On the Road Wieder

Published by on May 16, 2016

Against all the odds, defying financial logic, with jaw dropping virtuosity, great good humor, Steel City grit, resolve, fearless avoidance of men in black hats, and lots and lots of schlagobers – the Pittsburgh Symphony is off on a 14-concert, four-city tour to four European nations: Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland.

PSO travel tote bag from 1973

Manfred Honeck and the PSO depart Tuesday, May 17 for Hanover, Germany where President Obama joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel to open one of the world’s largest trade shows – the Hannover Messe on April 24.. From Hanover, it’s on to the northern cities of Bremen and Berlin. In the home of the Berlin Philharmonic – the Philharmonie – the Pittsburghers will send a worldwide webcast through the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. It will be relayed live via satellite to the big screen at Heinz Hall for the (free!) enjoyment of fans in Western Pennsylvania.

Usually, there isn’t a host for Berlin Philharmonic webcasts. But this time, your devoted correspondent will provide play-by-play with Manfred Honeck, CEO Melia Tourangeau , and orchestra members Alison Fujito, violin; James Nova, trombone; and James Rodgers, contrabassoon. They’ll join me for interviews during the stage changes and intermission. I’m hoping you can sneak a few M&M’s past the ushers, because you won’t want to miss a minute of it.

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Beethovenfest Finale Pittsburgh Symphony in Bonn

Published by on September 14, 2013

Beethoven was born here

Beethoven was born here

I am hearing, very faintly, a french horn practicing in a nearby room for tonight’s final concert of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s 2013 European Festivals Tour.

Yesterday began with a tour of the Beethovenhaus with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Music Critic Elizabeth Bloom. Liz is a Harvard grad, a percussionist, and she spent last year in Turkey on a research grant learning about Turkish percussion. The Beethovenhaus has over 100,000 visitors each year. It’s a tourist magnet in Bonn. The house features a concert hall for chamber music in the building next door.

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Pittsburgh Symphony at Bonn’s Beethoven Festival

Published by on September 13, 2013

Beethoven monument

Beethoven monument

There are 12 museums or memorial sites to Ludwig van Beethoven in five countries. He slept more places than Queen Elizabeth and he moved more often than anyone can imagine – terrorizing his housekeepers at every stop. Polite guests always, the Pittsburgh Symphony returned to Beethoven’s namsake festival in the city where he was born – Bonn, Germany – after a short charter flight from Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday afternoon.

I walked past the Beethovenhaus shortly after we arrived. It’s just a few blocks from the hotel. There is a lively market in a cobblestone square. I made a pilgrimage to the most famous Denkmal, or memorial statue, of Beethoven. Franz Liszt was among those who helped to raise the money to build it. It turns up on many record covers of Beethoven. There is a Bonn walk of fame with famous figures from music, science, painting, math, as well as others memorialized beneath your feet. In a music store, you could look in a mirror and see your face framed with Beethoven’s hair and clothes.

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Pittsburgh Symphony at the Lucerne Festival

Published by on September 11, 2013

Serways salad bar

Serways salad bar

The trip to Lucerne from Frankfurt was sunny and smooth. Even the rest stop operated by Serways was a delight with its terrific salad bar, outdoor and indoor café, shopping for beer steins, a wide selection of Ritter Sport candy bars, magazines and newspapers, beer, and a clean wash zimmer with admittance through turnstiles after depositing 70 euro cents.

The sunshine on arrival turned out to be the most abundant of the last three days. Even with a gray sky and cold wind, Lucerne is a delight.

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Pittsburgh at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper

Published by on September 09, 2013

Finish line at the Alte Oper

Finish line at the Alte Oper

Alte Oper, Frankfurt

Alte Oper, Frankfurt

At the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, The Pittsburgh Symphony found themselves at the finish line of a footrace benefiting AIDS research with a special effort for children. As in Pittsburgh’s Great Race, citizens of all ages huffed and puffed the last few steps. The finish line featured a banner marked “Ziel” which reminded me that former Pittsburgher Otto Klemperer wrote an opera he titled “Das Ziel,” or “The Goal.”

