Greetings from Scandinavia, and Happy New Year!
I’m here in Copenhagen for my first European performances of Shostakovich Concerto No.1 in a couple of years. The conductor this week is Michael Schoenwandt, the director of the Danish Opera, whom I’ve worked with a couple of times before, and the orchestra is a group he founded 20 years ago called Collegium Musicum. The players are orchestral musicians drawn from various Danish orchestras, who come together in their vacations to rehearse and perform, because they enjoy working with one another. Over the years they’ve developed an innate, unified feeling for the music that they play – making them great fun to be with on stage.
The hall we’re playing in is part of an amusement park called the Tivoli Gardens – a quirky, fantastical, elfin wonderland for people of all ages. The park is closed for the winter, but its concert hall, the largest in Copenhagen, is open and active. From my dressing-room window, I can glimpse numerous empty little booths (for playing games and selling trinkets during the summer), in addition to one or two outdoor stages, a mini-train track, and a transplanted California redwood tree. That tree isn’t yet as tall as the gigantic redwoods in its native country, so it hardly gives the mighty, everlasting impression that it is capable of – but in a century or two, it may tower over the rest of Denmark. As far as the hall itself goes, its acoustics are great, and the lobby has many inventive, Tivoli-style features, including a zebra-striped bar, tiled floors, and gold trim around various architectural details. One interesting aspect to the hall is its lighting: only incandescent bulbs are used, no fluorescent or neon ones. The visual effect is warm and inviting.
I’m not at the hall at the moment, though. Instead, I’m in my hotel room several floors above the city, writing this postcard on my computer on the afternoon of the concert day, between our dress rehearsal and my traditional pre-concert nap. I don’t have much new to report to you about Copenhagen since my last visit, because I felt kind of under the weather for the first part of my visit here and mostly stayed indoors. I have discovered, however, (from the tourist literature in my room) that Copenhagen is the biggest city in all of Scandinavia and (from my own experience) that the residents here are still friendly, warm, and welcoming. It’s a very pleasant place to come back to. I can also report that the view from my hotel window has been spectacular all week. I can see to the horizon in three directions, and I have been able to spot a lot of things that I remember from the last time I was here – from conical steeples that rise up perpendicular from the city floor, to big, old brick buildings with brick cornerstones. Not to mention some fairly colorful sunsets. Actually, I finally did get outdoors yesterday to find some dinner, so I got to walk on some ice (the weather is very cold) and see snow firsthand.
Today, I’m mostly looking forward to this evening’s concert. Not only is the orchestra doing a superb job with the Shostakovich, but I may also have the chance to slip into the hall to see the second half of the program, which should be enjoyable. I’ve heard that there will be an accordion soloist after intermission, as well as one of Denmark’s premiere ballerinas – dancing a short excerpt from The Nutcracker, then playing jazz saxophone as soloist with the orchestra. You don’t see that every day!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Welcome to 2002!
Yours from Copenhagen,