Winterthur, Switzerland


Dear Readers,

This has been an international week. I arrived from Indianapolis on Monday, rehearsed and performed twice with an orchestra in Winterthur (Switzerland), then gave a concert in Austria, in a small city named Dornbirn, close to the border. Now I’m back in Winterthur, packing my things to go to London tomorrow. Since distances are smaller in Europe than they are in the United States, the travel has not been as strenuous as it might seem; international trips here equal interstate distances at home. I am, however, slightly tired from three Elgar concerto performances on consecutive evenings. Clocking in at 50 minutes, that piece can take the stuffing out of any performer.

But not only were there three concerts – unusual for a European engagement, which would normally end after the second performance – there were also three rehearsals. I was a little jetlagged, so the rehearsals passed in a slight haze. The first day, between the first two rehearsals (it was a double-rehearsal day), there was some misunderstanding between the orchestra and conductor Kees Bakels; the musicians wound up standing up and walking out, for some reason I missed, and Kees and I were left at the front of the stage, wondering what had just happened. Some musicians stayed behind, commenting on the situation and gesturing accordingly; the players said some bizarre things in the course of the discussion. Nevertheless, at the end of the lunch break, work continued in a nearly normal fashion; by the third rehearsal, which took place the morning of the first concert, everything was fine. The performances went well, too. Since I’m preparing to record this concerto in London next week, I tried something different in my interpretation every evening, in order to solidify my ideas about the concerto and to remind myself – one last time – of what works musically and what doesn’t.

There was more to this week than Elgar, though. The internet connection in my hotel room this week wasn’t working, so I wound up walking to an internet kiosk in the lobby of the concert hall to take care of my business correspondence. That brought me outside at various times of the day. Switzerland was exactly as I’d remembered: clean, pleasant, and green. This country is nicely polished as a collector’s coin – shiny, buffed-up, not a fingerprint to be found. Even the people have an exfoliated glow about them. As far as I can tell, the lifestyle is a healthy one: many residents bicycle back and forth to work and home, the air is clear, and the food is good. In public parks in this city, each tree wears a dog-tag like a badge of honor, and all are well-maintained. Plant life this time of year is prolific, though the temperature is a little too cool for barefoot walks in nature.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, my next trip is to London tomorrow – where it’s too grimy outdoors to walk anywhere barefoot – for the final countdown to the recording sessions. I’ll write next from there.

Yours from Switzerland,

Hilary