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Pittsburgh’s Rhine Journey

Published by on September 08, 2013

The Pittsburgh Symphony swooped into Düsseldorf from Paris on Saturday afternoon. This is where the pioneering electronica art-rock band Kraftwerk lives

Tonhalle

Tonhalle

. Robert Schumann is memorialized in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel and the lobby of the Tonhalle. The call to return to your seats at the end of intermission is a phrase from the Schumann Rhenish Symphony. The hotel looks out on the Königsallee known as the Koe. Filmmaker Wim Wenders is from Düsseldorf, The poet Heinrich Heine was born here, as were artist Gerhard Richter – whose canvases command astronomical sums, photographer Andreas Gorsky, the tortured artist Otto Dix, as well as less-disturbed artists Thomas Strüth, Candida Hoefer, Joseph Beuys, and Thomas Ruff.

Thomas Thompson

Thomas Thompson

It is one of the wealthiest cities in Europe and it was hopping for the city’s 725 birthday party. Friday night was a big fashion night. The hotel was packed, and a new cleaning crew had things running behind schedule for some of the Pittsburgh group who waited for over an hour. I went out to the Maredo restaurant with clarinetist Thomas Thompson. Tommy remembered traveling with William Steinberg, who smoked his pipe on the bus with fellow smokers and slept wearing a sleep mask over his eyes. Steinberg had cautioned Mr. Thompson about whistling in the opera house, claiming it brings bad luck. Tommy Thompson enjoyed the trip to Vienna with André Previn when Itzhak Perlman played the Tchaikovsky Concerto. The Pittsburgh had just recorded Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with Elly Ameling, and the news of Steinberg’s death had come on the final day of recording. The gemütlich waiter at our outdoor café encouraged me to try the Dusseldorf altbier brewed by Diebels. A specialty of the region it is a slightly dark, but great!

Rote Grütze

Rote Grütze

The sidewalks were packed with elegant shoppers on Königsallee which boasts one of the greatest concentrations of luxury retailers in Europe. A duo of male and female blue-shirted police clopped by on horseback in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

After the salad bar, mushrooms in cream sauce and Gulaschsuppe, I stopped at Leysieffer’s “chocolaterie seit 1909” for the Sylter Rote Grütze. We call it forest berries, I think. A combination of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries in vanilla sauce. 5.90 Euros.

Celebrating 725 years

Celebrating 725 years

Leysieffer does exotic chocolates and runs several German coffee shop locations. They are offering a special Schokoladen Radschläger as “dieses jahr feiert die Stadt ihr Jubilaeum 725 Jahre.” Your 725th birthday only comes along once a millennium so you’d better make it a good one!

As I type at the airport hotel, the NTV network is running a documentary on Hitler and Eva Braun’s relationship with all the color films from the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s country place in the mountains of Bavaria.

The Pittsburgh Symphony in Paris

Published by on September 08, 2013

Pleyel piano

Pleyel piano

Composer Ignaz Pleyel is immortalized in Paris by the theater that bears his name. His piano company still exists with a showroom next to the Salle Pleyel, where the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has performed three years in a row. A white art deco instrument was in the window. The Pittsburgh Symphony arrived Friday night, and their fans were not disappointed. This time, they brought along pianist Yuja Wang, who has appeared often at the Salle Pleyel in her grande vitesse career. She is just 26 years old. A French TV crew followed her during rehearsal and interviewed PSO Music Director Manfred Honeck.

Yuja Wang's little black dress

Yuja Wang's little black dress

In every interview, she is asked about “the dress.” For Paris, it was a short black dress with a short, shiny top section that appeared to be a sort of vinyl or plastic material and a small off-center skin-revealing circle that ups the erotic wow a bit. Mon Dieu! You will find Yuja in Paris Vogue, in Cosmopolitan – and in Gramophone next to the article about Furtwängler.

It was very wow from her Tchaikovsky which was as fast and furious as you could imagine. She heard the European rhythmic applause — that prompted an encore of Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orpheus and Euridice in Yuja’s own arrangement.

