After a fairly late night, it was just as well that the Radisson Blu was to serve breakfast until 11.00am today. It was nice to have a bit of a lie in. A large bowl of fruit for me, followed by a light sampling of the spiced sausages etc. There was a chef making custom order omelettes which proved very popular. Work begins in earnest today, with a very important rehearsal and concert. It sometimes easy, whilst enjoying the local culture, and hospitality, to forget why we are actually here. I find there is nothing worse than trying to concentrate at work whilst shattered so a bit of extra rest is always welcome on tour.
Breakfast was very good, but much the same as in other international chain hotels. By coincidence I was wearing clothing provided by my sponsor, The Liverpool Organic Brewery. This independent beer maker, from home, has been helping to pay my wages, by sponsoring my chair in the orchestra, for a couple of years now. At last the boys driving the lorry were here with all the equipment etc and were tucking into a hearty breakfast. Apparently, they had endured an horrendous journey by anyone’s standards. At least all our concert stuff, instruments and music were here now so things could proceed as intended. It seems that the lorry journey to Prague on Monday is also likely to be touch and go time wise.
After breakfast the trumpets, trombones and tuba decided to have a wander round the Old Town in Bucharest. There are some stunning buildings here to see. Bucharest seems to be investing a lot of effort in regenerating the areas of deprivation so there are a lot of building works taking place, including renewal of much of the pavements we need to use. I don’t think we would recognise this city centre in two or three years time, should we return. We were based just a short walk from the area of interest and it was pleasant to have a look round in the warm sunshine.
The communist regime, under Ceaucescu, demolished huge swathes of the beautiful old town, formerly known as Little Paris, to make way for masses of concrete tower blocks. It seems the regime left the Greek Orthodox churches well alone, so many beautiful examples remain to this day.
We see what seem to us to be unusual sights here, but none of the local populace appear to bat an eyelid. The town was out in force providing a good impression for the tourists on a Saturday.
We passed several marching bands, who appeared to process at random down the small side streets, entertaining people sitting on restaurant terraces as much as crowds in larger squares. The various bands seem to march around, playing Sousa marches etc until they find people to play to: then the stop and entertain a family having coffee or a coach party of tourists photographing a monument etc All the groups seem to play from memory.
Wandering further round the winding streets of the old town in the heat, we came across a beer hall that had a wine press, offering freshly crushed grapes and fruit as a soft drink. Lovely.
We passed our marketing team, enjoying a spot of refreshment outside the Caru’ cu bere. Jayne Garitty, in the middle of the above photo, is head of marketing for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Mark McNulty is a very busy and very talented freelance photographer and Catherine Jones is the Arts correspondent for the widely read newspaper, the Liverpool Echo. Towards lunchtime, Paul Marsden, Principal second trumpet, and I decided to wander a little more and have a look at the city’s other famous concert hall, The Ateneul Roman. The two major venues are sharing the bulk of the Georges Enescu Festival’s larger, more important concerts. We are playing in the nearby, four thousand seater Sala Palatui, in ‘The Great Orchestras of the World’ series.
Right next door to the Ateneul Roman was a delightful, secluded restaurant, which squirted clouds of water vapour at us to bring the searing temperature down, under the shady trees and umbrellas. This simple outdoor cooling method seems to be popular at many restaurants in Bucharest. We ordered a cool tuna salad each. This seemed a perfect antidote the the intense dry heat and to pass a little time before going to work at three o’clock for the RLPO rehearsal.
It was back to the hotel for me then, for a quick refreshing shower etc and then just over the road to the concert venue. On opening my trumpet case, I was disappointed to discover that my trumpet had suffered a bent bell, in transit. The instrument still worked so I would just have to make the best of it until I could get it repaired on return to England. We began the rehearsal by offering Midori an hour or so’s time on the Walton violin concerto, followed by a run through of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance no.1, the selected encore; just in case the audience should demand we play something else. A coffee break, served by this hall’s staff in the nice back stage facilities was followed by some detailed work on the Enescu 2nd Suite for orchestra and a ‘topping and tailing’ of the symphony, rehearsal over!
The concerts, in Bucharest, are to be televised by French television, broadcast by Romanian Radio and streamed live on the internet.
As promised in earlier writing, I will introduce some more new members today. Susanna Jordan, above has just joined the RLPO as a full time member of the first violins. The orchestra has engaged Susanna’s services, as a freelance musician, for many years now, but this will be her first international tour as a full member.
The concert hall was packed for the concert. It is a very big room, holding 4ooo people easily. Before being used to present concerts, the Sala Palatui was the communist party assembly hall in Bucharest. The democratic parliament of today has moved into the palace known as Ceaucescu’s Folly, elsewhere in Bucharest. The opening piece, The Second Suite for Orchestra, by Georges Enescu, was well received, but the impromptu applause between the movements seemed to indicate that this lesser performed work was less familiar to the Romanians present than it was to us. The Walton violin concerto was written to showcase the amazing talents of Jascha Heifitz and Midori performed the work with gusto and panache. The audience loved this interpretation so the diminutive Midori, after several ‘curtain calls’, obliged their enthusiasm by playing some unaccompanied Bach as an encore. The second half symphony, the seventh by Prokofiev, was greeted by tumultuous applause so the inclusion of an encore had indeed been prudent. The ‘crowd’ were on the feet in appreciation at the end of the Dvorak Slavonic Dance. It would seem that the job had been well done. Vasily has announced that tomorrow night’s encore will be from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, but he won’t say which movement: oh you tease, Vasily!
Ian Fair, above has just joined the viola section. This is his first tour with the RLPO. Ian’s wife, Mary, is a regular freelance addition to the orchestra’s French Horn section.
After the concert, most went back to the hotel. Tonight, there would not be the mass gathering in the Caru’ cu bere, of the previous night, but the orchestra seemed to split up into smaller groups and go exploring the night life of the town. Going for some fresh air before bed time, I couldn’t help but bump into lots of groups of marauding musicians enjoying what Bucharest had to offer on this warm night.
Ladies and gentlemen; this evening’s featured section – the trombones and tuba!