The final concert of our 2012 European Residency Tour was in Luxembourg. I arrived in the late afternoon before the concert with some orchestra colleagues. I hailed a taxi at the train station, and the taxi driver immediately recognized us as musicians from our instrument cases. I struck up a conversation with the driver after establishing a common language (German) from the many which he spoke (French, German, Luxembourgish, and Spanish but no English) and the not so many that I speak (English and German). It turned out he played the clarinet, and used to concertize in South America. He told me a bit about the concert hall where we would play and about the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.

After dropping our things at Le Royal Luxembourg, our hotel for the evening, I got a bite to eat before heading to the concert hall. The Philharmonie Luxembourg is a futuristic hall that was opened in 2005. Designed by Christian de Portzamparc, the hall stands on its own, a white oval shape that is pinched to a point on one end. The most prominent feature outside are the hundreds of white steel columns (823 to be exact) that form the exterior of the building, arranged three or four rows deep. These columns envelop the nucleus of the structure, where the concert halls lie.

Inside the grand auditorium, the striking feature to me were the boxes and the organ. The hall has a rectangular shape, with most of the seats extended back and up in front of the stage. But there are 8 towers where the box seats are. These, like the organ are made of wood. The photo below shows some of the boxes that line the side of the hall.

Our final program of the tour was Steven Stucky’s Silent Spring, Sibelius Violin Concerto with Nikolaj Znaider, and Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony.

It has been a real pleasure to work with Nikolaj Znaider on this tour. He is a fabulous violinist, as well as a very nice guy. I was thrilled when he agreed to join the 1st violin section for the Dvorak Symphony in Frankfurt. He sat in the back, and seemed quite surprised when Maestro Honeck gave him a solo bow after the symphony. It was a quite a funny moment onstage.

Znaider performed the Sibelius Concerto five times with us on this tour. It was fascinating to see how he changed subtleties in his interpretation from night to night. For me, the last performance seemed particularly vigorous. Znaider turns to particular sections of the orchestra when he is playing with them. My favorite such moment  occurs in the second theme of the first movement, when the solo violin has a dialogue with the principal viola. Znaider pulls an incredibly juicy and rich sound out of the lower register of his Guarneri del Gesu violin, which principal violist Randy Kelly then matches with his Testore viola.

At every performance, the audience demanded an encore after the Sibelius Concerto. Znaider chose a different movement of solo Bach each time. Last night he performed the Sarabande from the second partita, but previously he also played movements from the 1st and 3rd partitas.

The concert was well received by the Luxembourg public, and the orchestra performed two encores after the Tchaikovsky Symphony. Then we all returned to the hotel to pack our things. Most of the PSO group left the next morning at 5am for the trip back to the US, but some of us lucky ones with alternate travel plans met for a final dinner and beer at the hotel restaurant.

Boxes inside the Philharmonie Luxembourg
with Nikolaj Znaider, following the concert

Final dinner with PSO friends

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