Started the day with another breakfast of mint tea, exotic fruit and traditional sausage & eggs. Finished yesterday’s blog and went for a shorter run. I like to go for a run in the morning. I never take a phone. I do miss running with Scooby though, he’s good company. I always remember a wise man who recommended starting the day ‘with an empty cup.’ By this he ment to clear your mind, strart afresh and don’t carry yesterday’s baggage around. I feel that running helps this process. For trumpet playing, a good run clears the tubes and followed by a few sit ups and press ups gets the lungs going. There is a fine line between success and failure on the trumpet. A ‘clean’ mind mind inspires confidence without which there can be no success. Alright, that’s the ‘sermon’ done with, now on with the rest of the day.
Vasily is starting today’s rehearsal with Mahler’s 4th Symphony. A beautiful work, but one I am not in. This gives me about an extra hour to explore San Sebastian. In fact, because we need four trumpets in only about half of the repertoire, this means we can rota ourselves around a bit. I only have to concern myself with the Chopin piano concerto today.
I took myself off on the hired bicycle and meandered around the old part of town for a while. I am so impressed by the sense of style this old city has retained. Everything seems to have been thought about. Even during this big fiesta week everything feels clean. All the town squares, parks, gardens and plazas are immaculate as are the beaches. I continued cycling around the beach area , round the castle again and down into the harbour area. I chose one of the little harbourside restaurants and sat down with a drink to watch the hustle and bustle of San Sebastian go by. I ordered a delicious fish soup followed by a platter of grilled prawns. I was entertained by an old local fiddler who came up to my table and played ‘My Way’ for me followed by the Albinoni/Giazotto Adagio.
The sun was beating down and I watched the fishing boats going about their business. Kids diving in off the harbour etc. After a lazy while, watching the world go by I thought I’d better make my way to the Kursaal concert venue. The street entertainment here in San Sebastian is many and varied. I came across magicians, comedians, clowns, acrobats, buskers and actors etc. I was particularly impressed by the playing of an accordion and xylophone duo. They were playing Tico Tico and the Carnival of Venice etc. They had attracted a sizeable crowd and were drawing loud cheers for their virtuosic display. I also stared lengthily at a slow moving ‘fairy’ clutching two crystal balls. She gave me a sly wink for tossing a euro into her box.
Back at the Kursaal, Vasily was outside taking part in a photoshoot, so I decided to take part myself, with my camera. All of a sudden other passers by began to take an interest and start taking shots. Sorry Vasily.
The Kursaal has every modern facility inside. I spent awhile watching our lorry arrive onto a turn table underground to turn it around in the tight space available for loading. Right behind the stage too. The lorry is below street level by now.
I was not in the first portion of the rehearsal so I sat out in the auditorium listening to Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I am not always impressed with modern acoustics. Acoustic architects seem intent on designing halls where one can hear a pin drop, but at the expense of a little resonance which helps the music to blend. All too often we are left with a tinny dryness which makes it so hard for the performer to work his/her magic. The Kursaal would appear to have got it just about right. I could hear everything. The voice of soprano Simona Saturova was crystal clear and the RLPO blend was perfect. After the break young Chinese virtuoso Sa Chen blazed through Chopin’s 1st piano concerto.
I met the rest of the brass section in the Old Town for more tapas. We were joined by our leader, ‘Big’ Jim Clark, 1st violinist John Hebbron and John’s wife Celia. The array of food at this bar was quite spectacular. Snails seemed a popular choice with many and you can tell when some are starting to miss home and start ordering chips. I had a pork kebab, a prawn kebab and a selection of pintxos; very enjoyable. Yes, I know, the diet is not going very well, but I have been running and cycled everywhere, therefore I considered that I was due a modicum of pleasure. So, back to the hall for the concert. There was a mariachi banda playing outside when I got back. Very entertaining.
The Chopin was stunning. Sa Chen received four curtain calls before she relented and gave in to the audience’s demands for an encore. The Mahler was equally well received. The fourth symphony is actually my favourite Mahler. It is not particularly brassy, although the trumpet solos sound spectacular, but I like the music best of all his works.
I shall miss San Sebastian. I will also regret not having time to try out the world famous Farnicular railway. It is apparently very fast and at the top is a funfair and they say, one of the best views in all of Spain. Also, I tried without success, to find a traditional Basque dish called Marmitako. It is a fish soup, usually tuna, with onions, tomatoes and red pepper. Well, never mind; there’s always next time. On to Santander tomorrow morning!
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