Noah Bendix-Balgley has six chances to wow on this trip with his solos in Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben. He has been a rock star of the European Festivals tour. I wondered if the Paris public loves Strauss as much as the Germanic world. They asked for two encores and got Schubert and the Rosenkavalier Waltz at the end of the night.

Salle Playel rehearsal

Salle Playel rehearsal

The patrons were backstage to say hello to Maestro Honeck — Reid and Abby Ruttenberg, whom I had met at Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurants party a few years ago, Bob Egan, Barbara Forrester, Tom and Jamee Todd, Three Rivers Arts Festival and Carnegie Museum Board member Alice Snyder, and Frank and Angela Grebowski. This group could not be more congenial or pleased to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony cheered in far-flung places. They also have been kind to me when confronting them for a comment on the concert.

It was fun to see Pittsburgh Chamber Music board member Frances Debroff and daughter Jill, who praised Noah. Emmanuel Hondre, the Production Director of La Cite de la Musique and the Salle Pleyel, told me he loved the concert. Mr. Hondre laughed with Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh about the glory of the brass in the Strauss, which played the offstage music from a stairwell. He is excited about a new Paris concert hall designed by architect Jean Nouvel, set to open in 2015 or 2016. He expects the Pittsburgh Symphony to appear there regularly.

Le Boeuf sur le Toit

Le Boeuf sur le Toit

I walked back to the hotel with Honeck family members Simeon, Teresa and Anna Maria. Teresa made me laugh, coaching me to say the German expression, “Lass dein Haar herunter,” literally, “let your hair down.”  It seemed that’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Symphony did in Paris.

Before the concert, I wandered along the Champs Elysee a bit more. I peeked at the menu of Le Boeuf sur Le Toit, named after Darius Milhaud’s surrealist-ballet music with the same name, recorded by Leonard Bernstein and others. It’s translated variously as the “bull on the roof” or the “nothing-doing bar.” These days, it seemed pretty elegant and sedate inside.

Monet house at Giverny

Monet house at Giverny

I connected with Pittsburgh-born missionary Alfonso Feria and his scooter riding son for a journey to Claude Monet’s home at Giverny. The artist’s studio is in Normandy, less than an hour from the beaches where the Allies landed to turn the tide of WWII. Al Feria has worked for two decades to establish the United Church of the Marais. It’s more than 400 years old. There were just a handful of members when Al arrived. Now it’s thriving with a special outreach to artists in the Marais near the Bastille Opera.

Al Feria’s dad went to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and his mom worked for Fred Rogers. He helped me seamlessly negotiate the two subway lines: the train from Gare Lazares to Vernon, and the bus to Giverny. The French ask you to validate your ticket “compostage” by inserting it into an automated date stamper.

The real Water Lilies

The real Water Lilies

Giverny has only been a tourist magnet since 1980. An army of Impressionism fans arrives daily now to pay respects at his last residence. A plaque honors Philadelphia philanthropist Walter Annenberg for funding construction of a walkway tunnel under a road.

The gardens look exactly like Monet’s Water Lilies paintings at the Carnegie. The flowers were fantastic everywhere. I must look into who Monet’s gardener was. He looked out his window at a riot of color. The house has paintings arranged on the walls, in the bedroom, living room and kitchen. There is still a flock of chickens and a rooster, and a sign asking that they not be disturbed. The gift shop is enormous – the largest I’d ever seen – with an 800 euro scale model of his kitchen. I bought a calendar and a tea towel.

Crêpe at Giverny

Crêpe at Giverny

We toured the modern addition of a museum with an exhibit by Hamamatsu, the Japanese artist influenced by Monet. The museum has its own spectacular gardens.

I made a note to look for three French films: “Hôtel Du Nord”, “C’était un Rendezvous” by Claude Lelouch, and “Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire,” starring Pierre Richard.

