As we approach the final concert of our European Festivals Tour 2013, I get a chance to reflect on the weeks the Pittsburgh Symphony has spent traveling and performing, and also to anticipate our return home.
As a member of the horn section I am acutely aware that when we bring a piece like Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben on the road, we can only sound the way we sound when we have wonderful players to fill the added four horn parts in the score. We are grateful and fortunate to have been able to have Albert Suarez, Donna Dolson, Tod Bowermaster and Bob Rydel play the 5th through 8th parts on the piece. All of them are players from other terrific orchestras around the United States and have a sum of experience between them that would be the envy of any veteran horn section!
Yesterday the orchestra enjoyed the last free day of the tour. As is typical of many German cities we visit, Bonn has a large pedestrian-only district where there is a concentration of restaurants and shops…Bonn’s pedestrian zone is unique because it includes Beethoven’s birth house. It still awes me to see the actual places where Beethoven wrote and lived… Many players hit the streets in a last-chance effort to find gifts for friends and family back home.
During the days that there are no concerts, the orchestra is traveling, practicing individually (the conference rooms that were occasionally provided in certain hotels were full of horn players) and finding other opportunities for relaxing or exercising. I noticed lots of players donning running clothes and hitting the streets and pathways as soon as we checked in to a hotel. Others (myself included) brought bicycles along on the tour, or rented them in order to get further afield in the various countrysides surrounding our tour cities. Yesterday, I know of eight members of the symphony who spent parts of their day riding, finding castles, ruins, postcard-perfect towns, rivers, canals and farms. I have been very impressed with the Google Maps app on my iPhone which let me basically throw a dart at a map and have a lovely path drawn between me and the town that I chose….and only once did that blue line go straight between rows of corn at some farm!
Tonight’s concert marks the artistic finale of the trip, and after the last notes fade (rather quickly from the dull acoustic of the Beethoven Hall in Bonn), we begin the process of getting back to Pittsburgh and the various hometowns of our extra musicians. Time seems to slow down as we clear checkpoints and board planes. Then I realize how fast time went since we landed those weeks ago in Vienna. Can’t wait to be back in the ‘Burgh!