Thursday, September 6, 2012


Our next stop was Stuttgart.  We had a beautiful train ride here from Lucerne -- through the Alps and into Southwestern Germany in the region of Baden-Württemberg. 

Our program that night was all-Smetana -- the six movements of Ma Vlast.  Since the Smetana pieces only call for two bassoons, I had the evening off.  After checking in to make sure no one had eaten a rancid bratwurst or tripped and fell on a cobblestone path, I headed out for a nice dinner.

As an assistant principal player, touring can be a mix of activities.  You can have a work load that is a bit lighter than some of the other musicians, but you can also be called upon at the last minute to step in and play a part you weren't assigned in a very high-pressure situation.

Thus, I always understudy all principal bassoon parts for tour repertoire and keep my practicing and reed making up in the event that something happens.  And it has from time to time. . .

In this case, nothing went awry and I had some extra time to see the city.

Stuttgart is a city of contrasts.  It is a big automobile manufacturing center with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in town.  Some of our members went to the auto museums while there.  However, it also has an impressive palace, opera house and theater in its middle along with a huge park.

The Schlosspark has several miles of paved paths for running.  I was able to take advantage of these and shake out the travel-induced lethargy in my legs here.

The city also has a large pedestrian shopping zone on the Königstrasse and the Kronprinzstrasse.

However, perhaps my most memorable experience in Stuttgart was the discovery of the Hoppenlau cemetery just a few steps away from our hotel.  Along with many Christian burial sites there was a walled-off section of Jewish graves with headstones.

Most remarkable was the fact that this Jewish cemetery dated from the 19th century and that there were no new burials in there since 1888.  The masonry was weathered and some inscriptions worn away. This was not a renovated cemetery. It had survived the Nazi period intact!  I mentioned the cemetery to another orchestra member who is Israeli and he expressed interest in seeing it.

He, too was surprised that it had survived.  He noted the pebbles and small stones that people had put on many of the headstones (a Jewish custom).  All of the headstones face east (towards Jerusalem).  He noted the Hebrew on the headstones contained a word order and syntax that is not standard today.

Born in Israel, he had never seen Jewish graves older than 1948!

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Stees,

    Can you elaborate on any times in which you've had to step in last-minute for any high pressure situations, such as you've alluded? I imagine you may have some fun stories along those lines.