Hamburg, Germany

Dear Readers,

Grusse aus Hamburg!

That’s right, I’m back in Germany! It’s been a few months since I finished my European recital tour, and now I’ve returned for some concerto engagements – three in all. I’ve already completed one and am one concert away from wrapping up the second.

From Liege last week, I traveled to Berlin to give a performance of the Korngold concerto with the Deutsches Symphonieorchester and conductor Kent Nagano; now I’m in Hamburg, for three more Korngolds with the NDR (that’s NordDeutscheRundfunk) Symphonieorchester, led by Jiri Belohlavek.

My days in Berlin were chaotic, to say the least. I don’t remember much about them aside from the rehearsals and concert. That could be because, again, I spent many hours lying in bed, in an attempt to kick this cold – I’d contracted a persistent cough, runny nose, and croaky voice, and my temperature rose from time to time, though I didn’t feel chilled. Mainly, my joints and muscles ached, and my heart rate spiked at the smallest effort. But that’s ok: I needed the rest, and sometimes the only way I remember to get it is if I feel crummy.

I did manage to squeeze a lot into my time in Berlin, though. Practice, two rehearsals, an interview, a concert, a CD-signing, and a day of filming for a long-term documentary (to be completed in the fall) – all in two-and-a-half days!

After that, it was a tight turnaround to Hamburg: the moment I finished packing up my concert things in Berlin that night, I was in a car on the Autobahn. I had a rehearsal in Hamburg the next day, for which I wanted to be rested and warmed up, so it worked out well to travel that night. We made good time, going up to 220 km per hour, and we arrived sometime between 2 and 3am – I don’t remember exactly when, because I slept for a lot of the trip.

Before rehearsal the next day, I found out that the Korngold was unfamiliar to the orchestra here in Hamburg. That was no big surprise: it had been 22 years since the Luxembourg orchestra had played it last, and 20 years since the DSO Berlin had performed it. What was different in this case was the conductor’s track record with the work. Bramwell had a lot of experience with the Korngold; Kent had learned it once before; but it was new to Jiri. Nonetheless, he had studied it thoroughly and knew it quite well. With his, the orchestra’s, and my combined efforts – and some solid work – it was good to go.

It’s nice to have as many rehearsals as we’ve had here in Hamburg. On the first day, I met with Jiri, and then we used a good chunk of time to work it through with the orchestra. On the second day, we rehearsed before the run-out concert in Bremen (the same city as is featured in the folk tale “The Bremen Town Musicians”). Because it took about an hour to get to Bremen from Hamburg, and we wanted to get a feel for that hall before performing in it, we did something slightly out of the ordinary: we bumped the rehearsal from a typical morning start time to a couple of hours before the concert. It was a little tiring to play that much right before a performance, but it turned out okay. Then, before this morning’s 11 o’clock show, we had another sound-check: we’d already rehearsed in this hall, but the orchestra wanted to reacquaint themselves with its acoustics. And, before tomorrow’s evening performance, we’ll have one more sound-check. That’s not the norm, but it demonstrates a sense of responsibility on the orchestra’s part, and I don’t mind in the least. No matter how well we know the music or how experienced we might be, if we’re well prepared and have worked together thoroughly, we’ll know we’re giving our best to the audience. That’s a satisfying feeling.

Since tomorrow is another concert day, I’m going to sign off now so that I can get a good night’s sleep. My last stop on this German tour – and my last German engagement of this season – will be in Cologne. I’ll write next from there.

Yours from Hamburg,