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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sweden - April 8-13

Before leaving for Norway this week, we went to Peter Dijkstra's rehearsal with RK on Tuesday morning. I'm more and and more impressed with Peter—he's great to watch work: interesting ideas about the music, great ears, and an efficient rehearsal. He's also a nice guy. A great combination.

Wednesday was errand day to get ready for our trip to Kristiansand and visit with Heidi (Kath's youngest sister) Traedal, her husband Trygve and two children, Elisabeth and Christoffer. Thursday was a day long train trip, first to Oslo, then a half hour's layover before catching the train to Kristiansand, which is at the southern tip of Norway. Beautiful scenery on the ride and quite a bit of sunshine between the cloudy portions. We arrived around 7:30 PM and were picked up by Heidi and Elisabeth.

Our visit has been wonderful as always: lots of conversation and catching up, walks into town (not too far away and the weather was nice on Friday), a visit to Trygve's studio at the conservatory (he's a pianist), great food, a trip to a favorite Indian restaurant (Christoffer always asks for the maximum "heat"), and a nice concert Friday evening by the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra (Heidi works for them in administration).

The orchestra concert was conducted by Rolf Gupta, the orchestra's Music Director, whom we met last year for dinner at the Traedal's. The program took place in the Cathedral, the only place in town with a large enough audience capacity for this program (around 1200—a new concert hall has begun construction, but won't be finished until 2010 or 2011). Acoustics were pretty reasonable. The Cathedral is lovely, a wood ceiling, balconies, and organ loft, with acoustics that aren't too live for this music. The orchestra was augmented by musicians from Tromsø in the far north of Norway—there are 50 musicians in Kristiansand's core. The program opened with Debussy's Prelude a l'après midi d'un faune. It was given a nice performance and brought back memories of a great performance I saw in San Francisco years ago with the Joffrey Ballet in residence at SF Ballet. That program was a recreation of choreography, sets and costumes of the originals for the Debussy (in Ninjinsky's choreography, sets and dance based on early Greek art with a two-dimensional portrayal), Satie's Parade (with sets and costumes by Picasso), and Stravinsky's Rite of Sping (wonderful to see with the original choreography).

The KSO program continued with Ravel's Tzigane with violinist Sara Chen. Chen is just 18 and grew up and trained in Norway--as Trygve said, she's one of a group now of outstanding young Norwegian violinists on the rise. She gave a terrific performance. After the pause, the second half of the program was Berlioz Symphonie fantastique. It was a very good performance, even if not as strong as the one I heard at CCM a year ago last fall conducted by Hugh Wolff (that one was amazing, with the Philharmonia Orchestra—the top student orchestra--playing with great virtuosity). The concert was really enjoyable and I enjoyed watching Rolf work—he's a very fine conductor.

We're relaxing today (Sunday), just having had a beautiful brunch, and can hardly believe it's almost time to get back to Stockholm (we leave around 8:30 in the morning on Monday). 

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