May 22 2010
The buses let us off at the “Kiss and Fly” parking spot in front of the gleaming new Luxembourg airport. Like everything else in Luxembourg, it seems like no expense was spared. Shiny glass and sleek with polished floors and spacious everything. We boarded the charter flight to Prague. Weather still perfect. The hotel in Prague is just a few steps from the old town square and its world famous astronomical clock at the town hall. A rock band with a female lead guitarist was thunderously loud on the cobblestone square. Under a bright sun, vendors in old wooden shacks sold crafts and Czech-style doughnuts, baked potatoes, and barbecue. There was amazing energy in every direction, with shopping and sight seeing and open air cafés all around. It has to be one of the most photogenic spots on earth. Anywhere you point your camera you’ll get a nice shot.
PSO Principal Oboist Cynthia Koledo de Almeida and Principal Bass Trombonist Murray Crewe strolled through the square to the Moldau River and the dark stone Charles Bridge, where a Dixieland band played, and throngs crossed the bridge admiring the statuary.
I made a visit to the Bedrich Smetana Museum, where I admired Smetana’s spectacles. The composer of My Fatherland with its famous Moldau lived in Prague. You can see the river he immortalized from the high windows of the museum.
The Smetana Hall in the sprawling Municipal House, where the Pittsburgh Symphony played tonight, was built in 1911. It’s been immaculately restored. A high skylight brings in daylight shining on the cathedral-like stonework at either side of the stage. Hundreds of pink flowers in window boxes lined the stage. At the entrance is a gorgeous restaurant on one side, and a café on the other. Hundreds of concertgoers relaxed in the lobby with a drink, and very appealing pastry.
Before the concert, at the reception for the Pittsburgh Regional Authority, I spoke with Dan Dennehy from the Katz Graduate School at the University of Pittsburgh, and PSO tour physician Dr. Ted Osial. Dan is here with a group of students who learning the ways of European business and some of the Czech language.
The audience was wild about the Pittsburgh Symphony in Prague, shouting “bravo,” and giving a standing ovation. There were two encores–The Dragonfly by Johann Strauss, and the the Final Waltz From Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. Anne-Sophie Mutter was in top form in the Brahms Concerto and Bach encore. She signed CDs in the lobby. I’ve heard her play this music seven times now, counting in Pittsburgh, and at Carnegie Hall in New York–and it’s still thrilling.
Enthusiastic patrons, arts mavens, and civic boosters Tom and Jamee Todd were on hand, along with Dick and Ginny Simmons, Helge and Erika Wehmeier, Gail and Greg Harbaugh, and many more. Helge told me that he is off tomorrow for a meeting in Shanghai, but will rejoin PSO fans in Vienna next Thursday. Larry Tamburri told me that he’d run into CMU’s Mildred Miller Posvar in Prague. I bumped into Jack Allen, President and CEO of all-classical KPBS in Portland, Oregon, who’d brought a group of music fans from the Pacific Coast to this Pittsburgh concert as part of their tour of Chopin sites in Europe. I’d met Jack when he worked for Minnesota Public Radio a few years back. He said his group loved the Pittsburgh and were very impressed.
At 11:00 am Sunday, it’s off to a city totally destroyed in World War II, Dresden, Germany. Richard Strauss witnessed the premieres of several of his great operas at Dresden’s Semperoper, where the Pittsburgh Symphony will perform. With luck, you may be able to hear it on Monday, as broadcast from the website of Deutschlandfunk starting at 2:03 Eastern. Try this link. Click on the live stream spot on the right hand side of the page.