The Familiar and the New

28 June 2016
Annette zu Castell

Annette zu Castell



Once again we travel to Dortmund which somehow makes even more sense during the EM with soccer being one of the main identifying features there – in addition to the Orchesterzentrum of course, which generously hosts our rehearsal period for the upcoming concerts in Cologne and Ravenna. Familiar is the slight smell of grease from the local food stand next door. Familiar in a quite different sense are also parts of the repertoire, Beethoven’s 4th symphony and the Leonore Overture. Playing those pieces with Daniel, with whom we performed them many times in the past 19 years, allows us to start working at a level where a common language hasn't yet to be found. After all those years it is still impressive to watch the precision of Daniel’s movements, to witness the intelligence of his reading.

Håkan Hardenberger, who is either just coming from a sailing trip or manages to look like he is just coming from a sailing trip, plays a new trumpet concerto by Mark-Anthony Turnage, a jazzy piece with a beautiful and mellow second movement. Great playing and great privilege to work on the piece with the composer who evokes collective amusement by asking for more cowbells.

There is also a piece for winds and percussion by Varèse, which focuses on the high and low register of wind instruments and brings out their percussive features. 

The concert in Cologne is warmly received (and can be watched on until the 15th of July), with a very knowledgeable and concentrated audience. Needless to say that the Kölsch after the concert adds to the feeling of appreciation. Also this seems to be the right opportunity to thank our dear friend Ingeborg Loos, who not only comes and listens to all our concerts in Cologne but also has established the wonderful tradition of sending in big bags full of baked goods of different kinds just before every dress rehearsal. 

The orchestra takes a break before re-uniting in Ravenna, but some of the musicians travel to the Bavarian mountains to play at a house concert hosted by our patrons Swantje and Georg von Werz.

There are rehearsals and a soccer game to be watched, mountains, a welcome break from touring life that almost always takes us to bigger cities. Many very interesting and interested guests gather on a rainy evening, ready to listen to Cindy, Johannes, Joel, Yannick, Micha and Philipp. Their wonderful performance of Richard Strauss' Capriccio and Brahms' Quintet op. 111 turns into real magic when the rain breaks and a rainbow appears right behind the musicians and stays there until the very last note. The conflict between music and word, which Strauss talks about in his opera Capriccio, is here clearly decided in favor of the coming together of music and nature.

And on we go, on a beautiful train trip through the Alps, passing Bologna airport (first Italian coffee just has to be there) to Ravenna, which I would describe as magical (hadn't I used the word before?) There is time to visit the mosaics and get blown away by their freshness and overwhelming opulence. Opulent is probably not the word to describe the hall of that evening. The Palazzo Mauro de André is hosting the Ravenna Festival, one of the finest music festivals in Italy. Its convention center charm is compensated by a very full, attentive and enthusiastic audience, and its acoustics are helped enormously by acoustic sails and other technical support. It is a big and festive evening after a rich, eventful week.

And the gin and tonic at the hotel bar is the strongest I have ever had. 

Photos: Geoffroy Schied/Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Zani Casadio