THE WANDERER'S CHRONICLE
Two mad girls on holiday
The first concert in Bolzano has already been described elsewhere. This Wanderer admits that he was caught unaware and “bowled over”, if the expression be permitted. Although he knows that training youth orchestras is one of Claudio Abbado’s great strengths he was not expecting such technical brillance, such a homogeneous sound nor such depth of feeling.
In Budapest the orchestra hardly managed to squeeze onto the stage although the hall is not that small. Anna Larsson had been taken ill and we were treated “only” to the symphony. This proved to be again extremely shattering and incomparatively tense.
Apart from that the Wanderer was disappointed by Budapest. He had the feeling that it had passed directly from communism to capitalism without having made the detour via culture. Everywhere on the one hand magnificent buildings crumbling down - on the other hand new, luxurious shops belonging mostly to big (American) chains and aimed in particular at tourists.
In Bratislava all was different. Of course, the outskirts of the town are ugly here too, but the historical centre is beautifully restored and everywhere you can see local shops.
Anna Larsson was not in perfect health yet, but she dared to sing and won. Truth to tell, the pleasure was not a hundred percent as you could notice her nervousness as well as her relief when all was over. However compliments to her! Here the stage is bigger (even if the hall is smaller) and the symphony better than ever, even if more and more terrifying.
Due to his interest in history the Wanderer had always wanted to see St. Petersburg, but because he is scared stiff of flying he had never been able to. What better solution than a concert there conducted by Claudio Abbado, the only person capable of making him enter one of these flying machines?!?
The town greeted us in brillant sunshine, blue, cloudless skies, pleasant temperatures and ice floe on the Neva! Glorious! Several friends had warned the Wanderer about security problems in St. Petersburg, but he is careful and feels very much at home in this beautiful city. Although the sun was shining a prolonged visit to the Eremitage was an absolute necessity. The Wanderer also managed to visit the Saint Peter & Paul Fortress, but unluckily hardly anything else...
In the evening the beautiful hall of the Philharmonie was full, Anna Larsson was again in splendid voice and the audience was presented with a rendition of this symphony which left everyone breathless. Luckily, contrary to prior information, many Russians are there too.
Coming from the North of Europe in brillant sunshine the Wanderer of course expected this in Italy too. But unluckily in Milan as well as in Reggio Emilia it rained. Or was it only the weather adapting itself to the emotional state of these two mad girls on holiday as Reggio was their last stop? Once again a Mahler 9th capable of breaking any heart, one last time an incredible silence at the end. But then, after the tension has easened, the traditional throwing of flowers set in. It was the first time on this particular tour, the orchestra seemed pleased and surprised and the Wanderer threw with increasing enthusiasm the flowers which a kind CAI member had prepared for him.
The audiences did not disappoint us. The Wanderer was greatly annoyed in the first half of the Bolzano concert (never had he heard so many programmes fall down!), but here the same as everywhere else by the time the symphony drew to its close everybody was perfectly still and at the end a complete, long and shattering silence reigned. The only mobile phones were heard in St. Petersburg (one during the “Abschied”, one during the symphony).
Gustav Mahler always wanted an orchestra of young, enthusiastic players. Here his wish was fulfilled. The orchestra played to (near) perfection, the sound was surprisingly homogeneous (considering the after all limited number of rehearsals) and they proved to be incredibly mature for their age. As we know, Claudio Abbado is never better than with young people and he was in great form. He was attentive, encouraging, but at the same time concentrated and extemely intense. He had absolute control over everything, but at the same time he let himself be carried away by his emotions. A deep feeling burned in him and these young musicians managed to carry the light.
The Wanderer, as already so often before, is extremely grateful for everything he was able to hear and thanks all participants from the bottom of his heart.