Paul Edmund-Davies' Blog
19Feb/15

And no lycra!

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29Jan/15

Basel

With the final Beethoven 5 out of the way in Essen, the smaller Mozart and Bach orchestra heads off on the train to Basel for the last concert of the tour. Looking out of my hotel window first thing in the morning, I see heavy flakes of snow falling from the skies. There is every chance that things may not go exactly according to plan today…………….and they don’t! Whilst those making their way to Basel have to endure very minor delays on the trains, those returning to the UK are not quite so fortunate. The snow in Germany has grounded all flights out of Dusseldorf and instead of arriving back in the UK at the scheduled time of 11.30, they finally arrive back in London Heathrow at 16.30, some five hours later. Not the best way to round off the tour!

As it turns out, our two train journeys to Basel, do not pass completely without incident. On the first train a member of the orchestra manages to lose his wallet. Thankfully this is reported, found and returned. The second incident is somewhat more bizarre!  On arriving at the final destination of Basel, it is discovered that one of our suitcases is missing. In fact it is still on the station platform at Karlsruhe, some three stops away. For some reason, carriage number 6, which we all should have been seated in, had been dropped from the service, meaning that 40 passengers had nowhere to sit in an already busy train. As a result, most of our suitcases were scattered throughout the corridors of the train. Clearly, one of our suitcases was obstructing the exit for a passenger alighting at Karlsruhe, who in a great moment of wisdom (warmth and generosity?) opted to push the suitcase onto the platform and leave it there! Fortunately the suitcase was also later reunited with its owner in Basel.

To pass the time, a group resort to some serious card playing!

We are staying in the Best Western Hotel Stucki, which has a shopping mall next door to it. Away from the centre, the area consists mostly of offices. The hotel is modern (so modern in fact that some of the rooms are still being built on my floor!) and comfortable, but once again the whole building has an air of 'business stop' to it.

It is seriously cold outside, so I use my free time to catch up on emails and editing.

The centre of Basel is a rather fine mix of old and new, the concert hall being on the older side. Trams regularly run along the middle of the streets, adding an ‘old world’ charm to the place.On the other side of the road to the concert hall there are museums and a small water attraction, featuring the animated works of Jean Tinguely.

Many years ago, there was a large exhibition of his works in London and I remember being spellbound by these creations, which moved in quirky ways, but for no real purpose whatsoever!

On my phone I took a short video of these elegant creatures in action!

Just click below

Tinguely short film

The concert hall itself is what is often referred to as a shoe box shape, with a balcony that goes all the way around the room.

There are so many halls like this around the world and they all give warmth and clarity to an orchestra. Once again though, this hall is muddy and undefined without an audience, but turns into a wonderful acoustic in the concert, which is sold out and well received.

This is the final concert of the tour and tomorrow, I will once again be back in London. I very much hope that you have enjoyed going on the journey with me.

Thanks to the English Center Basel for the final photograph!

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28Jan/15

Essen

Another truly professional January day! We are traveling on a coach (4 hours 30 minutes) to our next destination, Essen. Outside temperatures are hovering just above freezing and on the motorway, all oncoming cars have their lights on. There is no break whatsoever in the blanket of low, dark cloud. This is truly hibernating weather!

En route there are numerous wind turbines and fields ‘planted’ with solar panels. If as a result of all the complicated rules imposed on them, farmers are unable to sell their conventional crops, why not allocate fields to something that will at least provide income? Not sure that this is exactly the answer to world poverty, but at least we can keep the lights on and stay warm whilst we all think and talk about it!

The orchestra is staying at the Intercity Hotel Essen, which is clean, central and lacking in any form of charm.

The concert hall is superb. Inside it looks quite similar to the hall in Birmingham.

Outside, on the wall of the hall is a large poster advertising forthcoming concerts given by Jordi Savall, the musician and viola da gamba player. If you aren’t aware of this man and his music making, try to listen to his performances of Rameau. He brings new life to music that has often been over intellectualized. His style of music making can only bring a smile to your face. I am a great fan!

We are by far and away the most expensive concert in January/February in this hall. Whilst most events appear to have a starting ticket price of 15 euros, tonight’s lowest ticket price is a whopping 62 euros, rising to 90 euros for the best seats. Bringing a group of freelance musicians from the UK to Germany is a very expensive business. If we were all on contract (on salaries), the promoter would not need to pay fees on top of all the other touring costs.

Even at these prices, the hall is virtually sold out and once again there is a standing ovation for an electric performance of Beethoven 5.

And now a note for flute players out there! Tonight is the final performance of Bruch, Scottish Fantasy, and until this trip, I had never played it. In the second, ‘allegro’ movement, there is a duet between the solo violin and flute. The notes aren’t difficult, but due to distance, ensemble is close to a nightmare! I found the best way to get this section as tight as possible was simply to play quietly (after all, it is a violin work and not a flute solo!). In this way, you can keep an ear on the soloist and respond to small accel and rall moments. It is still quite a bit of a rollercoaster ride!

Tomorrow, the final stop of the tour, Basel.

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