Jan 22 2008

Wellington’s Victory

Published by at 5:48 pm under PSO 2008 European Tour

Statue in Vittorio

Statue in Vittorio

Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t lose very often, but when he did Beethoven wrote a piece of music about it. It was in Vittoria, Spain that Duke Wellington defeated Napoleon and there is a statue in the center of town commemorating the event. Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory is one of his few cheesy pieces with cannons like the 1812 Overture, and I love it of course. The Victory Symphony that comes at the end is worth waiting through the gunfire.

The Pittsburgh Symphony will make its debut here in just a few hours having arrived from Pamplona at noon as scheduled. The Orchestra is just across the street from a pretty park with a white bandshell just like the one in downtown Johnstown. Principal trumpet George Vosburgh invited me to join his sightseeing party with his wife JoAnne, PSO Librarian, and their daughter Amanda and au pair Becky Ligman (who works for the center at Duquesne helping lawyers stay on the straight path.) Becky told me she is organizing an April event with the Chief of the Foundation for Women and Girls in Pittsburgh.

Immaculate Cathedral

Immaculate Cathedral

We looked at three Cathedrals–all astonishing. The oldest was closed, but we explored carefully at the graveyard being restored and excavated. Then ordered a terrific lunch with three waiters trying to translate. I thought I had ordered a tortilla but wound up with scrambled eggs. Tasty!


Hong Guang Jia

Hong Guang Jia

John Soroka

John Soroka

The tour began with a bang last night. Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos is the most famous and highly regarded Spanish conductor alive. He’s 75. His daughter lives in Pamplona, an endocrinologist and there she was with Dad backstage, everyone laughing. Maestro smiles broadly when he bows. When he conducts he has a terrific severe intense expression and working without a score he makes quite a statement. He is conducting music he loves and the orchestra has a long history with, Beethoven’s Fifth last night and Brahms’s First tonight. They loved his Spanish encores by Granados and Gimenez. The Wagner Tristan and Isolde really tugs at your heart and Die Meistersinger has the huge finish. I never tire of hearing Beethoven’s Fifth.

I’m still recovering from the trip to the Museum of Pablo de Sarasate in the city where he was born. Under a sketch of James McNeill Whistler is the placard telling you that Whistler painted a portrait of Sarasate and that it hangs in the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh! Have you seen it? If not, you should go today.

street in Vittorio

street in Vittorio

Sarasate, one of the greatest 19th century, violinists died in 1905. He gave several important premieres by Saint Saens. His violins, bows, water pitcher with silver engraving, diamond encrusted watches, crosses of honor and much much more are all there in the Museum in the Municipal building. Very poorly marked outside even though it was on the map. Concertmaster Andres Cardenes was there with his student Charles Bingham from CMU who now plays in the Bilbao orchestra. Anne Martindale Williams met her former CMU student Lourdes Lecuona who now is raising a family of four adorable kids in Spain. She said she’s coming back to Pittsburgh to visit friends in March. We always bemoan the loss of our college students to the world, but they do carry a love for the city of Pittsburgh across the globe if they have a good experience.