In the airport security line, cellist Aron Zelkowicz was wearing a curious T-shirt that was inspired by an internet viral video, “Honeybadger Don’t Care.” Aron told me I must see the Piatigorsky video where the filmmaker spends the entire documentary trying to secure an interview with the great cellist. He also recommended the classical music film “Small Miracles,” starring Meryl Streep, “Playing From the Heart,” and the “million dollar trio” video with Jascha Heifetz, Artur Rubenstein and Gregor Piatigorsky.

Principal contrabassonist James Rodgers knits

Principal contrabassonist James Rodgers knits

The Charles De Gaulle airport bookstore Relay included the French film magazine SoFilm, and the “50 Shades of Grey” novel – still a bestseller in French. On the charter flight, the Lufthansa magazine had an interview “Rock ‘n’ Roller der Lüfte” with Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of the heavy-metal band Iron Maiden. Bruce is a licensed pilot of the Boeing 737 and 757, founded his own company Cardiff Aviation, and served as marketing chief for Astraeus Air. Iron Maiden has sold over 90 million records. So far I don’t own one.

Les Arts Décoratifs & Lunch at the L’Ilot Vache

Published by on September 05, 2013

Bride by the Seine

Bride by the Seine

The Île Saint-Louis is the island in the middle of Paris where you find Notre Dame Cathedral, and just across the Seine is the Saint-Chappelle with its wonderful windows. It provides the general look of Heinz Chapel in Pittsburgh. The sky was clear and blue for a wedding. A photographer helped the bride and groom find just the right spot at noon today.

I was there with the patrons group that supports the Pittsburgh Symphony generously, led by Richard and Ginny Simmons. I joined Jayne Adair and Basil Cox, there with Alice Snyder at our table, plus a group who raved about the concerts they’ve heard so far.

Mixed grill de poissons

Mixed grill de poissons

The restaurant was L’Ilot Vache – named for the cows who once roamed this island – whose windowsills are crammed with a wide assortment of cow figurines. The boeuf on the table was the best – and I’m a vegetarian, as I’ve mentioned before. A flexitarian tries things, though. The oeufs en meurette was a soup-like beef stock with egg and bits of bacon. The poissons were beautifully presented, and for desert, a bread pudding – pain perdu à l’ancienne et sauce caramel.

On our way to the museum we passed the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Co.

Behind the Seams: An Indiscreet Look at the Mechanics of Fashion

Behind the Seams: An Indiscreet Look at the Mechanics of Fashion

Fortified, it was off to the Museum of Decorative Arts, just next to the Louvre, which featured those Louis XIV chairs and Limoges enamels; armoires, tapestries, pianos and much more. A special exhibit detailed the way men and women have used underwear to shape an impression. The codpiece for men; and for the ladies, the bustle, crinoline, whalebone stays, the push up, etc. There was a segment of “Gone With the Wind” dubbed in French in which Scarlett O’Hara is tied into her underwear by her nurse. Some of it was funny and some cruel. Museum visitors could try on hoop petticoats, but I avoided the temptation.

Teresa and Simeon Honeck with violinist Christopher Wu

Teresa and Simeon Honeck with violinist Christopher Wu

I ran into the part of the Honeck family in the lobby as Teresa and Simeon were on their way out the door. Teresa was off to visit Monet’s garden at Giverny with orchestra members. Someone mentioned Simeon looks just like Justin Bieber, and even his Dad has noticed the similarity with his son’s hairstyle and Justin.

The cyclists had a field day today in the sunshine, and tomorrow it is back to work: a full afternoon rehearsal and evening concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

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Pittsburgh in Paris

Published by on September 05, 2013

Champs-Élysées in Paris

Champs-Élysées in Paris

The Pittsburgh Symphony flew via Austrian Air to Paris in a clear blue sky with the good feeling of having made a great debut in Bucharest. Tubist Craig Knox wrote in a Facebook post of a meeting of low brass players who shared stories of the pre-Romanian-Revolution times while also sharing several Romanian liqueurs distilled from fruits and herbs. The minibar featured a small sample of BRAN, which the hotel front desk clerk said was a favorite of her grandparents who lived to 92 because they enjoyed a regular sip.

