Brussels Belgium Bozar Fine Arts

Published by on November 08, 2019

The city of chocolate, mussels, frites, beer made by monks, The European Union, the Grand Place, Flemish and French welcomed the Pittsburgh Symphony with an enthusiastic standing ovation on Thursday evening November 7. I spoke with  Ulrich Hauschild, the Director of Music who explained where the name of the Centre, Bozar originated. It has to do with the multitude of languages spoken in the area and the use of he French beaux arts.

Bozar Centre for Fine Arts Brussels Belgium


The Bozar Centre for Fine Arts is the location for the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition and hundreds of concerts throughout the year plus a Cinematek showing a wide range of international films  next to  cafe and a restaurant and an art gallery upstairs which is currently showing an excellent exhibit of Constantin Brancusi the Romanian born sculptor who is represented at the Carnegie. Brancusi aligned himself with the Dada movement and managed to outrage the critics and public many times. He was a music lover and the catalog of the exhibition includes reproductions of the album cover art from some of the records in his collection. The Bozar Book Store was terrific with volumes spanning the art world including a book devoted to record covers from recordings of soccer song favorites. I didn’t even know that was a category much less a book.

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Munich Amsterdam Paris

Published by on November 07, 2019

From Augsburg Munich visitors Juergen Beck, ‘Anka’ Anna Katerina Beck

The final tour  week was a blitz beginning Sunday in Munich where Manfred Honeck helped me with a lunch menu choice. Munich plans on building a new concert hall in the next few years which has been controversial with regard to the cost as in Hamburg and Paris. The combination of restaurants, cafes, bars, interesting design, shopping all contribute to making these concert halls a hit. There are many individual connections on the tour with family, friends and former students of the Pittsburgh Symphony musicians. For me it was a joy to see our WQED-FM intern from last summer Anka, Anna Katerina Beck and her Dad Juergen Beck who drove to Munich from Augsburg. You heard Anna on the air in several promotional spots she produced in August. Anka showed me her phone which still has her PAT Connect card for using the bus and a lucky dollar. They presented me with a beautiful book of Augsburg history and a beer stein unique to Augsburg.

PSO Violist Joen Vasquez at Munich’s Gasteig Concert Hall backstage

Some members of the Orchestra heard the glockenspiel with its automated figures spinning in the clock tower at the Rathaus and where Oktoberfest happens in Munich.  Backstage I admired the large photos of Lorin Maazel and the old posters of Claudio Arrau, Astrid Varnay, Hans Werner Henze and other great Munich concerts. Violist Joen Vasquez recalled some great concerts with Claudio Arrau. Lang Lang seemed very pleased with his Pittsburgh concerts meting with a large crowd of fans after his Mozart Concerto which turned on Jim and Cheryl Redmond and Dr. James Duggan from Pittsburgh. Dr.  Duggan remembered hearing Van Cliburn play at Chautauqua just after he won the Tchaikovsky Competition and had a ticker tape parade in New York but before he appeared three times on Mr Rogers Neighborhood.

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Beethoven Haus

Published by on November 03, 2019

Berlin claims the title Capital of Spies with a German Spy Museum on Leipziger Platz but surely Vienna is the capital with an estimated 7,000 spies owing to its place on the map near East and West historically and more liberal laws regarding spying. Not long ago Rudolf Giuliani was attempting to pull off political maneuvers regarding American interests in Ukraine, the Russians exchanged spies with the US in Vienna in 2010, Kruschev met JFK in Vienna to hash out the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and John Kerry was at the Palais Coburg on State Department matters in Vienna just a few years back.

Palais Coburg Vienna, scene of diplomatic negotiations

I met WQED-FM member Frances Anderton whose husband Keith is part of the diplomatic core based in Vienna working for the International Atomic Energy Commission and the UN. Fran’s parents Patrick and Ellen O’donnell were life long Pittsburgh Symphony subscribers.

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Vienna Waltz

Published by on November 02, 2019

Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony have completed their diplomatic mission with triumphant success. The two concerts on Thursday and Friday night in the home of the Vienna Philharmonic, the Musikverein were sold out with standing room at the back  full. We see this famous concert hall every New Year’s  Day on WQED13. Christian Thielemann conducted last year. January 1 2020 will have the Music Director of the Boston Symphony , Andris Nelsons,  in the Golden Hall. Manfred Honeck’s brother Rainer is often the concertmaster for the event.  Almost every member of Maestro Honeck’s family were at the concerts to cheer him on in his homeland. It is a beautiful and large group.

The Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic

Wednesday morning the super fans of the Symphony, the patrons, toured the Kunsthistorisches Museum to see the exhibit of Caravaggio and Bernini as well as the permananent collection of Brueghel, Rembrandt, Tintoretto and dozens of other bold faced artist names.

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Berlin Philharmonie

Published by on October 29, 2019

The German ICE fast train delivered the Pittsburgh Symphony to Berlin about 1:15 Tuesday afternoon with a smooth ride on a crisp fall day from Hannover. The conversation on the ride ranged from the delights off the recent Iphone Pro, a strong recommendation for the HBO series on Chernobyl and a fascinatting story of a tour concert with Mariss Jansons (not with the Pittsburgh Symphony) where Bruckner’s 7th Symphony was on the program needing one percussionist for exactly one symbol crash and in only one concert on the tour. Somehow the percussionist missed his big moment. he was never heard.

Arrival in Berlin with Dr.Fotios Koummpouras, Violist Stephanie Trettick and violinist Ellen Chen Livingston

The Bruckner Ninth Symphony at the home of the Berlin Philharmonic seemed flawless. Igor Levit was featured in the gift shop with all of his cds and posters plus a vinyl lp of one release. The shop is one of the most elegant I have ever seen with a Berlin Philharmonic Montblanc pen, a Leuchturm note book, Grammy awards on display in a special case and giant vinyl lp sets plus lavish box sets produced by the orchestra.

