Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Radu Lupu Birthday

Today is Radu Lupu's 70th birthday. We have performed with him on numerous occasions. Among the memorable performances were a traversal of all 5 Beethoven Piano Concerti in Carnegie Hall several years ago.

This fall we performed the 4th Piano Concerto with him twice on tour -- once in Milan and once in Munich. While the Beethoven performance in Munich was especially memorable, it was his encore there that left us all in awe. His performance of the Brahms Eb Intermezzo made us forget that we were a tired group of touring musicians and reminded us of the power of music to inspire and soothe!

Here is Kirill Gerstein's tribute to Lupu. At the end is a video of his encore after performing with us in La Scala. Yours truly is barely visible at the beginning of the clip during the applause.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Bassoon King

Another bassoonist in the news! No Nobel Prize Winner this time, just a member of the cast of the television show, The Office. Yes, Dwight Shrute (Rainn Wilson) played the bassoon -- he says for five years!

Information about his book below:

The Bassoon King

Also, enjoy this timely cartoon from trumpeter, Jeff Curnow:

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Inspired Reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

Those reading in the U.S. may have some extra time on this holiday weekend, so here are two recent posts to inspire you:

1. Cellist Steven Isserlis talks about what keeps him practicing and how the Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Cello challenge and inspire him.

2. In a long essay, Gidon Kremer lists his top 10 favorite recordings of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with lots of insights in between. To read the essay, go here and click on the link at the end of the letter.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nobel Laureate Bassoonist

In case you don't know the wonderful story of William Moerner, a bassoonist who is now a Nobel Laureate, here it is below. Courtesy of Ryan Romine, Bassoon Editor of the Double Reed Magazine.

I apologize for the small print size and the formatting!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Milan -- a 19 hour visit

Our next stop was Milan. We arrived in the early afternoon. Quite often when a large group like ours checks in to a hotel in the morning or afternoon, none or only some of the rooms have been cleaned and are ready. This creates extra stress and fatigue for that day, when often there is a concert or even a rehearsal and concert later that day.

This was the case in Milan. I was lucky to get a room right away, but my attempt at a nap was thwarted by the trumpet player in the room next to me who decided it was time to practice! I decided to punt on the nap and went to see the Duomo (above). The line to get in was pretty long and I didn't have the time to wait, so the view from outside had to suffice.

Besides I needed to keep track of the time. We had a rehearsal with our soloist, Radu Lupu on Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto which was on the program that night. This would be our only rehearsal with him, so a very important rehearsal.

After a short break, we played the concert. La Scala has an iconic look

The orchestra had never played at La Scala before. Since we played on the stage and not in the pit, I couldn't get a true view of how the acoustics for an opera performance would have been (that's what the hall was built for), so I'll just say that, from our standpoint, it was an extremely dry acoustic and not an easy place in which to make a beautiful sound. I hope I've missed something here, because it's such a legendary place!  Perhaps the voices come across best.

The concert began at 9:00pm, so with a 7:40 bus departure from the hotel, you could either enjoy a night out in Milan with no sleep or call it an early night. I opted for the latter, knowing that Paris, the next day would be exactly the same kind of tight schedule with a late arrival, rehearsal and concert packed into about 8 hours.

Touring can be glamorous and thrilling, but with a schedule like this and the need to uphold a very high standard of performing excellence, the thrill and glamour seem far away at times.

My daughter would say I have a "First World Problem" when I complain of such things -- a great job, the chance to see a lot of things I wouldn't ordinarily, so I'll stop complaining for now!

Luxembourg -- running and concertizing

Our next stop was Luxembourg. It has a wonderful, modern concert hall -- the Philharmonie. A good acoustic and a feeling of comfort on stage made for a good concert. We have played here often. Here is a good rundown of my experience there in 2011.

Running in Luxembourg is a pleasure. In the center city there is a series of parks that are great for shorter runs. For longer runs with lots of hills, there is the gorge or Grund.

This extremely picturesque area is full of lush greenery, cool streams and medieval ruins. It's easy to get lost down there but, if you're not running for time, it can be stimulating and adventurous.

I used some precious spare time in Luxembourg to get caught up on reed making. As many hotel rooms have poor lighting for this purpose, I try to bring along my Ikea LED lamp. It's flexible and has a USB connection. The adaptor for European outlets is separate.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Brussels -- Beer, chocolate and mussels

The Orchestra's first stop was in Brussels, where we played a concert in the Palais des Beaux Arts -- a beautiful Art Deco temple with rather poor acoustics.

I tried to find a good place for a long run, to continue to battle jet lag. I hit upon the canal that runs through the city, thinking it might be scenic. Perhaps the 45 degree weather and the drizzling rain influenced my impression, but I found the area along the canal to be drab and industrial.

You can't go wrong in Brussels if you like beer, chocolate or food in general, however, so my free time was not a total loss.

I also managed to find a great place for coffee. Aksum is run by two Ethiopians who roast, sell and brew single origin Ethiopian coffee exclusively. I had a really memorable espresso and a good macchiato there.