During the first half of the year 2012 I had the chance to see many orchestras in North America: Cincinnati in January, Utah in February and Milwaukee and Vancouver in March. I will be going soon to Indianapolis and Baltimore, in summer I will visit Chicago Grant Parks and Aspen.
All these weeks so far have been very pleasant, as well from the artistic point of view as also in my personal experience. Compared to Mid Europe the idea of teamwork is so much stronger on this continent, much to the profit of quality and efficiency. So after having sorted out a few technical details I could work right away on the music, sound and interpretation.
Cincinnati is a fascinating orchestra, with such a long history and a pretty good hall. Since I have worked with them for the first time I was also surprised that this is an extremely friendly orchestra, easy to work with and with a very high sense of excellence and a strong will to achieve the best possible result. They played the almost all German repertoire, Wagner, Liszt Piano concerto with Lang Lang and Brahms, very well and inspired. And to play with Lang Lang is always a real pleasure!
A very nice surprise had been the week of my debut in Salt Lake City with the Utah Symphony Orchestra: a good orchestra, very nice hall and highflying spirits in the administration and on the podium. It seems that Music Director Thierry Fischer has done some extraordinary great work during his years and I am sure, this orchestra will continue to improve further: the whole set up and the environment here feels very healthy and promising!
From Salt Lake City I drove by car to Milwaukee some 2500 miles though Utah, the plains of Wyoming, Kentucky and Iowa to Wisconsin. I had been working with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra before, so I knew that they are good. But this time I was even more impressed. Edo de Waart is a great Music Director! His orchestra is extremely precise, good to work with and very fast. I also had the privilege to see the St. Patrick procession in the all-green flagged streets around the channels and the beautiful Arts Museum.
The around 3500 miles from Milwaukee to Vancouver took me almost 4 days to drive, through sun and clouds in Minnesota and North Dakota, and snowstorms in Idaho and Washington: what a huge country!
Vancouver is very different from other cities I had seen on this continent: in some ways it is much more „focused“ than Midwest cities, downtown is quite easy to explore by foot. A lot of high rise buildings, perhaps less spectacular than in Seattle, but still some good architecture. The Asian color, especially Japanese and Chinese, is very prominent, not only in the thousands of good restaurants. The surroundings are stunningly beautiful! So I have decided to come back in summer to spend my vacations here with my family.
I was wondering what kind of orchestra would play here. And again it had been a positive surprise: an orchestra of good quality, with high motivation not only in their regular symphonic concerts, but also in community work, teaching music to young people. This might even be the most remarkable recent addition to the „normal work“ of the symphony orchestra: the brand new Music School with beautiful facilities and a small recital hall, is run by the orchestra and the musicians are part of the faculty. Maybe this is also one of the reasons why the audience of the symphony concerts is quite young and enthusiastic. Here it seems, classical music is a very important part of the city.
My next weeks with Indianapolis and Baltimore will surely be very pleasant, since I know both orchestras for a long tie and I really love them. With Indianapolis I had recorded a CD of Music by Dvorak last year, the Cello concerto with Zuill Bailey and the tone poem The Water Goblin and In Nature’s Realm, which just this week became Gramophone choice of the month (May) by the UK magazine. The orchestra had been playing really excellently during the concerts, and I am really forward to working with them this time on a French program.
Baltimore will lead me to a more German repertoire with Schumann , Weber and Beethoven. And the concert will be also performed in Strathmore. This orchestra is so good at a wide range of repertoire, and it belongs to my very favorite orchestras to work with.
A highlight of this spring will be the Hosokawa Festival in Tokyo and the concerts with the NHK in Suntory Hall in May. In my opinion the NHK orchestra is one of the leading ensembles in the world, and it is always a pure joy performing with them.
In Leipzig I will perfom two weeks with the MDR Sinfonieorchester, one in may with my selections from Wagner’s Ring cycle together with the Saint-Saëns Cello concerto played by Gautier Capuçon. The opener will be the Six Epigraphes Antiques by Claude Debussy, arranged by Ansermet: I really think this is a great work, although very mysterious and delicate. The second concert will take place for the opening of the MDR Musiksommerfestival in late June: Mendelssohn Lobgesang will be played in the live televised concert from the Dom of Magdeburg.
This will be the last concert of my tenure with the MDR. Five years of work in the history-loaded region of Mitteldeutschland with the MDR Sinfonieorchester and the MDR Rundfunkchor will find its conclusion with Mendelssohn, one of the many great composers who lived and composed here so many great works. I really wish the very best for their future to both ensembles, and I will keep nice memories of some inspired performances.