Landing at Düsseldorf from Verona on Saturday, hot on the heals of a concert the night before in the ridiculously beautiful mountain town of Perugia, we arrived in Dortmund early evening. "Ich bin ein Dortmunder". Well that's the way it feels these days, what with being there 2 to 3 times a year. And the city always surprises me.
This time Shostakovich, Britten and Prokofiev rubbed shoulders with falafel, the winter market, Dortmund’s religious obsession with football and the truly eye-opening discovery of Dortmund Zoo. Oh, also an authentic 50's amusement fair, a drunk flame thrower (think about that one!), a bento box at Kyoto, (a very fine Japanese restaurant) and the pleasure of having my wife and daughter along for the week. I have been pondering the week’s highlights and come to the conclusion that the week was one big highlight.
Our very first children’s concert combining MCO with little future MCO'ers took off with what can be best described as an explosion of comedy musical talent. I was not previously aware that tucked amongst my MCO brethren we have an olympic swimming clarinetist or ballet dancing violinist. Let's hope someone can add a picture or two of Olivier on stage infront of parents and minors, in basically just Speedo's, or Sonya’s epic battle to stop her ballet dress falling down to reveal no leotard underneath! A fun time was had by all except for one thing, and this is purely my opinion as a sensitive viola player: what is inspiring about making a poor viola student play a 1000 bars of off beats in front of a full concert audience? Those who were there will understand.
As MCO prepared its main program of the tour there was also a positive bombardment of extra-curricular activities going on around; masses of chamber music rehearsals, MCO academy auditions, radio interviews, and of course for me, family outings!
Now maybe Dortmund is not everyone’s idea of a city break. The best hotel in town lies basically on platform 1 of the Hauptbahnhof, and your cultural passport to Friday evening on the town is knowing the football songs (sorry, shouts) of the Dortmund local football team.
There is, however, a wonderful zoo, complete with a very warm tropical animal house, and close contact with giraffes, lions, monkeys, ant eaters and other tourists. Dortmund also has a pretty impressive winter market, where you can enjoy a cup of hot mulled wine, buy some locally produced winter cinnamon honey and have a go on some of the rides. Do the two on the same day and you have a truly surreal marinade of honeyed giraffes, mulled wine tropics and, as my daughter pointed out, a feeling of being in the land of Narnia.
By the time Saturday arrived we had already played concerts in Essen, Köln and Dortmund, which left, a little something for the weekend. The Long Night of the MCO in Berlin was always going to be ambitious, and that, in my opinion, totally suites the MCO. But I don't think we were aware it was going to be as truly special as it was. To put on a 4 hour concert program in three different performing spaces at the same time is no small task and the MCO office pulled out all of their considerably professional stops to run a very, very slick show. Watching them persuade the jam packed public and performers in the right directions was like watching cabin crew in 1st class on Emirates long haul.
And what to say about the players. I don't really know of any other ensemble that has so much talent within its members that it can offer chamber music, orchestral music, electro acoustic music, solo music, Klezmer music, all on the same evening, at the highest standards.