Norrington. I often listen to TV and radio at the same time, so if what I write seems verrückt you know why.