Wednesday, January 30, 2013
My apologies for the delay in writing. I have tried to sit down several times to update you, but the schedule has been so jam-packed that I haven’t had enough time to craft a communication. I’m captive now, on a flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai — perfect time for some reflection on the last few days.
The second day of rehearsal and concert in Taipei was exciting. We had been monitoring the travel of our soloist, Maxim Vengerov, since he was scheduled to arrive from Moscow midday, prior to the rehearsal for the evening’s concert. I admit to a sense of great relief when I received the text message saying, “He’s here. We are getting in the car and coming to the hall”. The rehearsal had already begun, and our conductor Osmo Vänskä, had led the orchestra in the pieces by Verdi and Beethoven, and even a run through of an encore, before the break. Fortunately, he and Vengerov hit it off and the rest of the rehearsal was magical with a dramatic rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
Because the rehearsal was in the last afternoon to accommodate Vengerov’s flight from Moscow (via Shanghai!), we had some food delivered for the Orchestra. There were just two hours between rehearsal end and concert start, which didn’t allow for time to return to the hotel and a meal. So there were Subway sandwiches (!), chips, noodle soup, dumplings and chicken and rice for all. The musicians were game and people were eating standing up using trunks as tables, sitting jammed together on the few couches or sitting on the floor. Communal living at its best.
At 8 pm the house was filled with expectant patrons and the CSO launched into its second program. Again, the concert was exciting for the sheer nerve and professionalism of our Orchestra and the quality of engagement between audience and performers. Vengerov won showers of applause from the audience and Orchestra alike and offered an encore of Bach. Beethoven followed and the second concert was beautifully received.
CSO patrons and musicians gathered formally and informally in the hotel bar for some post-concert chatter and lots of relieved sips of champagne. Li-Kuo Chang introduced me and Maestro Vänskä to a good friend and fellow music lover and we celebrated with our presenter, Mr. Niu.
As you all know, getting those two programs put together for Taipei was a big project and I confess it was wonderful to celebrate with Li-Kuo and Mr. Niu.
The next day we were off to Hong Kong! We had such a good time in Hong Kong four years ago we were really excited to be returning there. The hotel sits on Victoria Harbor and at this time of year, the buildings are all lit up for Chinese New Year. It is really beautiful. We arrived in time for some of us to head directly to the home of Bill and Sandy Strong. For those of you who are new, Bill was our board chair for 6 years and left Chicago in 2011 to take over Morgan Stanley in Asia, based in Hong Kong. The patrons and a dozen musicians piled in to the Strong home for a lovely reception and enjoyed the company and great view.
Again we had begun monitoring flights and knew that Martha, who had flown to New York to hear the NY Philharmonic and meet our next maestro, Lorin Maazel had taken off from JFK for Seoul. The next phase of our tour had officially begun!
The next day was a sunny, warm day in Hong Kong and with the news that the connections in Seoul had worked we were beginning to really believe that all the crazy logistics of this tour would work. By 1 pm we met Martha and (excuse us Martha, but more importantly) Lorin Maazel straight from the airport to the loading dock at the Hong Kong Cultural Center. Hooray!!
Maestro Maazel is an incredibly adept musician and the reuniting of this distinguished conductor and the CSO was something to behold. They worked through the first program and an encore in 2 hours and 15 minutes, thus allowing everyone a few hours to rest before the evening concert. A warm and gracious audience gave our musicians and guest conductor the welcome they were due and in return the concert was special. Two encores made a raucous crowd VERY happy!
The next day I was the guest speaker at a program launched by the Hong Kong Arts Festival to hear guest arts administrators discuss issues pertinent to cultural organizations today. I was honored to address 100 patrons of the festival and talked about our strategies for programmatic and musical engagement, collaboration and of course, Citizen Musician
Today was travel day. A few of us travelled to Guangzhou to explore potential collaborations with that orchestra and city while the bulk of our party travelled directly to Shanghai. I had really no idea of what to expect of Guangzhou which is primarily a city of manufacturing and business. It is really lovely and has great musical and cultural facilities. We might have some interesting work to do here. Of course, most Westerners know this area as Canton. We had a memorable meal with our Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra counterparts eating….Cantonese food! Li-Kuo and I travelled quickly to Shanghai that night as we have a press conference tomorrow morning. Martha, Vanessa, Charlie and Rob Kassinger remain in Guangzhou tonight to see what the place is like away from the music world.
More soon. Lots and lots of meetings and connections to make. We have ITW here for sponsorship of the concert as well as World Business Chicago and Choose Chicago, and Bank of America of course as well! The business aspect of our work in China is very active.
I hope all is well in Chicago. We have gone from warm, balmy weather now to the cold. More like home.