We flew into Nice, France on Saturday, November 10. Jet lagged as always, we managed to find the bus into the center of the city. It was raining as we wandered a bit from the bus strop but were able to figure out the location of our hotel. The room was tiny and my side of the be slanted a bit towards the floor making for somewhat precarious sleeping. Sunday we took in the Marc Chagall Museum and after a longer walk north that of Matisee (not quite worth the effort as it was mostly his work with cutting out pieces of paper). Taking a wrong turn on the way back to the hotel, we got a good deal of exercise. Monday was bright and sunny so we enjoyed walking about the city and the excellent cuissine!
Tuesday we took the train to San Remo. The station was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Taking the train to the end of the line in Ventimiglia, Italy we then switched trains and had another 15 minutes to San Remo. This hotel was much nicer (provided by the orchestra) and next to the casino which had a small concert hall of maybe 300 seats. The first rehearsal from 8:00 to midnight had some of the usual problems - only 2 horns instead of the 3 I expected and the 2nd was not there. A string section of 21 total with several missing as well. We began rehearsal with Gliere so Linda could go back to the hotel to sleep. It was a little rugged to begin as the orchestra was somewhat sluggish in responding and tempos were dragging. things improved as the night went on. They requested to change the double rehearsal of the next day (6 hours total) to one 4 hour rehearsal in the afternoon. I agreed as my experience has shown musicians of this level work better when you are a bit flexible. Schedule can change quite rapidly.
Wednesday we had to go to a government office to get a Codice Fiscale in order to work in Italy. They discovered I already had one from previous guest conducting but no one had ever told me! However, given the name on my passport had change the last time I renewed it (they dropped my middle name), they decided to issue me a new one. We requested copies of the documents in the event we need them in the future. The rehearsal went well so I ended it about 30 minutes early (always a good way to incur favorable rating as a guest conductor :) . The orchestra plays very expressively well in tune. Their one fault is that they tend to slow down a bit too much in ritards if you let them.
Thursday morning we had the general rehearsal which is basically a run-through of the concert. It went well but Linda sang very little in order to save her voice for the concert. The Gliere is very high and taxing demanding a great deal of stamina. I finally got the orchestra to give me the correct tempos and not drag. The concert went almost flawlessly. The orchestra played with great expression and precision. My Nara Variations had its best performance to date - it was a great pleasure to conduct this orchestra! Linda was most pleased with her performance of the Gliere. Though not a large audience, they received us warmly (Linda got 4 curtain calls). As always, after so much preparation the concert was over in what seemed no time at all.Only the programs and posters remain. The scores and parts will go back on the shelf. Periodically I remind my students that music is only ink on the page until actual musicians perform it. This rings true after every concert we perform.
Going abroad to conduct is an opportunity to leave everything (teaching, administration, dealing with everyday concerns) and focus on a single concert. It's a luxury that is becoming harder to afford now that I have three orchestra at home! (So much music, so little time!)
Friday morning we returned to Nice by train and took the bus to the airport. Given an early flight to Amsterdam (6:30 AM means 4:30 at the airport - a rather short night's sleep), we booked a hotel across the street. We did go back into the city and had dinner at the Bistro d'Opera, near the Opera House. As always, excellent food and wine! Saturday came very early with a 3:30 AM wake-up call and off to the airport to spend the day on the plane. As often happens, I began composing in my mind having been just commissioned by my good friend Rocco Parisi to write a work for 4 bass clarinets. (Just what I need - another project as I am still composing a work for solo contrabass and strings for the teacher at the University of Georgia). Returning the same day and arriving at 11:30 AM left time to catch up on the exciting part of life - doing the wash and paying the bills! -DA