Aug 24 2011
Wiesbaden is on the Rhine River in the grape-growing region. Concertgoers will see a bunch of grapes pictured on every ticket to the festival. While I haven’t noticed any vineyards near the hotel, I took a walk of about a mile to the Kurhaus where the Pittsburgh Symphony will play their first concert on Friday night. It’s a lively part of town with elegant shops such as Cartier and Meissen China, restaurants, and a beautiful city park with a pond, fountain and ducks. A sudden thunderstorm dropped some rain but left the air soft and warm under a blue sky. The Rheingau Music Festival here, which started in June, has over 150 events. Pittsburgh will be next to last, before the Bamberg Symphony plays Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, (The Song of the Earth) to end the summer.
There’s still a literary festival in September with a special focus on Thomas Mann, and events in the Advent Festival which get underway with a Bach Trumpet Gala on September 12. This evening was typical for the festival with a concert by the Bach Collegium of Japan presenting the St. Matthew Passion at the Kloster Eberbach Monastery and a recital at the Schloss Johannisberg featuring violinist Isabelle van Keulen and pianist Ronald Brautigam.
The Kurhaus had a full house for the Tchaikovsky Orchestra of Moscow led by Vladimir Fedoseyev playing a Glazunov Concert Waltz and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with soloist Patricia Kopatchinskaya. She amazed me with her acrobatic forward lurches and a great encore by a Venezuelan composer Jorge Sanchez Chiong. The orchestra played three encores: Georgi Sviridov’s Waltz, and two Tchaikovsky favorites, Trepak from The Nutcracker and the Spanish Dance from Swan Lake, that brought a great roar from the audience though it didn’t get them to their feet. The first movement of the Tchaikovsky, with its spectacular coda, fooled the audience into applause and even fooled the operator of the house lights who brought them up during the movement break. The concert was being recorded for Deutschlandfunk TV.
I loved the scene in the elegant lobby with hundreds of champagne flutes lined up on white tablecloths. Lanson rosé champagne and Prosecco flowed freely. I sampled a concoction of apricot brandy, aperol, tonic water, and Prosecco garnished with a floating slice of orange–$8 euros. Makes the intermission fizz! Plus a Laugenbrezel pretzel for one Euro thirty. We’ve got to have this in Pittsburgh!
I bought two CDs from the soloist: her Beethoven Concerto and a collection of solo pieces that includes her encore with its popping pizzicato and instrument slapping as well as Dinicu’s Hora Staccato. Coming soon to the QED Morning Show.
The hall is gorgeous. Its walls are lined with green marble columns and white marble gods and goddesses against gold leaf. The ceiling is robin’s-egg blue with various scenes painted scenes on it, and Latin words telling the history of the hall in tall letters around the edge of the concert hall–I could just see IPSO PRASENTE IMPERATORE ANNO P CHR N MCMVII FVNDITVS.
The arrangement of the musicians on stage was very different with basses along the back wall and the brass on the left with the percussion at the right. We think of the Russian orchestras as rough-edged, but this was very sophisticated, quiet, and refined playing, slow and creamy at the start of the Tchaikovsky — building to a furious finish.
Pittsburgh will bring its special sophistication into a great venue. There may be some few who remember the last visit in 1992 with Lorin Maazel not long after the festival began in 1987.
The PSO will play Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in honor of the festival theme — Mahler’s death 100 years ago, just a few months after the composer performed in Pittsburgh’s then-new Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on tour with his New York Philharmonic.
On the way back to my hotel, I noticed the traffic signals indicate that it’s time for pedestrians and bicycles to cross.
Principal French Horn Bill Caballero kidded me that my room is better than that of the Principal Horn so here is the proof. Check out his comments as Audio-on-Demand at wqed.org/fm/.