When I woke up yesterday morning, I did not know that I would be sitting 5 rows back from Esa-Pekka Salonen listening to him talk about music that afternoon. I did know that I wanted to get back to the Tonhalle for the Tag der Offenen Tür (Open House). After our failed attempt to hear a concert on Tuesday, I read about this day of free activities with a short free evening concert.
The first event we went to was a rehearsal of Ravel’s Bolero. The Tonhalle Orchestra joined forces with the Liebhaber Orchestra (an amateur orchestra including some high school musicians) to perform the Ravel. That made for a very large orchestra!
We grabbed a seat in the balcony and enjoyed looking around the concert hall before the rehearsal. I was pleased that I understood all the opening remarks in German… The new conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra, Lionel Bringuier, started with a run-through of the 15-minute piece before he rehearsed sections. He spent some of this time talking to the audience (in English) and orchestra about Ravel and Bolero and had the strings do some work with phrasing. Seems that pros work on that, too! Then they played through the entire piece again.
Free tickets for the 18:00 concert (of Bolero as well as Prokofiev’s 2nd Piano Concerto) were to be doled out at 12:00, 14:00, and 16:00, so we scurried downstairs to stand in a long line at the end of the rehearsal. Turns out, we didn’t get tickets at that time, so we did some shopping in the old town and came back at 13:30. H stood in line, and I went looking for the conversation with Esa-Pekka Salonen which I had noticed on the schedule during the dress rehearsal.
Only a half-hour, the talk was certainly a highlight of the day for me. The former director of the LA Philharmonic spoke about the need for making classical music relevant and accessible for everyone and how he has done some projects to further this cause. Turns out that Salonen is the new, and first-ever, Creative Director for the Tonhalle Orchestra. I guess he’ll be back later this year. He had composed a work for the orchestra that he had conducted earlier this week. I guess I need to follow that website a little more closely!
What I found out after I got home was that Gustavo Dudamel was also there, somewhere! I saw this photo on his official Facebook page with him, Salonen and Bringuier. Wow! So close….
Fortunately, H scored two tickets to the evening concert, so we went back out into old town and had a bite to eat and sat by the lake, sat in front of the Opera House and watched a pair of twin boys who had just learned how to walk. More free entertainment!
Our free tickets reserved seats for us in the back row of the balcony (which is not a huge balcony, so it was only about 8 rows back). A mom and her 7 or 8-year-old daughter sat next to us, but pretty soon another little girl came over with her mom, and apparently the moms wanted to sit together as did the girls. So the moms sat across the balcony and left the two girls together next to us. Apparently this is okay in Switzerland???? The girls thought it fun to put the seat backs up and sit on them as they fell. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to say something to them, but when the concert started, they stopped it. Mostly. At one point I had to give them the stink-eye, and they got quieter. There was a man standing on the other side of the girls looking at them disapprovingly. He may have thought that we were the parents; I don’t know.
So, we enjoyed the Piano Concerto, and though there was no intermission, we left between numbers. We had already heard Bolero twice that day and a third time might have been overkill.