Gothenberg, Sweden

Dear Readers,

Another first!

This afternoon in Gothenberg, as I was doing some final stretches in my dressing room before a matinee concert with the Gothenberg Symphony, one of the orchestra administrators came in and told me that something terrible had happened. Some important power equipment had broken on stage, with the result that the risers that the symphony chorus was supposed to sit on were locked halfway up and could be neither raised nor lowered. The program had two pieces on it that required a full choir – one piece by Brahms and one by William Walton – but with the risers locked in half-position, there was no room on stage for the choir. So most of the program was having to be cancelled, and the vocal soloists would be sent home without singing.

Meanwhile, the hall was completely sold out, the audience was waiting, and the only piece left on the program that could still be performed was my piece – the Mendelssohn violin concerto. Since the Mendelssohn would last only about half an hour, he asked if I would mind playing an extra piece or two after the Mendelssohn to give the audience something a little extra to allay their disappointment. So I did: after the Mendelssohn, I played three movements of solo Bach (the Gavotte, Gigue, and Louree from Partita 3). It’s so strange: I’ve been playing concertos with orchestras for eleven years now, and not until a week ago, in Rome, did an orchestra ask me to play two encores for the first time. Today I did three. I don’t expect to do four next week (if ever) – but who knows?

It has been a lot of fun here in Gothenberg. The town is built on a slope near the sea in western Sweden, far from Stockholm – but nearly 700,000 people live here, and the Volvo automobile company (which strongly supports the orchestra) has its headquarters in Gothenberg. There are a lot of stores and large apartment buildings downtown, so it feels like a real city, without the hectic pace of a major city. The people are friendly without overdoing it, and I instantly felt very much at home. Maybe part of the reason is that, with my skin type and eye color and height and type of hair, I find that there are a lot of women here who look a lot like me. The strange thing is that I have no Swedes in my family background – I’m mixed German and English and Scotch-Irish, as far as I know. Yet somehow my motley background averages out to make me resemble a brown-haired Swede. Or maybe it was that centuries ago the Swedes were industrious about invading and populating England and Germany, and there is more Swedish in my forebears than I knew.

Whatever the case, I’ve felt much at home here. The conductor for my concerts was Alexander Lazarev, with whom I have worked before. The Koncerthaus (“Concert House”) here is a large brick rectangle on the outside, sheltering a very advanced, all-wood, absolutely cornerless concert hall – with excellent acoustics – inside. A man from a local record store handled the signings after I played and he was really good at it (today he even brought his son to help guide the crowd) – so everything went very smoothly. I got to meet a lot of adults and kids, and it would be fun to come back here sometime.

For now, though, it is time to put away the computer, pack my suitcase, then listen to some more edits of the Shostakovich recording. Tomorrow I’ll be off to Oslo to record the Mendelssohn concerto with the Oslo Philharmonic and my friend Hugh Wolff. Hugh did a terrific job with the Barber and Meyer recording a couple of years ago, and I’m looking forward to recording with him again: he’s got a good mix of enthusiasm, high standards, and friendly efficiency. I’ll write next from Oslo, to report how the sessions went.

Yours from Gothenberg,