Greetings PSO fans and European Tour 2012 followers! It is my pleasure to send news from Madrid, Spain this evening, Saturday, October 27th. Last night in the National Symphonic Hall, we heard the Dvorak Symphony No. 9, with its distinctly American-sounding themes, the Sibelius Concerto for Violin, Op. 47, with Nikolaj Znaider, solo violin, and the European premiere of “Silent Spring”, with composer Steven Stucky attending. This modern but very appealing concert hall in Madrid provided marvelous acoustics, and each of the selections were very well received. Mr. Stucky, Mr. Znaider, Maestro Honeck and the PSO received warm, exuberant ovations, and the orchestra performed one of Dvorak’s ‘Slovanic Dances’ as a lively encore (I’m sorry, I do not know which one!).
I am enjoying my third visit to Europe as a follower of the PSO on a portion of the current schedule of performances. For some years, I performed with the PSO as a bass-baritone with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, with many memorable concerts under the direction of leading conductors. A highlight of my Heinz Hall performing days was singing the Mahler Symphony No. 2,”The Resurrection”, way back in 1988, with Zdenek Macal conducting, and with the late Mimi Lerner, contralto, and Barbara Pearson, soprano. The Mendelssohn Choir was expertly prepared for those performances by the great Robert Page.
Preceding the concert last night in Madrid, with a small group of PSO supporters from Pittsburgh, I heard the Mahler 2 Thursday evening in Barcelona’s outrageously Art Nouveau concert hall, Palau de la Musica Catalana. Interested persons should Google this building for images, since the ornate plasterwork, stained glass, and ghostly busts of muses emerging from the walls practically defy description! The hall was beautiful and relatively small, so we had a unique opportunity to hear the Mahler 2 in a very intimate space. The Mahler 2 was admirably supported in the final movement by the singers of the Cor de Cambra del Palau de la Musica Catalana. As in Pittsburgh, the 4th movement, “Urlicht” was astonishingly delivered by German contralto Gerhild Romberger. American soprano Laura Claycomb joined the PSO for the Barcelona performance and contributed beautifully. Pittsburgh Opera audiences will remember hearing Miss Claycomb rather recently.
Hearing the Mahler in a small auditorium was exceptionally pleasing, especially after touring Barcelona, a rather intimate city for its size. Barcelona has a French feel, with plentiful Art Nouveau architecture and noted Gaudi creations, abundant contemporary public sculpture, and Parisian-style avenues. Barcelona is a cityscape of mansard roofs & iron balconies, sycamore lined streets, some palm trees as well, and zippy mopeds. Its location on the Mediterranean allows for scenic beaches and a relaxing atmosphere, even in late October.
I have toured many foreign countries, including Japan and Australia, but I am one lucky fellow to get to visit Spain for the first time and to hear the PSO performing impressively for new audiences. I hope others will investigate future tours and consider cheering for our family of fine musicians while enjoying exciting vacation destinations! If I may add, happily, this tour provides a nice break from the excessive, rather accusatory political campaigning back home; I made my mind up quite a while ago, so I don’t require further prompting! Tomorrow will bring another full day of sight-seeing and very tired feet in Madrid. Don’t you wish you were here too?
Expect more chatty news from this proud PSO supporter in a few days from Vienna, after a few days of independent travel to Salzburg. For additional informative updates, tune in to WQED-FM for reports from Jim Cunningham.