Feb 01 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Hanover

Published by at 5:56 pm under PSO 2008 European Tour

Congress CentrumLeaving Cologne, Carnival and the Rhine behind, we were on the bus at 10:00 am for a four-hour ride to the northwest, destination Hanover. The ride was smooth, with a gray sky and some breaks among the clouds. Construction delays added some time and we arrived 45 minutes late at 2:30.

Principal Cellist Anne Martindale Williams and daughter Claire invited me to tag along for a lunch run to the Hauptbahnhoff. The train station is a busy hub, with abundant shopping and some good, quick lunch places. I had a vegetarian curry lunch (5 euros), and a marzipan croissant, 1.10€. Anne’s husband, Joe Williams, has been the director of youth activities for their church in Mount Lebanon for the last ten years. It sounds like a very active program for young people, starting at sixth grade. Claire is in the drama club, and next year she’ll become a sixth-grader so she can participate in more of Dad’s fun. Joe is also a brass player and organizes occasional brass performances for special church events.

Then, a quick stroll through the central shopping area. I made a quick stop at Schmorl & von Seefeld Medienhandelsgesellschaft, a sort of German Barnes & Noble with books, CDs, DVDs and gift wrapping. I noticed the new German book about Tom Cruise and the Scientologists. Cruise made headlines when he was denied permission to film at one of the locations for his next movie, set in Germany during the war. The Scientologists have a headquarters in Berlin that makes Berliners uneasy. They don’t want to be seen as intolerant, but Scientologists have been very aggressive with their evangelizing. They set up a stand and offer a “free stress test.” Then your stress rises as you realize you are being pitched to join the faithful.

John Soroka and triangleI found one of Mariss Jansons’s latest CDs, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Piano Concerto No. 1 with Yefim Bronfman. It’s a Bavarian Radio Symphony recording for Sony Classical, in a series that’s not widely distributed in the USA, €19. I also picked up a CD of church bells from the Heimat, located throughout Germany with a bit of Austria thrown in from St Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna. Tune for some on the morning show, soon.

I made a note of a new DVD Das Reichsorchester, a film by Enrique Sanchez Lansch, which details the involvement of the Berlin Philharmonic with the Nazi Regime. A new book on the same topic was announced last summer, but the English language version has not yet appeared. It’s said the younger generation is bored with talk of the war in Germany, but the topic is still a big one. I noticed Life is Beautiful with Roberto Benigni on the ARD network last night, the movie about the Holocaust that won the Academy Award in 1999.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Brass are nearly ready for their next recording session of Christmas music. I sat next to trumpeter Neil Berntsen on the flight from Valencia to Amsterdam, while he worked on his laptop to arrange O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridson, which he had heard sung by the Mendelssohn Choir directed by Robert Page. I borrowed his Bose noise-canceling headphones to listen, and I think it’ll be a hit. The plan is to record this summer, in time for a Christmas, 2008 release. There’s also a plan to record a Spike Jones arrangement!

Congress CentrumThe Congress Centrum in Hanover is one of the largest European concert halls with 3,600 seats. It was full for the Pittsburgh,with only a few empty seats at the extreme edges. It’s a solid older building with a 1960’s look. One of the largest concert presenting organizations in the world is based here, Konzertdirektion Hans Ulrich Schmid, who helped get the Pittsburgh Symphony booked in many of the concerts on this trip. There is a radio orchestra for MDR, the Middle German Radio. They play in their own studio. Here at the Congress Centrum, there is a series of visiting orchestras which began this season with San Francisco, and brings the BBC Philharmonic and Simon Rattle’s Berlin Philharmonic playing the Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth, Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin and Beethoven’s Sixth on February 22nd.

SignsFebruary 16th is an event I would love an invitation to. The poster was right next to the Pittsburgh Symphony’s. The Polizeiball. There will be numerous entertainers including the Big Band of the Niedersaechsischen Polizeimusikkorps, a group called Simply Dry–guaranteed for ‘Partystimmung’, the Red Shoe Boys, DJ Andy B, and The Contrast Band– a dixieland outfit and two rollerskaters, the Rollescos. As “Dieter” used to say on Saturday Night Live, “Now is ze time ven ve tanz!”

There’s also a chamber music series with the Artemis Quartet, and the Hagen Quartet which we’ve heard at the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society series, and the Tetzlaff Quartet which I hope we’ll get some day.

At breakfast this morning, Concertmaster Andres Cardenes told me he ‘s been a friend of Leonidas Kavakos since they appeared together at the Indianapolis Violin Competition. Andres says no one has a bow arm like Kavakos. His approach is very different and unsurpassed.

KuppelsaalThe evidence was compelling in Hanover. As an encore, he played the Ruggiero Ricci transcription of Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which blew the minds of those at Kavakos’s Heinz Hall debut. Then, another encore—the same Bach as at Cologne, drawn from the solo violin music. A literal stamp of approval, we had terrific shuffling and stomping of feet on the wooden floor in Hanover, prompting both Brahms Hungarian Dances as encores. I ran out to get a photo of the facade of the Kuppelsaal, the Congress Centrum’s concert hall, and someone ran up to me saying, “Are you Jim Cunningham?” It was WQED-FM listener Heidi Fenton, who lives in Shadyside but was born in Hanover. She’s here visiting her Mom and made a trip with a friend to hear the Orchestra. Heidi told me she thought the Hanover hall is too big, and that the Pittsburgh sounds better at Heinz Hall. She came to Pittsburgh in 1962 “for love,” when she married her husband.

In the morning, I’m off to Vienna to join our colleagues from On Q for an interview with Manfed Honeck the new Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony beginning next fall. Michael Bartley and ace cameraman Frank Caloiero have been filming Manfred’s Vienna, complete with a visit to a Beethoven and a Brahms house. We’re supposed to tape the interview tomorrow afternoon at Manfred’s Vienna apartment. Stay tuned for broadcast dates and times!

Scott Bell with help from Emma Hancock and Jim RodgersTo get to Vienna a day early, I’ll join PSO administrative staff members Lizz Helmsen and Shelly Sampson in the lobby at 8:30 am for a Berlin Air flight. It’s a bargain, but you’re restricted to 20 kilograms; one bag in the cargo hold and one 6 kg maximum carry-on. My stuff feels like it weighs a ton, so I’m mailing back the voluminous printed matter I’ve picked up along the way. If you exceed the limit, the airline charges you 5€ per kilo. Wish me luck!