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Traditional Romanian spirits

Traditional Romanian spirits

I met Kenneth Wetzel, the Press and Information officer for the US Embassy in Bucharest, at the Pittsburgh Side-by-Side concert. Ken told me he was thrilled to hear the Americans making new friends in Romania. We shared memories of our favorite places in Erie, like Presque Isle. Although the post of Ambassador is currently vacant, a new Ambassador is expected this fall, so the chargé d’affaires is keeping order for the Embasssy.

On the way to the new Bucharest airport we passed an amazing mix of old and new in Romania. You see Soviet-style architecture; one building resembles a small version of Moscow University. At the airport the duty-free shop sparkled with an abundance of attractively displayed cheese, prunes, cookies, wine, liqueurs, and a CD of Ensecu conduced by Georgescu. A few folks were doing some banking at the Banca Transilvania counter.

I sat next to clarinetist Ron Samuels who is putting together a concert for late October at Duquesne University with Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” and music by Debussy and Auric. Ron was reading “The Foreign Legion” by an author who was new to me, Clarice Lispector.

Ladurée

Ladurée

In Paris, I walked the Champs-Élysées to the tea room Ladurée, which has several branches including one in New York. It has long been a famous source of the colorful cookies known as macarons. A long line waited patiently to make selections that are packed in elegant boxes and lime-green bags. A few blocks further along the boulevard is the Gaumont Cinema, where the movies included some French films, the latest Percy Jackson movie, the bio-pic on Steve Jobs, Red 2, and more. I walked past the sad and empty decaying storefront of the Virgin Megastore – the erstwhile CD mecca in Paris, as well as in New York and Los Angeles. In the lobby of the Bucharest concert hall, it was nice to see three separate extremely-popular CD retailers selling hundreds of discs. More than I have ever seen anywhere. One of the CD sellers was the Romanian radio.

Le cinéma

Le cinéma

Speaking of radio, I enjoyed listening to Romanian Radio’s classical service and some of the pop stations in Bucharest. In morning drive, the classical station ran a Pittsburgh Symphony “Cinema Serenade” favorite with John Williams conducting Itzhak Perlman in the music by Carlos Gardel that served as a theme for “Scent of a Woman.” They played a lot of pop classical music hits in drive time, and for some reason even included a Frank Sinatra classic. One pop station was running a Michael Jackson weekend. In Paris, Radio France runs the classical music service France Musique, which just finished a suite of dances by Rameau from “Zaïs” played by the Musicians of the Louvre, followed by a Bach Cantata at 10:00 am on a Thursday. I’ve been enjoying the jazz station which has played two Frank Sinatra favorites already today, and Diana Krall who made a CD in Paris and Nat King Cole. Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grapelli were just on playing La Mer a great hit of Frenchman Charles Trenet later turned into a hit for Bobby Darin. Django and Grapelli are Paris legends. It’s great that they are still on the radio. Jazz was an importnat part of the history of the Salle Pleyel where the Pittsburgh plays tomorrow night.

Artcurial

Artcurial

Horn player Ron Schneider told me his colleagues Penny Brill and Paul Silver went to a synagogue last night for the Rosh Hashanah Eve service in three languages, although he felt the English was a little rough. The horn players on this trip have a room downstairs in the hotel, where they practiced yesterday enjoying great cameraderie with the extra players along for this tour including Alberto Suarez, the principal in the Kansas City Symphony, and Todd Bowermaster from the Saint Louis Symphony.

Also on the Champs-Élysées yesterday, I looked into the ornate art auction house and bookstore, Artcurial. There was an an amazing array of art magazines and journals for sale. You must tell me who reads these things. The classical music world has Grammophone and American Record Guide, BBC Music, Opera News, Strings, Fanfare, and a few others, but the art world swamps music for its exotic print journals. Jane Birkin was on the cover of one. She was the muse of singer Serge Gainsbourg who is featured in promotionaly-priced CD subscription deal for the newspaper “Le Monde.”

