Saturday, January 26, 2013
It’s Saturday morning and we are trying to take it easy for a bit following a very, very successful first concert on this tour. We all know that having a very rough anticipation of something can mean that the execution in the end works really well, and I think last night’s concert is a fine example of that!
After a tough week prior to departure, it seems that the trip here and the first days of recovery and preparation have gone very well indeed. Hats off, again, to Li-Kuo Chang, who flew to Taipei on Saturday night last week (rather than Monday with the group) and helped with the first of three press conferences. He and our local publicist, Joanna Lee, represented the CSO together with the Taiwanese presenter, Mr. Niu of MNA. This conference was to announce to the change of conductor and programs and addition of soloists. Mr. Niu and his team have done a masterful job of promoting the new program and performers with the CSO and the press has been extremely supportive.
Once the group arrived, Robert Chen joined with Li-Kuo and Mr. Niu, and now with Rachelle’s help, there was the second press conference on Wednesday. Well, having Robert as our first soloist is a brilliant stroke as he is a true national hero here and the “pride of Taiwan”—he did a great job at the press conference, and was all over the front pages of the papers in the days following.
Osmo Vänskä and I arrived later that day and there was yet another press conference on Thursday morning. Cynthia Yeh joined us for this one, as did the concert sponsors (with Li-Kuo translating) so this, the third press conference, was still well attended and the media very interested in our introductions and comments. It is so charming to see the pride in welcoming and recognizing Taiwanese artists. Osmo Vänskä was very compelling and well received. The resulting media coverage has been overwhelming, in fact.
After Thursday’s press conference we headed off to the National Theater where the brass quintet (Chris Martin, Tage Larsen, Dave Griffin, Michael Mulcahy and Gene Pokorny) performed a Citizen Musician event. It was organized by the American Institute of Taiwan (an arm of the State Department) and in coordination with the Ronald McDonald Charities. The audience was filled with children with long term or significant diseases and their parents. There was a family of three sisters who performed for the quintet and then the CSO musicians performed for the kids. There were lots of visits with children, pictures taken, attempts at playing brass instruments, etc. It was very touching. It was also great to welcome 7 or 8 of our patrons who joined us to share the experience.
Then, we were off to the Taipei American School for a Dream Out Loud event. This was put together by John Hagstrom and with other connections made by Lawrie Bloom. The school has 2700 students, 500 of whom are involved with music. They have 12 music teachers! Lawrie and Yuan-Qing led master classes and Cynthia Yeh and Oto Carrillo did talks and Q&As with students. John had organized for the Dream Out Loud posters to be available so there were lots of signatures given and pictures taken. I was so happy to see Dream Out Loud reaching to Taipei!
Our conductor, as it turns out, is an adventurous eater so we and our friend, Dani Boico, had an exotic dinner at a local Taiwanese restaurant that night. We aren’t sure of everything we ate but it was plentiful and fun. Dani is an old friend of the CSO’s, having been a former apprentice, as well as assistant to Daniel Barenboim. Maestro Muti had invited him to join the tour as an assistant and we felt it wise to keep him on despite the change in conductor because in fact he was Maestro Maazel’s assistant in New York.
So, finally, the music: Yesterday morning we had a full rehearsal for Vänskä to prepare the program, a long one at that. He used up every moment of the 2 1/2 hours making sure everyone had a sense of how he and they would approach the music. The hall is lovely but for the rehearsal it was exceptionally boomy and reverberant. By the time it filled up with people, however it was a lot drier and required more accommodation by the musicians.
The concert itself was one of those exciting experiences because everyone was on the edge of their seat. Sometimes a program that is familiar repertoire with little rehearsal means that the focus and engagement of all the performers is at an even higher level. The orchestra did a great job. Robert Chen performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto as though he had been preparing for this performance for months rather than days. He was so cheered by the audience that he offered an encore. It was very touching to see the reaction from his home country audience. Brahms’s Second Symphony was beautiful as well, and Osmo Vänskä and the orchestra offered a short reprise of the end of the 3rd movement as an encore (we were already in overtime and the audience was demanding! Yet there had been no time to prepare another work). A satisfying evening. I’m sorry Martha and Nick were not here to experience the result of their hard work!
Today we have a late rehearsal to accommodate the arrival of our second soloist, Maxim Vengerov. Now that we have a bit more rhythm I suspect the adrenaline of the short rehearsal time and repertoire may have a bit of a different effect especially since we are adding new artist into the mix. What a way to tour!
Thanks again for all your support to get us on the road.