As the CBSO wound up its longest-ever European engagement with performances in Stuttgart and Luxembourg, Fellowship Conductor Alpesh Chauhan presents the sixth and final instalment of his tour diary.
Day 11 – Sunday, March 30th (Stuttgart)
Stuttgart was a strange looking hall, not symmetrical at all (as is usually the case for concert hall stages) and more of a conference centre where great concerts also take place. In rehearsal CBSO Musical Director Andris Nelsons asked me to conduct fifteen minutes of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet while he sat listening and adjusting things by addressing the orchestra from the auditorium. Following this there were the usual quick corners of the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto.However, Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto from Don Juan wasn’t rehearsed as Andris seemed pleased with how it was going and felt safe to leave it until the concert.
The concert went well: the last outing on this tour of the Don Juan was very, very exciting. Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter’s performance had even more people on their feet whilst Andris still found new moments in the Prokofiev, waking up and inspiring any members of the orchestra who may have been feeling tired at this late stage of the tour.
Following Stuttgart we undertook a five and a half hour journey to our final destination on this tour, Luxembourg. Andris travels between all of the venues by car, his driver ensuring that he always arrives in good time for rehearsals. It can be exhausting for Andris: the orchestra normally tours only a couple of times per year, but touring is something of a lifestyle for Andris and he rarely finds himself in the same country for more than a week or two at a time. Having his own driver ensures that he is relaxed and ready to go for every rehearsal and each concert.
The orchestra, meanwhile, travel either via train or coach, but of course flew from and to the United Kingdom at the start and end of this tour. The instruments travel by lorry and regular Birmingham concert-goers will often have seen the CBSO truck parked in the Symphony Hall loading bay on concert nights. When on tour, the CBSO’s stage and platform crew drive the truck between venues; this makes it much easier for players to travel from city to city or country to country without additional items to carry and store on public transport.Day 12 – Monday, March 31st (Luxembourg)
Luxembourg reminded me of a scene from Star Trek! The buildings around the concert hall are all architecturally intriguing; amazing, huge, statement buildings. The Philharmonie is a particularly stunning building from outside with its slim, white pillars encasing the hall. Inside, the hall is a normal ‘shoe-box’ design, nicely resonant but also very bright with the percussion sounding particularly high and bright.
The programme was short; great for the players on the last of fifteen concerts. The first half featured just the Violin Concerto from Don Juan leaving Stravinsky’s Petrouchka for after the interval. The hall gave a crystalline clarity to everything due to its brightness, meaning that soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter resounded over the orchestra straight to the hearts of the audience. Petrouchka was fabulous – probably the best rendition of those I’ve witnessed on this tour and even better than when the orchestra were performing it regularly in Birmingham earlier this year.
The following day, April 1st, the orchestra left for home in two groups: Group A at 10am for a flight to Heathrow and then a coach to Birmingham, and Group B (which included me) at 11am for a flight direct to Birmingham. Unfortunately, the first group’s flight was delayed by two hours so the second group caught up with them at Luxembourg airport – a chance for everyone to say “Au Revoir!” for the second time. And with that, home!
It has been a fascinating, enjoyable and tiring experience for my first ever tour with the CBSO – and I wasn’t even there for the full length of the tour!