Greetings from 32,000 feet! The orchestra is on its way to Paris from Bucharest, where we played last night for a packed house of 3500+ people. The concert hall is huge in comparison to the small European halls we are used to performing in on tours, and with the hall lined with velvet, curtains and carpet, there was little acoustical feedback from our seats on stage. Never fear, though. Your Pittsburgh Symphony performed this concert at its peak, complete with three encores. The enthusiastic roar from the crowd as we finished the final notes of the Shostakovitch Symphony #5 gave many of us pause for thought. This was a piece composed with the underlying idea of someday escaping the brutal Stalinist regime, and as a people whose previous generations were once oppressed by the Soviets, many of these Romanians leapt to their feet, expressing those same feelings of hope, peace and victory that Shostakovitch longed for.
One of the more enjoyable things that several of the musicians participated in was a side-by-side concert the day before last, with musicians from the Bucharest area. Some of these musicians perform regularly with the George Enescu Philharmonic and the National Radio Orchestra of Romania. And man, could they play! We didn’t know quite what to expect when we walked in, but I’m sure I can speak for my colleagues that we were pleasantly surprised at the high level of playing. The program included a string piece by the Romanian composer George Enescu, the Liszt Piano Concerto #1 and Beethoven Symphony #7. Of particular note was the first horn player, Vlad Buzdugan, principal horn of the National Radio Orchestra of Romania, who sounded absolutely terrific, and played the challenging first horn part of the Beethoven Symphony twice that day (including the rehearsal) without an assistant, which is no small feat! Several of us have remarked that opportunities such as these, where we make beautiful music alongside other professionals we had met just hours earlier, truly speak to the testament of music being a universal language. I hope we musicians can participate in many future side-by-side concerts just like this one. Here’s a picture of some of the brass playing participants (photo courtesy of Bob Lauver):
But now, it’s on to Paris, a city rich with artistic heritage and beautiful sights. Personally, I never get tired of seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the other important sites in Paris, as well as other cities. We are fortunate to have the chance to visit these cities on tours, but I believe that playing these tours, seeing the cities and visiting the sites makes us a better orchestra. The sound, the ensemble playing, the “moxie” of the orchestra, if you will, is refined and challenged at the highest level. If there’s one message to send to our fans back home in Pittsburgh, it’s this: when we return back home in a few weeks, we’ll be ready for you, and we can’t wait to perform for you and show you this refinement, this artistry that we’ve been showing Europe. Pittsburgh has much to be proud of, and we look forward to showing you all why!
By the way, if you get a chance, please visit the Pittsburgh Symphony Musicians Facebook page and “Like” us. You’ll find some behind-the-scenes pictures and posts, updating you and giving snippets of what we’re doing across the pond. Thanks for reading!