Jubiläumstournee nach Asien

7 Konzerte in Peking, Shanghai, Taipeh, Seoul

Vom 21. Oktober bis 4. November gehen wir mit unserem designierten Chefdirigenten und Music Director Paavo Järvi auf Asien-Tournee. Und Sie nehmen wir mit auf die Reise! Dank täglichen Foto-, Video- und Textbeiträgen auf unseren Social-Media-Kanälen und unserer Website erleben Sie die Auftritte in China, Taiwan und Südkorea hautnah mit und erhalten interessante Einblicke in das Tourneeleben!

Natürlich berichtet Simon Styles, Solo-Tuba, wie immer vom Tourleben, von den Konzerten, von kleineren und grösseren Problemen, aber immer mit einem Augenzwinkern und stets mit einer gehörigen Portion Selbstironie!

Die Jubiläumstournee nach Asien wird unterstützt durch Clariant International Ltd., Gönnerverein, Max Kohler Stiftung, Pro Helvetia und die Georg und Bertha Schwyzer-Winiker-Stiftung sowie durch die grosszügige Zuwendung zwei weiterer Stiftungen.

Zürich: A new era dawns? A new beginning?

It's Monday the 8th of October, and we are at the beginning of a pretty heavy patch of work, after what has been already a pretty heavy patch of work:

Haitink was here for Bruckner 7, there was last week's heavy dose of Film Music, Mahler 9 with Jukka-Pekka Saraste, replacing the indisposed Semyon Bychkov, not mention the Dîner Musical with a whole pad of orchestral showpieces. Talk about a fulminant beginning to the new season, it's been flat-out, no rest for the wicked as they say!

A new beginning? Well yes certainly, in 2 weeks we will have just landed in Beijing, the arrival time is down as being 05.15 local time. My usual method of dealing with jet lag is to stay up, wherever we land until it is night there. I think I am going to have to rethink that one... Well that doesn't matter right now. What does matter is Brahms 2 and Mahler 5. What matters even more is the fact that our designated Principal Conductor and Music Director, and the last Principal Conductor of my career, Paavo Järvi, is giving his first concerts since having been appointed to the position earlier this year. So there is palpable  expectancy to be felt as the start of rehearsal approaches.

Paavo makes his entrance to warm applause from the orchestra, and after a few words from our Intendantin Ilona Schmiel, he greets us cordially and off we go with Brahms 2, read pretty much straight, top left to bottom right, so to speak. Not much is said, less is corrected. I wonder how long that will last? Obviously he is «sussing us out», just as much we are checking him over. It's a perfectly natural and normal sort of osmosis, which I am experiencing at the Tonhalle Orchestra probably for the 5th time, when a new Principal Conductor is placed before us for the very first time. Of course it isn't by quite a long way not the first time we have seen each other, but this is completely a different matter, as we want to assess not who is in front of us this week but for the next 5 years. And so we are very conscious of Paavo as I guess he is of us.

The first movement flows quite quickly, more quickly than maybe we are used to but it makes sense – there are just comments made I think, one a rhythmic figure and the other on balance, especially during the big horn solo at the end of the first movement. We, the trombones don't have an awful lot to do during the first movement, though in our defence I would add that what little we do have to is actually quite important – a couple of chorales, cold and at the beginning of the piece and in the middle of the movement and some padding at the high points, so we have time to look and listen to what is going on around and in front of us. Immediately obvious is the eye contact between conductor and musician, something which every musician appreciates above practically all else. We move with very little fuss into the 2nd movement, as I have said before Brahms is music that this orchestra has always played well, music which lies very close to its heart, so the demands and requests placed on us are easily translated into deeds. Personally I love the way Paavo gets the strings to play the moving triplets at the movements fortissimo («winds mf, maximum f please, not ff») climax incredibly broadly, big broad bow stokes which visually, as well audibly, give such a sense of collective elan. At the finish of the 4th movement there are a few comments mostly on balance, to the strings that when accompanying they should do exactly that and not cover the wind soloists, no matter how interesting and beautiful their line might be, and to the winds and brass to reduce the dynamic on long held notes, once played.

The Mahler, to which most of the rest of the rehearsals are devoted, is, of course, a different story. Here we really get down to work. Firstly movements are played through, but then the longer the rehearsals go, the more clear it is becoming what sort of conductor Paavo is. Mahler, ever the troubled, soul searching composer that he was, stops and starts. As does Paavo. At times in the first and especially the 2nd movements, it feels like the sea is boiling. The self doubt manifested in fits of sudden bursting ahead, only to come to an almost complete standstill, make this difficult music to make «hang together». More than once Paavo admonishes us for «playing vertically» – ie; organising too much rhythmically, rather than playing the line. The instructions we receive are clear and concise: «you are late, and because of that, they don't know where to play», «less here, we need to hear that», «I know it's against your nature, but this needs to sound horrible». Much trouble and attention is rightly given to dynamics, both soft as well as loud in Tonhalle Maag balance has been a largish issue, and for that we are all glad, it's good to know what is wanted of one. As musicians the world over say Beware the conductor who talks too much!!!"

In the larger picture, quite apart from a nice trip to the Far East, preceded by a few concerts in Zürich, what is the significance of this week?? A new beginning? Yes, but in so many different ways a new beginning. To see Paavo Järvi as the Messiah incarnate would be great mistake, and a very unjust expectation to place upon his shoulders. After 37 years with the Tonhalle Orchestra and 40 years in the «business», I have long grown to appreciate that an orchestra generally becomes as good as it wishes to become. The success we enjoyed under David Zinman was not solely and simply because David was standing in front of us for close to 20 years – that would be a grave injustice to both conductor and orchestra. David's success was at least in part due to a very large turnover of players shortly after commencement of his duties, and the ambition and will which was very strong in the orchestra at the time, also it was due in no small part to a management team that we should become the orchestra we became. The Berlin Philharmonic did not become the Berlin Philharmonic solely because of Furtwangler and Karajan, but because they wanted to become the Berlin Philharmonic. Sure a good conductor does help, but it is in the end a team effort.

Where will this new partnership lead? Well of course time alone will tell, but if these first 2 days are any indicator, then the partnership of Paavo Järvi and the Tonhalle Orchestra promises great things.

In short this is a decisive week in Tonhalle Maag, and let us hope the beginning of a new golden era.

As they used to say in the days of Rock and Roll: Be there or be square!

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