Hong Kong

Dear Readers,

Greetings from Hong Kong, at the end of my second visit! I’m writing this entry in, as usual, the airport. My flight to New Zealand has been delayed, so I’m stranded for the time being, giving me some time to type this update. When boarding is announced, however, I may have to put an abrupt end to this communication. With no further ado, here goes:

This is just the start of a two-month tour, yet the whirlwind has already begun. Since this is going to be such a long tour and it’s impossible to know at the outset how I’ll weather it, I decided to lengthen my home-time as much as possible before taking off. As a result, I arrived here just in time for rehearsals to begin, which was five days ago.

First, I met with this week’s conductor, a German who has made his home in America for years, Gunter Herbig. We went over the concerto, Paganini’s First, sorting out tempi, rubati, and our general approach, as well as little details. The next step, logically, was to go through everything with the orchestra – hence the usual first rehearsal. Then, to make sure all was in order, we had our dress rehearsal (known in Europe as a “general rehearsal”). Finally, the two concerts took place as scheduled. They went well. It was all fairly straightforward.

There were, on the other hand, several things out of the ordinary. Most noticeable to an outside observer would have been the German camera crew which followed me around for part of each day. The hours of footage they captured here in Hong Kong will be whittled down and included in a larger documentary about me which is supposed to air on Arte and/or other major European television channels at the end of 2004. In the course of the past few days, they filmed me being interviewed by the director (he himself stayed out of the picture); walking down streets, across parks and open spaces; shopping; visiting a huge, slightly touristy Buddhist temple; watching an evening fireworks display at the harbor; rehearsing; making my way to the hall, violin and concert dress in hand; warming up; performing; getting on and off stage; and chatting with people at the signing after the last concert. Any time they filmed me in public, especially when the cameraman ran circles around me to catch different angles as I walked, heads would turn and people would murmur to each other as we passed. Children wanted to investigate; adults would squirm away. It was a little bit strange for me; I’m a relatively private person, not at all interested in sticking out! But I survived. The crew seemed satisfied with the footage they got: this city was a change of pace, an exotic locale for an American violinist, so I’m sure it’ll be a nice addition to the documentary.

The second unusual occurrence this week – one which would be less obvious to the everyday observer – is that I had the chance to reunite with a certain number of musicians I’ve known since student days. Of the many wonderful musicians in the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the concertmaster, a section first-violinist, and a violist went to the Curtis Institute of Music with me. I hadn’t seen any of them for quite a while. After one of the concerts, they gathered some friends together, and we all went out for a terrific feast at a Szechuan restaurant in the city’s Times Square district. Conversation was boisterous, gossip and teasing were on the menu, and I felt like I was back in school again.

Another memorable meal took place this week: a most delicious Japanese lunch, provided by one of the orchestra’s board members, whose husband owns that restaurant. It was a smaller gathering, involving me, the conductor, his wife, and our hostess. I must have stuffed myself to capacity, because I couldn’t eat another bite for at least 15 hours afterwards!

My last unplanned activity of the week was the continuation of a project I’ve been engaged in for the past few months: the editing of my upcoming CD, Elgar’s Violin Concerto and Vaughan-Williams’s The Lark Ascending. We’re nearing the end of this stage of work. Once we finish the music work and the booklet layout, it’ll be time for the first round of pre-release publicity to begin.

As you can probably imagine, I’m a little bit tired. I did take a Tai Chi class this morning and got a relaxing massage at the hotel spa this afternoon, so part of my current lack of energy may be a result of exercise and luxurious treatment. If this plane to New Zealand takes off at a reasonable time, and I can catch some sleep on the way, I’ll feel refreshed soon enough.

Yours from Hong Kong,