02 March 2010 On a beautiful sunny day in Ferrara we had our first rehearsal with Daniel Harding in Teatro Nuovo, a small old theatre near the cathedral. In the evening our Norwegian trumpet player Hans-Petter cooked dinner for the whole orchestra in Restaurant Settimo. Dried codfish (baccala) in tomato sauce with potatoes and olives and lots of garlic! A delicious meal which he prepared over several days.
03 March 2010 After a 6 hour flight to Dubai we went by bus ca. 2 hours to Al Ain, a city placed in the desert ca. 160 km from Abu Dhabi. We checked in to the Rotana Hotel at 4.30 in the morning after a long travel day. It was my first time being in this part of the world, and the sun and 28 degrees Celsius gave me the energy to already get up the next morning after few hours of sleep. After breakfast I went with some friends by taxi to the top of Jabal Hafit, a rocky hill/mountain where we had a beautiful view of the desert and Al Ain. In the afternoon we rehearsed in the ballroom of the hotel and afterwards I enjoyed a delicious dinner with tabouli (parsley salad), hummus and grilled fish.
04 March 2010 At 6 o’clock the following morning I arranged for me and 3 colleagues to go to the desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. A driver picked us up, and after a 45 minute drive he went off the highway. The concrete stopped and we continued in the sand to a camp where tourists can enjoy several desert activities. Luckily we were the only ones and after watching the sunrise we went around the sand dunes on camels, very peaceful and a bit wobbly.
We came back for breakfast at 10 and had then our general rehearsal at Al Jahili Fort, an open air stage surrounded by something what looked like a giant sandcastle. We had to be amplified which is of course very unusual for us, but they were very experienced and professional so it didn’t disturb our music-making on stage.
The atmosphere that evening was very special and I especially enjoyed the Dvorak Symphony “From the new world” mixed with bird whistles and children playing in the park next door. The audience was mainly Western, but there were a few Arab men and woman in respectively white and black long robes. A very intense and short project in for me “a new world”.