THE Match

13 June 2019
Guilhaume Santana

Guilhaume Santana



Airlines and aircrafts have always been something special to me. I guess it all started with the many South America journeys we had with my parents, remembering unplanned stops in Senegal or Puerto Rico in the eighties, on our way to even more exotic destinations in Ecuador where my parents used to live.

So, embarking on the famous Sukhoi Superjet 100 from Moscow to Perm was my first challenge on this tour. But luckily I could transfer some of my fears to my dear colleague Christophe. Never read that kind of articles before arriving to Perm (or going back):

Perm is worth the trip. You won’t read a lot about the city in your travel guide, but as a classical music geek you’ll probably have heard about MusicAeterna (MA).

At least I have heard everything about his founder, our conductor on the upcoming tour, Teodor Currentzis. From genius to perfume maker or gothic-styled humanist, he polarizes our music world. This piques curiosity.

Russians and life in parks. MCO musicians probably noticed it during the many tours to Italy, parks are full of Russian families on weekends, picnicking, doing haircuts or just sitting and lying around; so I was curious to see how it was in Russia. Well, in front of the nice old opera in Perm, the park is crowded anytime, mostly with ladies. Compared to western countries, there’s life here. Obviously every Russian possesses a cell phone, but in the parks no one stares at it, they just rest and breathe in the good air… I don’t recall doing this in the last decades.

Perm Opera and Ballet Theater

Our guest concertmaster Afanasy from MA kindly invited me on the first evening, and guided me through the history of Perm. The city used to be famous and rich for salt centuries ago, and turned into a large industrial area after World War II. Not to mention oil. After the junction of 3 smaller cities the urban area of Perm is nowadays 45 km wide, along the Kama River.

After dinner —with lovely Armenian cuisine – Afanasy pointed at a typical Soviet building on the dark large street. The tone changed: "this is one of the most famous buildings in Perm. 150 people died in a fire in 2009, there were stuck in a nightclub. Look at the memorial stone..."

Different perception of time and distance here? Talgat, principal bassoon in MA, from Kazakhstan, invited me to a popular restaurant in the neighbourhood, with incredible Uzbek-Tatar-Ouighour-Kirghiz cuisine (I might have omitted something). As I asked him if he could travel home and visit his family sometimes, he said: "Oh yes, Kazakhstan is not far, around 24 hours by car. But I split it in 2 days".

I won’t write anything about music itself in a tour diary, but this was something we will all remember for a long time. The program (of course particularly Brahms’ Requiem), Currentzis, the MusicAeterna Choir and soloists, the venues, it was THE match.

While in Russia, the dozens of people around him looked very familiar to me. I hadn’t seen this amount of people, fan club, staff, agents around a conductor since Abbado. Definitely, I’ve never seen a musician on stage receiving an artwork directly from a fan instead of flowers (it looked like a fancy painted wooden cupboard door with handle, might have been an orthodox icon). In Moscow it literally took minutes until the last bunch of flowers.

On my flight back home, after 9 intense days of spiritual music – or better said, intense musical spirituality, even for atheists – I had a strange feeling in my legs.

Of course! It was probably the first time in my life I had to stand during 1 hour and 10 minutes, for every single concert... so, I should rather do some training, what if the next tour with Currentzis is Wagner’s Parsifal :)

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra and MusicAeterna Choir, joined by Nadezhda Pavlova and Dimitris Tiliakos, led by Teodor Currentzis in Brahms' Requiem at Konzerthaus Dortmund