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Tree of Life in Berlin

Published by on October 28, 2019

Sunday evening of the Pittsburgh Symphony Tour was the first anniversary of the attack on the three congregations meeting at the Tree of life Building in Squirrel Hill on October 27 2018. It  was a travel day for the Pittsburgh Symphony leaving Hamburg and heading to Hanover.  Music Director Manfred Honeck headed to Berlin with the Clarion Quartet to visit the American Academy in Berlin. The players focus on composers who composed and performed under oppressed conditions. They played Victor Ullman, Weinberg and Shostakovich  for an enthusiastic crowd at the Arnhold House on Wannsee Lake across the way from the place where the Final Solution was planned by Nazi leadership. The house was owned by a prominent Jewish family who were bankers until the Nazis took power. After the war the house was occupied by Russians and later Americans who left in 1994. The Berlin Academy hopes to foster understanding between nations and further the work of writers and creative thinkers awarding fellowships each year.

Hans Arnhold Center home of the American Academy in Berlin

Adam Sachs who lives in Squirrel Hill but has served as a fellow in Berlin while writing  internationally distributed poetry and prose was on the panel. He took part in a discussion with the Clarion Quartet, Maestro Honeck and Harry Lieberson who has published Music and the New Global Culture From the Great Exhibitions to the Jazz Age.  Manfred Honeck quoted Leonard Bernstein and offered deeply felt observations on the musicians response to terror while fielding weighty questions such as “Isn’t it true that all music is political?”

Adam Sachs, Harry Lieberson and Manfred Honeck

All in all it was a stimulating evening and the performance alone from the Clarion would have made the evening a hit. I picked up two editions of the Berlin Journal published by the Academy with titles such as The Empathic Wit of Heinrich Heine, Afrofuturism, How Democracies Die, The Future of Work in Germany and the History of the Postcard.

The discussion is available for streaming on the American Academy website.


Hamburgers and Frankfurters

Published by on October 26, 2019

After a great opening concert at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt with Igor Levit playing Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody and a jazzy encore of Danny Boy the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck roared on with Shostakovitch Symphony No 5 and the “French Blue Danube” as Manfred Honeck introduced the first encore to the audience, Satie’s Gymnopedie No 1 with it’s extremely hushed contrast to the march at the end of the Fifth Symphony followed by the super-powered Death of Tybalt from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Ballet.

Igor Levit in Frankfurt

Igor Levit in Frankfurt

Saturday morning the tour moved on to Hamburg by Lufthansa Flight with a long wait at the security check in. It left just enough time for one side visit in Frankfurt. The Beatles Platz in the Reeperbahn the red light district  where the Beatles entertained sailors with over 260 concerts in two years before their Ed Sullivan Show appearance. You can tour the Indra Club, the Kaiserkeller   and Alfons and Gretel the bar where the Beatles unwound after the show. They forget to pay their last bill in 1962 so Paul McCartney returned in 1989 settling the debt in full.

At the Beatles Platz in Hamburg Germany

At the Beatles Platz in Hamburg Germany

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Published by on October 24, 2019

Where did the hot dog begin? It might be in this German city. The spices are a little different and the ingredients, the ratio of pork to beef. Vegetarians should not think about it too much. The Pittsburgh Symphony tour party explored the city in advance of their first concert on Friday night at the Alte Oper. I ran into our beloved tour report sponsors Jon and Carol Walton admiring the skyscrapers, probably the German city with the largest concentration of tall buildings.

Jon Walton Lorna McGhee Carol Walton and Tatjana Mead Chamis

Commerzbank Frankfurt Germany

Goethe Statue on the Goethe Platz Frankfurt Germany

Off to Frankfurt

Published by on October 22, 2019


The bougainvillea waited till the very last few weeks of the season to sprout   glorious red blooms on the front porch. They like it hot and dry I am bringing them  inside once again to see if the plant will last the winter as the Pittsburgh Symphony takes off for Frankfurt Germany and the first concert of their 10 city tour with Manfred Honeck on Friday October 25. Frankfurt’s modern buildings include the skyscraper for Deutsche Bank which has been involved in some scandal this past year. Das Alte Oper where the Pittsburgh Symphony will play is not far away. It was a regular stop for former Music Director William Steinberg but was completely destroyed during WWII along with much of the city. You can hear interviews with Manfred Honeck, Igor Levit, Mathias Goerne and PSO President and CEO  Melia Tourangeau on the @the Symphony webpage from Anna Singer will be filling in mornings at 89.3 where we will begin having updates at 8:30 on Thursday the 24th with evening reports at 6pm and weekends at noon Saturday and Sunday. Don’t miss the photo gallery on the blog page. It is one of the most complete ways to stay up to date. The others being Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Bucharest Enescu Festival

Published by on September 08, 2017

The Pittsburgh  Symphony European Festivals Tour 2017 ends in Bucharest Romania with two concerts. The first of the two began an hour late with arrival drama owing to a mechanical failure of the charter plane. A police escort down the broad boulevards that lead to the center of the city made for a nail biter but CEO Melia Tourangeau made a gracious apology to the audience before the Dvorak Rusalka Fantasy and Mathias Goerne with Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs. The Palace Hall or Sala Palatului is the former meting place for Communist party sessions where Nikolae Ceausescu detailed the progress of the people. Now nearly 4,000 Tchaikovsky fans heard the Sixth Symphony with a Pathetique “wait there’s more”  finale that always fools the audience into clapping. So much so last night that the stage crew briefly brought up the lights an quickly dimmed them again as the music continued.

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