/ by Solange Joggi, MCO Foundation Scolarship Recipient
My first opportunity to play with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra was during the NRW MCO Academy in February. It was such an amazing week and I really felt that I just lived a one-time life experience with one of the best orchestras of the world. So when I got a mail asking me if I was free to come once more to play with the MCO, you can imagine how excited and thrilled I was!
The plan was to spend 4 days in Novi Sad, Serbia, rehearsing at the music school, playing a concert in the synagogue, and then fly back to Cologne, where I currently study, to play in the amazing Kölner Philharmonie.
When I got the music, I found it very interesting that we were going to play music from American composers from the 20th century. "Shaker Loops" from John Adams was going to be quite a challenge to perform, because of a lot of tricky parts where you have to be 200% concentrated. The 2 other pieces, "Serenade after Plato's Symposium" from Bernstein and "Company" from Philip Glass were also quite challenging because there are lots of transparent parts where everything is crystal clear. So it was going to be a really demanding program that would be a great learning experience for me.
On the first day of my journey to Serbia, I was happy to meet Martin at the station who I had already met in February. We travelled together and arriving at Belgrad airport, we met Lawrence Renes, the conductor, with whom we went to Novi Sad. He was so friendly with us that we could already feel that the atmosphere of the rehearsals was going to be nice.
On the second day, the rehearsal started at 11, but as I was having an audition ten days after the tour, I decided to wake up at 7 and to go to the music school to practice. To be honest I didn't think I would wake up, but the sun of Novi Sad, rising through my window at 6:30 was a great help. When I arrived at breakfast, I met Helene, who had the same plan as I had. So we went together to the music school where the headmistress was so nice to us and gave us the keys of two practice rooms. It was great to have an early breakfast with Helene every morning and it gave both of us the motivation to practice before the rehearsals.
On the first rehearsal, it was a bit scary to see how difficult and demanding the John Adams was, but Lawrence Renes stayed really cool and trusted the orchestra so it all went fine eventually! But I found it really challenging to be able to sound like one single voice when you are only 5 or 6 violins in this piece. I think I learned a lot and it was really asking me a lot of energy. It was nice then to go outside in the evening with the percussionist group to relax and joke. It was amazing to see how they were so cool and relaxed while practising such a difficult piece ("Drumming" from Steve Reich) that they had to perform. They took it easy and I think that was, in addition to a lot of work, the secret of their amazing performance!
On the second day, we met the soloist, Patricia Kopatchinskaja. I was so amazed by how natural she sounds and is. She really has her own universe, and she has so many colours in her playing! The Bernstein was amazing with her. She also has this good groove that is really necessary for this piece. It sounded like the piece was written for her.
The concert in Novi Sad went well, and I felt nearly on holiday when we went to a nice restaurant outside with the whole orchestra, with 20 degrees at 10 pm! I can say that I really enjoyed my time in Novi Sad. The great weather, the nice people and the time at the music school - which is a lovely place - was really amazing.
In Cologne, the concert was also great and the Kölner Philharmonie is an amazing concert hall, but the change of the acoustics was also quite challenging. At the end, we were invited to eat in the restaurant of the Kölner Philharmonie with the whole orchestra, and I couldn't believe how fast this tour went by. It was such a great pleasure for me to play with the MCO. I'm really thankful to everybody that they gave me this amazing opportunity. It will always be a great experience to remember.