Delmontel patisserie

Delmontel patisserie

From the art library I took a taxi to the Rue St. Martyrs, said to be the Brooklyn of Paris and an evolving hip, lively part of town. I picked up a baguette at Arnaud Delmontel, which won the grand prix in a 2007 Parisian baking contest for the best baguette in the city. It was terrific, but I can’t say for certain it was better than la Gourmandine in Lawrenceville. My baguette was still warm from the oven. The area is known as “SoPi” for south of Pigalle. Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, who has created Madonna’s look more than once, is a regular in this part of town and often dines at the Casa Olympe. I didn’t see him, and in fact I didn’t see a taxi at the taxi stand for twenty minutes, so I asked a nice priest at the nearest church who told me to just stand across the street and flag one. When that didn’t prove successful, I moved on to a livelier corner. I could see lots of taxis with red lights indicating that they were occupied. I asked for advice of a sharply dressed guy who laughed and said “This isn’t New York. Just be patient.” Sure enough, along came a green light cab which took me back to the Arc de Triomphe. Maybe it was because I didn’t find a used record shop, but I’d say I’ll let SoPi evolve a bit more before returning — even with the delightful Arnaud Delmontel.

Delmontel macarons

Delmontel macarons

Dining in Paris is the thing. The Obamas had dinner at La Fontaine de Mars. I don’t think I’ll make it to the restaurant Jules Verne on the 32nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. The showplace of chef Alain Ducasse is 450 euros prix fixe, with reservations made months in advance.

I asked Dr. Fotios Koumpouras, the tour doctor, for the secret to a long life. He told me he was interested in an article this past year in the New England Journal of Medicine about groups of people in several parts of the world who reached their late 90s. The common denominator seemed to be eating a diet of wild herbs and naturally-grown vegetables.

Radio France Musique just played Debussy and now they’re playing Colin Davis’s recording of Berlioz’ Harold in Italy. Bonjour!

Pittsburgh Romanian Rhapsody

Published by on September 03, 2013

Yuja Wang/PSO webcast

Yuja Wang/PSO webcast

The Pittsburgh Symphony made its debut in Bucharest at the Enescu Festival to a full house of more than 4,000 and thousands more watching on live national TV, listening on Romanian radio, or streaming the concert online. The Sala Palatului was built on command of Nikolai Ceaucescu for meetings of his communist party comrades, and he spoke often from the stage. What a treat to have Tchaikovsky with Yuja Wang instead, and Manfred Honeck leading the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.

Memorial of Rebirth (detail)

Memorial of Rebirth (detail)

The concert hall is just steps away from the plaza where the Romanian Revolution took place in December 1989—Ceausescu and his wife spoke from the balcony to thousands in the square, attempting to quiet growing unrest. For the first time, booing was heard. Mrs. Ceausescu grabbed the microphone to assure the citizens that a wage increase of 200 leis was on the way. It wasn’t enough. The Ceausescus escaped in a helicopter, but were apprehended elsewhere in Romania and executed on Christmas Day, 1989. Now the Memorial of Rebirth – a tall pointed pillar, with a blotch of red suggesting the bloodshed in the square – is a reminder of those events. It is quite a history-filled block, with events of WWII and the 1989 Revolution mixed together.

With organ 'rock star' Cameron Carpenter

With organ 'rock star' Cameron Carpenter

The two main halls of the George Enescu Festival are there, too. On Sunday, I heard Meadville native (actually Townville, population 306) Cameron Carpenter give an organ recital at the Athenaeum, which was broadcast live on national TV. When is the last time you saw an organ recital on network TV? An organist with a Mohawk haircut, sequins on his shoes, a crushed velvet suit, and a chest-exposing, scoop-neck shirt, he also exhibited killer technique in Bach and Dandrieu, topped off with The Stars and Stripes Forever and Chopin as encores. He last played in Pittsburgh for the Organ Artists Series, and I hope he returns soon.

Romanian Athenaeum

Romanian Athenaeum

Enescu Museum

Enescu Museum

The Athenaeum is surely one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. It’s where George Enescu met the princess who became the love of his life. But she was married, and he had to wait 40 years for her to become available. Now, her palace is the George Enescu Museum. It’s been open again only in recent years and still needs a lot of work. Music critic Norman Lebrecht called attention to the deplorable shape of the museum’s document storage in a January post on his “Slipped Disc” blog.

