Jan 20 2008

The Journey Begins

Published by at 6:12 pm under PSO 2008 European Tour

Bon Voyage

Europeans know Americans from our movies filled with explosions, car crashes and any unhappy events with guns plus our diplomacy in the middle east but for the next three weeks the Pittsburgh Symphony will wave the flag of the city of Pittsburgh in its 250th anniversary year as the Orchestra winds through Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Croatia and Hungary. I’ll do my best to bring you the scoop on the scene and the concerts.

On the flight over it was chicken or pasta with a nice wish in the aluminum foil “Wir wunschen ihnen guten appetit!” I sat next to Pittsburgh Symphony bass Don Evans who is one of the handful of Pittsburgh-born members of the orchestra. Don’s daughter Abby is now a violist in the National Symphony in DC. There is some gossip that Philadelphia’s Christoph Eschenbach is a top contender for the job of Music Director at the Kennedy Center. Don is a member of the White Tie Group jazz ensemble. They have a guest spot with Marvin Hamlisch on the upcoming Valentine’s concert.

The Lufthansa TV program included some fun videos. The Eagles are mixed in with Europop stars like Biagio Antonacci and Remy Shand.

I sat across the aisle from Associate Concertmaster Mark Huggins, who will be heard with Sarah Chang when she plays at Heinz Hall on February 10 in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

English Horn Harold Smoliar showed me the stuff on his iPhone while we were waiting in Frankfurt. Next to Andre Previn playing jazz he has the Beatles magical Mystery Tour, the Bobs, Stevie Wonder, all sorts of Brazilian pop and Bill Evans at Montreux. The first thing that pops up on the phone is a photo of his beautiful wife Ginny. His daughters are doing fantastic things in New York.

Harold has been a member of our Community Advisory Board at WQED. He suggested I check out a You Tube video of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain doing The Good The Bad and The Ugly with former BBC Announcers performing the music.

Principal Harp Gretchen van Hoesen has been working hard on the new Harp Concerto written for her by Andre Previn. Andre has written a fiendishly difficult cadenza for her. We’ll hear it at Heinz Hall in March.

It took 23 hours of traveling but we made in one piece. Leaving Friday the 18th at 9:30 from the box office at Heinz Hall. The afternoon spent in Philadelphia now that there are no direct flights to Europe. Then Saturday morning in the Frankfurt airport with an hour added on due to “weather in Frankfurt” and then two hours to Pamplona and a bus to the hotel. Sunshine on arrival. Smooth Lufthansa flight with wondrously efficient flight crew and nice music on the headsets. I listened to a tribute to George Pretre who conducted the Vienna New year’s Day concert this year.

Scott and LorienI joined Dr Ted Osial who is stamping out European disease and pestilence for the players on the tour with his daughter Alyssa playing hooky from CMU so she can tour art museums. Oboe Scott Bell navigated to the old city with Lorien Benet Hart. We tried the vino rioja at the Okapi and noticed several young children age 3 or 4 playing at a table behind a table with the parents. Dinner was great.

Walking the street to the cathedralSunday, I rejoined Scott and Lorien for a look at the old walled city and fortress–now a museum with modern art. We visited several churches including the big cathedral where a Sunday service was underway for about five worshipers. I did hear of a mass last night that was more full.

Statue of Ernest HemingwayWe walked to the Plaza de Torros — the bullfighting Arena which is closed for the season. In front is a large statue of Ernest Hemingway. Most people know Pamplona for its annual running of the bulls where the bulls run along the narrow streets and usually poke a few holes in the misguided fun seekers who run along with them.

Andy and bicycleThere is a huge soccer playoff game here tonight with chanting and tailgating style merriment in the streets. It’s Bilbao vs. Pamplona or is it Barcelona? In any case, it’s a doozy. Tympanist Tim Adams and several colleagues found a game similar to jai alai. Popular in Miami, I believe.

Percussionist Andrew Reamer arrived on his foldup portable bicycle after a tour of Pamplona. The bike fits neatly in the elevator.

Paseo SarasateViolist Isaias Zelkowicz and his wife Joan found the house where violinist Pablo de Sarasate was born. Earlier today, I walked down the Paseo Sarasate and snapped this photo for you. Tomorrow’s plan is to go to the Museum for Sarasate after rehearsal.