Oslo, Norway


Dear Readers,

Well, my fifth recording is now under way. This afternoon I finished recording Shostakovich Concerto No.1 with the Oslo Philharmonic and conductor Marek Janowski. I’d played with the orchestra a couple of years ago, and I’d worked with Marek in Paris, but this was the first time I’d been with him and this orchestra. In another couple of months I’ll return to Oslo to record the Mendelssohn Concerto with the same group, and sometime in the fall of 2002 the Shostakovich/Mendelssohn disc will be released by Sony Classical.

The week was interesting. Winter in Oslo has been pretty mild this year, so even though this was February, it was easy to get out in the town and walk around a bit. I came to town a couple of days early to get over jet lag, so had time to settle in a bit. Even though Oslo is the largest town in Norway, its population isn’t much over 500,000 – so it has the feel of a small city with a large, beautiful harbor. The University of Oslo is only a couple of blocks from downtown, so there are always lots of students to be seen – giving the city a very young, very international feel. The Norweigan language is kind of a mix of German and English in sound, so it’s possible to understand some of it now and then – but it would take careful study to become fluent, no doubt about it. Fortunately (for me), many Norweigans have studied English, so directions and help aren’t hard to find.

As usual, the recording sessions were preceded by rehearsals and a concert. So I arrived on a Sunday, had interviews and my first rehearsal on Tuesday, the concert on Thursday, and recorded on the mornings of Friday and Saturday (today). Tom Frost, the producer for all my recordings, was here from New York; the rest of the crew were an Englishman, a Norweigan living in London, a native of Oslo, and a logistical coordinator from Scotland.

The concert, on Thursday night, was a sell-out, and the audience was very enthusiastic about the Shostakovich. I was glad, because I think it’s one of the truly great concertos, and I’d like to see it become more familiar to audience members. Unfortunately, somebody behind the scenes goofed up, so for one of the first times in months no one had made arrangements for (or announcements about) a post-concert signing, and I found out too late to do anything about it. It felt strange to simply go back to the hotel after the performance – but it did mean that I got more sleep the night before beginning a recording at 9:00 in the morning, and with a piece as demanding as the Shostakovich, that may have helped. (However, when I go back to Oslo in April, there’ll definitely be a signing – so if you missed me this week, please do come back in April.)

After the recording sessions ended, I felt remarkably light and free. I spent the afternoon poking around Oslo, looking in stores, finding places I wanted to return to later. In the early evening I went out to dinner with the Sony crew – recording people have amazing hobbies, I found out – then dashed over to an open-air skating rink in the middle of town, rented some skates, and tried to keep from falling for the thirty minutes or so until the rink closed for the night. You’d think that somebody who danced ballet as much as I did when I was young would be able to keep her balance on skates, but it took longer than I expected to find my center of balance – and shorter than I expected to lose it. By the time the rink closed, I was lightly bruised in all the wrong places, and my black winter coat was black no more!

Then it was up to my room to pack – and, that done, I’m finishing up this postcard at the desk in my room, and soon I’ll be sound asleep. It’s been a wonderful, full, demanding week in Oslo. Time to get back to the States to prepare for my next few weeks of concerts.

Yours from Oslo,

Hilary