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

The Pittsburgh Symphony patrons group, including Richard and Ginny Simmons and Tom and Jamee Todd, toured the Enescu Museum and took a look at the palace where Vlad the Impaler once exhibited his enemies as if they were olives on toothpicks. We strolled through Vlad’s basement and wine cellar. Vlad was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula legend, which is kept alive in old movies here just as in the States.

But first we looked at Nikolai Ceausescu’s parliament and his attempt to build a boulevard more grand than the Champs-Élysées. The entire area around it was leveled and every home moved by an army of 40,000 workers. It wasn’t finished in 1989 when he met his Christmas Day firing squad. Now, the parliament meets in a building second in size only to the Pentagon.

Ceausescu’s Sala Palatului, where the Pittsburgh Symphony played, featured exhibits on the many artists who’ve appeared at the Enescu Festival including André Previn in 1970 and Herbert von Karajan in 1964.

Sala Palatului

Sala Palatului

There was an encore for Yuja Wang—wearing her little red dress. She played Chopin. Later, Manfred Honeck and the PSO offered three encores after the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony including a new tour encore, Fauré’s Pavane. The others were the Galop from the ballet “Masquerade” by Shostakovich’s compatriot Khachaturian – this time with clarinetist Michael Rusinek offering a cadenza quoting George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody which brought chuckles of recognition and applause from the audience, which was on its feet for the third encore: Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of “Lohengrin.”

Afterward, I spoke with Principal Cellist Anne Martindale Williams, who had played in Bucharest earlier this summer at the invitation of Kenneth Tucker, Director General of an organization called Oratorium. Ken, his wife, and violinist daughter Anna have been living in Romania for the past twenty years.

Vlad Vizireanu and Mihai Hristu

Vlad Vizireanu and Mihai Hristu

The Pittsburgh Symphony made many friends yesterday at the smaller hall of the Sala Palatului in a Side-by-Side concert with Romanian-born conductor Vlad Vizireanuh and South African pianist Ben Schoeman. The Romanian musicians were from the Camerata Regala – consisting of recent Conservatory graduates, some of who also reported playing in the Radio Orchestra.

Vlad just spent the summer at Chautauqua where he worked with Timothy Muffitt as Conductor. Mihai Hristu, the Reprezentant, helped to organize the event which benefited Children Skills For Life, which has ties to California where Vlad and his family now live (in Thousand Oaks).

Vlad’s Mother told me that she and her husband left careers as engineers in Romania to move to Los Angeles, where they worked menial jobs at Technicolor. Now, their daughter is a doctor at UCLA, and their son is a globe-trotting conductor. Mom remembers trudging in the snow to get milk for her newborns and standing in line for one grocery item at a time during the Communist days. She has no nostalgia for the Communists even though some do.

Cellist Mikhail Istomin and violinist Susanne Park

Cellist Mikhail Istomin and violinist Susanne Park

Violinist Susanne Park stood backstage, waiting with a ticket for an American friend she connected with online in the running community in Bucharest. He had helped her in a morning run through a Bucharest park which can be treacherous, due to packs of wild dogs. There do seem to be a lot of dogs around. This morning’s paper ran a harrowing story about wild dogs killing a child.

I answered a 6:00 pm knock on my door to find a nice lady who asked if I could help her. I could see she did not seem to need much help, and I explained that I was on deadline to complete a work assignment. Several tour party members have had similar mysterious visitors. None seemed interested in hearing Shostakovich.

Tour de Pittsburgh Symphonie

Tour de Pittsburgh Symphonie

Andrew Reamer and Ed Stephan had an extensive ride on their bicycles yesterday. A helpful doorman commented that bicycles are still a rarity and often ignored by speeding trucks in Romania.

Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida told me that she had connected with Pittsburgh pianist Marina de Pretoro, who was in Bucharest visiting her Romanian family.

Tomorrow, onward to Paris!

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