B like Burghof

The last concert of our UK tour took place just north of the Swiss border – in Lörrach, Germany.  On the program were works of Busoni, Mozart, and Beethoven, in a last burst of brilliance like the autumn foliage. There was a difference, however: the concert was led by Erik Nielsen, principal conductor of the Basel opera, and a deeply respected colleague. It was interesting to observe the subtle alterations which manifested themselves during the course of the evening: here a slightly slower tempo, there a dynamic nuance. I think that, because we now know these works so well, there was an astonishing interaction between the orchestra and the conductor. Of course Erik made an imprint on our performance, which was a further heightening of those already achieved. But we, too, felt secure enough to continue to explore and exploit the written instructions on the pages, making the music alive with color and vitality.  The concert at the Burghof was a compilation of  experience and a deeply felt ambition. We are now used to playing well, then  even better, and that feels great. My feeling is that our communal spirit received an enormous boost during the UK tour. We’ve deepened our capacity to adapt to new halls, acoustics, and infrastructures, and to make these factors work for us.  The Sinfonieorchester Basel’s motivation is enormous – we want to play well and make music. This is the best souvenir I can think of.  Our next concerts will take place in Basel, with Ivor leading us in Berlioz’s „Romeo et Juliette“, and later in Baden-Baden with works of Elgar and Beethoven.  It will be exciting to explore our limits, and to possibly break through them with new achievements.

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Mischief Managed!

Our 2017 UK tour  is now history. The orchestra returned safely, the truck with our instruments and clothing as well. Little is left to remind  us of where we’ve spent the last week but the physical and emotional souvenirs of a time spent happily and busily  together. And without missing a beat our musical lives in Basel go on: after our arrival at two in the afternoon, we didn’t have much time to waste before the seven-thirty rehearsal of „La Traviata.“  I believe one could say that we’ve earned our keep. In any case, we have rendered the reputation of Basel invaluable services. Reading the reviews and watching some of the video journals of this tour, I’ve observed that a commom thread is, „we’ve never heard of this orchestra before, but it is a wonderful surprise.“ Dear friends from our concerts, you are heartily encouraged to come to Basel and hear us in our multifacetted activities – I think you’ll be amazed at the beauty and and diversity of the city that is our home.

So now it’s time to close this magical map of an enchanted time. I’ve enjoyed sharing it and thank you for your support and continued interest in our endeavors. Mischief managed!

Bravour in Birmingham

I have fallen in love again, and Birmingham is the object of my affections.  Without this tour, I may never have made acquaintance with this vibrant and dynamic city.  Birmingham has learned to distinguish itself with bold and beautiful architecture, daring plans for the future, and a quality of life which may not have its equal in the UK. And,  to be atypically forthright, this is perhaps the city where I might see myself in another  life.  Having said that, it’s time to slowly take leave of this extraordinary tour. After our last and very well-received concert in Town Hall,  we celebrated a job well done with a drink in the hotel bar, once again offered to us by Barbara, the president of our board of directors. Barbara is a staunch and loyal  supporter and an amazingly positive  and present participant in our life as an orchestra.  No effort is too much for her, from distributing hotel room keys to leading negotiations for funding to supporting our wonderful principal conductor. Thank you, Barbara, for  all you give to us, and for your belief in our future.   Apropos future: my alarm is set for  4.50 (heaven help me), the hotel is kind enough to offer us breakfast as of 5.30. How can anything go wrong? Let’s hope that neither my alarm nor my courage fails me.

Last Stop Birmingham

We just arrived in Birmingham and have checked into our last hotel of the tour („So posh,“ my friend would say). It’s hardly worth unpacking as we’ll be leaving these comfy premises in about 18 hours. So there’s no time to waste. I shall make a beeline to the central library, a thing of beauty and one which I’ve longed to visit since its opening just a few years ago.  Needless to say, there’s no paucity of musical excellence here: just think „City of Birmingham Symphony“ and you’ll understand that the benchmark is very, very high. If I could apply the high incidence of distinguished orchestras in the UK to Swiss demographics, I’d say that there would be a major orchestra in each and every canton, with a few orchestras left to spare. It’s mind-boggling, really.  There is the absolute and undeniable need and desire to maintain these fine institutions here, even in times of great financial pressure. It proves to me that culture not only gives identity, it is identity.   It makes me very proud to be here, representing a city of learning, culture, and enterprise.

Reach for the Stars

Manchester’s wealthy industrial past has given place to an equally wealthy cultural present. Solid evidence of this achievement can be seen in the form of the Bridgewater Hall, rising loftily from the waters of the canals which once helped made this city’s fortunes. I have to admit, once more, to some trepidation as to playing there. Not only is the hall so built that every sound rises and floats upon the air, making every little acoustic smudge a mortal sin (I felt quite naked up there, to be honest), the audiences are used to hearing excellent musicians and performances of first quality. I don’t underestimate the Mancunian  discernment and was a bit on edge. But, guess what? Even without a magic wand -or any wand at all- our „local boy“ Ivor ( and he is rather proud to say it, I think) worked his magic on all. The concert in Manchester was a triumph in every way. My feeling is that both sides of the stage were uplifted by unencumbered, liberating musicality. No showing off, no putting on airs, just honest and clear beauty spoke her truth to us from the heart. Her hearers understood and praised the message. Tonight we’ll hope that our magic spell is renewed in Birmingham for the last concert of this amazing tour. The sky’s the limit!