We left Salzburg pretty early. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but it was early. We went to Munich by bus (asleep), and flew to Madrid (asleep). Salzburg is pretty nice, sure, and its salty roots are tempered by Mozart-sweets of all kinds, but it’s also weirdly relieving to leave the place. The castles in the air there are grand to look at, but they also seem heavy, and it is hard to shake the feeling that one of them might fall on your head if you’re not careful.
And Spain is a relief. The airport in Madrid has bright colors and light spaces. We arrived at a hotel near the big bullfighting ring, and went soon away for a reception at the German Embassy. As a greeting to our hosts and their Spanish guests, we played a short, strange Boccherini quintet based very literally on memories from nights in Madrid (“La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid”), and then a very sexy Piazzola number called ‘Oblivion’. After that we ate tasty little toasts and talked for a while, and then, as a valediction, Jaan (Bossier) led a group in some Klezmer numbers, one of which was about a woman fallling off of a camel as she fell in love. The pieces were excellent, and the horn and bassoon, in particular, were hilarious.
The tour really began the next day, with the orchestra concert in Madrid. This concert had been largely rehearsed in Salzburg (the Jupiter Symphony and the Boulez, though they had undergone personnel adjustments too baroque to describe) and in Luleå (the overture to Don Giovanni); but the piano concerto (with Paul Lewis) we rehearsed only in the morning and performed in the evening. It all went smoothly enough, even though the rehearsal schedule left us with more hypotheticals for the evening’s performance than was usual. The Piano Concerto No. 27 of Mozart is rather strange, and full of odd turns and quiet traps. Even more strange is the ersatz concert ending of the Don Giovanni overture, which sounds as though the Don got a quick lobotomy before the curtain rose, and decided to settle down with Donna Elvira, or perhaps elope with Leporello. But -- back to the point -- the concert was just fine, and the Jupiter symphony made a powerful anchor.
We drove a lot the next day -- following a rainbow, as it happened -- four and a half hours from Madrid to Valladolid. There wasn’t really time to see what Valladolid was all about; we had a slow meal at the hotel, a quick nap, and then a concert. There was, however, an exceptional reception provided by the presenter, at which we were served local specialties (especially smoked lamb) with appropriate pride. The concert itself was fine in quality (notably more forceful than the previous night’s concert in Madrid), but peculiarly empty. We were chamber orchestra; they were chamber audience -- which was sort of cute. But we hoped for more in Zaragoza.
The concert in Zaragoza was better attended -- much, much better, in a a huge hall with lots of pointy angles that seemed to spell out ‘Zaragoza’. Getting there was... again, the many hours on the bus... but it was a beautiful drive (again, as it happened, following a rainbow part of the way) through the stripy geology of Spain. I can’t say enough about how stripy Spain is. It’s as though the ice age wrote its name across the entire country.
We had a bit of time -- just a bit -- to walk around in Zaragoza. Not anything like time enough to know the place, and only a few moments to find streets that weren’t large and full of the same old stuff you get everywhere. But there was time to say the grand plaza and bits of normal life. And after the concert, we dove into a nearby place and had very fine tapas. Maybe ‘fine’ is not the word. It was rough, and greasy, and delicious. Beer was tasty. I ate too much.
Many of us had the suspicion that the Jupiter symphony had gotten slower over the past two concerts, but it also seemed stronger.
Last on this speedy tour was Vigo, which is completely across the country. It is 20 KM or so north of Portugal. I’d never been to such a place. It had a seriously nautical -- as in 17th-century nautical -- feel to it, as well as a rather strong Caribbean/South American vibe, winter weather notwithstanding. And despite the fact that our trip there was phenomenally complex (bus to train station, train to Madrid, bus to airport, plane to Vigo, bus to hotel), we did have time to walk around a bit.
There was something time-removed about Vigo which our own hurry could not affect. The invitation to nostalgia amidst the sadly-winding hill streets is almost evilly strong, and a walk to the top of the central hill (in Castro Park, if I’m not mistaken) is magic-real beyond any northern European expectation. One passes an enormous, lurid, pink crucifix at the entrance; halfway up is an abandoned castle-themed restaurant with a curtain winding out its broken window; couples in their middle teens are hidden here and there like passionate easter eggs (reminders of eternal feelings that don’t feel quite the same anymore); the fortress at the top, into which one passes after braving the wrath of a small terrier whose owner is playing dominoes, contains a garden, a fountain, hidden entrances, and a weird purity.
That night we went to a local place remembered by the principal violist, and ate great quantities of seafood with great quantities of dry fruity wine. I don’t remember the name of the place. I only remember that there was some uncertainty about what the name of it actually was. It was late. The Jupiter Symphony was slower, and longer, and better, than the night before. And the next day, early, we broke apart, and flew to our respective homes.