A Giant's Heart, A mountain's Top, a Plane to Catch

5 March 2019
Nanni Malm

Nanni Malm



How to miss a plane in style

It all started in Bietigheim-Bissingen near Stuttgart. The city greeted us with its picturesque half-timbered houses and snowflakes dancing in the wind added to the beautiful picture.
We were all very excited, as we always are before tours with Mitsuko Uchida. The promise of days and weeks of challenging but fulfilling rehearsals and concerts of two Mozart piano concertos, led by her, capable to evoke feelings of musical intimacy on the highest level, is such a thrill, you would have to experience it to understand.

And then there was Berg. Alban Berg and the 3 Pieces from Lyric Suite, which we were going to perform under the leadership of our great concertmaster Matthew Truscott. "Berg" in German translates to "mountain" in English and the picture we had in mind, when we started to rehearse this extremely challenging masterpiece of the Second Viennese School, was that of Mount Everest. This piece, famous for being a challenge in itself and also for the conductor, was programmed without a conductor. Just the mentioning of such an idea could be enough to spark an uprising in most orchestras. But in the MCO it sparked something else – enthusiasm. Proving once and for all that we simply are the crazy group of idealistic, ambitious freaks who love to work harder and always look for new challenges. If not us, who would take such a risk? It was a fantastic experience to dig and dive deep into this composition, which is so full of intensity and complexity and intimacy. Every note, every interval, every phrase has meaning and tells a story. And soon we were able to leave behind the black dots on paper and start feeling the music. What a wonderful process of exploring, climbing and at last conquering Alban Berg's mountain.

Back at the hotel after days of tough rehearsals and a great concert, we thankfully had something to bring us back to earth. Who knew, that after such a program, the US work visa application forms for our next US tour would have the capability to sober us down as quickly as they did. But collective suffering eases the pain, as we all know.

Next stop Salzburg. My hometown. I was thrilled. The MCO playing Mozart at the Mozarteum with Mitsuko Uchida during the Mozartwoche, what more to wish for? No Berg in Salzburg, there are enough around, I guess, but Mozart’s Horn Quintet played by our dear colleagues in the most delicate way. After the D minor piano concerto we were in heaven. But when Mitsuko played the Andante Cantabile from Sonata K. 330 it became one of those moments when time stands still and you become a silent witness of something transcendental. When a great artist shares with you a part of their soul, their heart, their being in the most intimate way. It was just seven minutes of music, but these minutes will be with me and us and the audience for a lifetime. What a night.

Off to Brussels, via Munich Airport. Waiting at the gate, waiting to be called for boarding, Naomi, Matthew and I, still under the influence of the last night, couldn't help but talk about our personal experiences of Mitsuko's encore. A piece of helpful advice at this point: 1) Sitting near the gate is not the same as sitting at the gate. 2) Who knew that airlines do not have to call gate changes over the loudspeakers? 3) 7 minutes of great music might give you a chance to think about them for up to 21 hours, once you’ve missed the plane. 4) It might be worth it.

21 hours, a flight, a tram, two taxis, one train ride, one snowstorm, three delays and a great dinner and sleepover at Naomi's place in Amsterdam later – we arrived in Brussels. At least that meant that we didn't have time to buy chocolates, which anyway will end up not being eaten for being too precious until after their expiration date, at which point they are not that much anymore – precious, that is.

Utrecht next. I studied there for two years. It feels like yesterday, but the amount of things I couldn't remember about the city probably means, that it wasn't.
Coming back to Dortmund is a little bit like coming home for us, and it is always a joy, because it is also one of the homes of our beautiful education project Feel the Music. Playing for and with deaf and hard of hearing children makes them able to experience music in a unique way and enriches everybody. It is absolutely amazing what impact music has on the kids.

Back to Holland. The Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, what a treat. Outstanding acoustics, great architecture. Last but not least, who doesn't want to sleep in a nice hotel with an "I–want–to–have–at–home–mattress"? Here another disappointing fact for the frequent flyer… you can't take a mattress with you as carry–on luggage. I checked.

Last stop London. The hometown of Mitsuko and Matthew and a city we always love to come back to. The perfect place to end this tour. In the end we even became very close friends with Alban Berg, but still with all due respect, of course. Which is good because "We will meet again, Sir!" … at Carnegie Hall on our next tour with wonderful Mitsuko Uchida and our very own "conqueror of the mount" Matthew Truscott. What an exciting life. What a tour.

New York here we come! See you there!

Photos: Geoffroy Schied / Nanni Malm