Simply Blessed

28 September 2016
May Kunstovny

May Kunstovny



I'm on my way home to Oslo and have time on my various forms of transportation (train-plane-train-boat-bus) to reflect on this extraordinary week we just spent together. In a way I can't believe it was only one week from arrival to the project to departing from each other today - so much has happened!

But let's start from the beginning. The beginning for this project was a rehearsal period in Bolzano, a city a majority of us is very familiar with. It seems each one of us has well kept memories of various week-long rehearsal phases with the Gustav-Mahler-Jugendorchester, dating back to 20 or even more years. Pulling my suitcase over the cobblestones of the Piazza Walther I had a short flashback of an involuntary bath in the fountain sometime after midnight in the summer 1996.

Only a few hours after arrival our reminiscing about old times with an aperitif on the terrace got disrupted with the message that our conductor Teodor Currentzis was ill and had to cancel the project... what now? 

Before any feeling of crises could really settle, the excitement about the possibility to tackle this program on our own took over. To create something with the leadership of our concertmaster Matthew and our soloist Pekka Kuusisto felt not only exciting and natural but maybe even overdue. The program of Beethoven's violin concerto and 7th Symphony couldn't be more perfect for that, while our management was still working to find a solution for Schönberg's Ode to Napoleon.

When we started rehearsing the following day with Pekka and Matthew it immediately felt like the right decision. I have rarely experienced a more joyful, organic and fulfilling working process like we had for the following two days.

The two concerts were in Merano and Bonn. Although we were at that point confident that we would present a great concert we could of course not know how the audience would react to the news of a missing and most importantly not replaced maestro. Unfortunately the belief that a maestro is the only one who can turn an evening into a success is all too established. Maybe this gave us even more motivation to show how we would manage on our own. The shared responsibility and the inspiration of each other through all the groups made us play two incredibly fun and joyous concerts. The audience must have felt that, it responded in both places with the most enthusiastic applause and standing ovations. 

I'm very grateful that both the Meraner Musikwochen and the Beethovenfest Bonn believed in us enough to give us this opportunity to show up without a conductor. I hope it will also spark curiosity in other places to have the chance to continue this rewarding path in the future.

I was one of the lucky ones who got to stay an extra day to play the chamber concert Cycles, Loops and Canons with Pekka in Siegburg as part of the Beethovenfest Bonn.

Pekka, Paulien, Tim and I played Violin Phase by Steve Reich of which I have fond memories of ‘phasing’ through the pubs of Reykjavik in the midsummer a few years back. It is a very cool piece, both mentally and physically challenging. For the rest of the chamber concert I enjoyed sitting in the audience listening to some fascinating improvisations by Pekka on the electric violin and the Goldberg Variations, beautifully played by Pekka, Tim and Leo. 

I'm almost home now. The sun is shining, I'm breathing in the fresh Norwegian air and I feel simply blessed to have been part of such a wonderful experience. Thank you all!

Photos: Geoffroy Schied/Geoffroy Schied/May Kunstovny/Mahler Chamber Orchestra