The Orchestra on Tour

Tour to Georgia and Romania

 

In a tradition as old as the orchestra itself, during the inter-season period, the IPO is busy giving concerts around the world. This time it’s Georgia and Romania.

 

Program

TIBILISI

14.9.17 Open air concert at Tsinandali concert venue

 

Zubin Mehta, conductor

Khatia Buniatishvili, pianist

 

Enescu: Voix de la Nature

Schumann: Piano concerto

Tchaikovsky: Symhony no.5

 

Bucharest

16.9.17  Grand Palace Hall

 

Zubin Mehta, conductor

Khatia Buniatishvili, pianist

 

Schumann: Piano concerto

Strauss: Symphonia Domestica

 

17.9.17  Grand Palace Hall

Zubin Mehta, conductor

Leonidas Kavakos, violinst

 

Enescu: Voix de la Nature

Brahms: Violin Concerto

Schubert: Symphony no.9 (“The Great”)

Updates from the Tour – Sivann Maayani

In the middle of summer vacation, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra made its way to Terminal 3 at Ben-Gurion Airport. We had not worked as an orchestra between the China tour and this one, so the atmosphere on our charter plane was one of ease: a group of people taking a short break from summer vacation for an off-the-beaten-path tour. There was not the discomfort of a long tour, just a week-long period including travel, with only two stops along the way in Georgia and Romania, and with familiar repertoire in each of the three concerts.

 

After the short flight we arrived at our hotel in Tbilisi, and buses were waiting to bring us to the Old City area. We immediately felt welcomed by our Georgian hosts who had given thought to ensure a positive and interesting experience for us. The first goal of this visit was to look for local khachapuri and a culinary experience that Georgian cuisine promises.

 

We sat down in a place we did not know, and to our surprise, not all the dishes were as delicious as expected, even the famous khachapuri. We naively thought that no matter what restaurant we found, everything would taste good.

 

But the small alleys, the beautiful buildings, and the unique Georgian-Christian architecture eventually turned food into a secondary interest that evening.

 

The next day, this time after preliminary research, we went to a restaurant called “Schuchmann.” A fusion of Georgian food and molecular cuisine, they use molecular knowledge to prepare original and surprising dishes, which we don’t usually encounter. And each dish was more surprising than its predecessor—from the assorted vegetables to a beet ball, pumpkin ball and almond ball wrapped in a zucchini strip, to lemon and peach jellies that, together with balsamic vinegar, served as a kind of wood sketch on the plate, and were also part of the sauce.

 

I have often said how great it is to go on a tour that, before everything else, is work. We are still able to see special and exotic places on a free morning, precious quality time that adds another dimension to the tour—the contrast between work and leisure.

 

On a free morning there were two possibilities for trips: the ancient city of Tbilisi, or a short drive to the Jvari Monastery and the town of Mtskheta, located at the foot of the monastery.

 

I chose the second trip, which was fascinating (those who chose the first trip also reported great fun). The monastery, the city (one of the oldest in the country), and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is considered sacred, as it has been a vibrant Christian center in Georgia since the fourth century AD.

 

The view from the abbey was so beautiful because it was mountainous at the confluence of two rivers, the Mtkvari and Aragvi. Thanks to our spectacular tour guide, we got a taste of the cultural and historical richness that Georgia has to offer. I did not imagine this was such an interesting place with such a complex history. Our guide Tamara, with her immense knowledge, managed to convey the essence of Georgia and the Georgian nation. In order to accurately describe everything she told us concisely, I would have to turn to history books, but her overarching message was that Christianity for the Georgians was not only a religion, but an identity. For many centuries Georgia was conquered by nations who tried to suppress their warrior spirit by destroying the structures where they prayed and attempting to convert them to other religions.

 

Tamara told us a lot of interesting facts. For example, I did not know that Georgians had their own King David.

 

Or, that the name Tamara comes from Tamara, Queen of Georgia.

 

It is amazing to think that she was one of the first ruling women since the kingship of ancient Egypt. Tbilisi is a city of contrasts between East and West, as it sits in a strategic place geographically, between West Asia and Eastern Europe, on the historic Silk Road.

 

During this tour we had two extremely interesting and contrasting soloists in different points of their careers. Khatia Buniatishvili is a talented pianist who has already reached superstar status in the piano world. She appears with us almost every year and it was exciting to accompany her in a concert in her native country. Her appearance is charismatic and captivating, which apparently causes many men to miss a beat, and the women have respect and admiration for her as she evokes royalty with her ladylike way of being. It is wonderful that, despite the tremendous success she has already achieved, so much more is still to come, and the sky is the limit.

 

In a previous post from the China Tour, I wrote that everything in life is a matter of timing. Again and again this saying proves true…every day and every hour new members of the orchestra got to know every nook and cranny of the digestive system, with varying degrees of severity. Of course, then, in Bucharest, in rehearsal the morning before the third and final concert, the orchestra’s energy was extremely low. Apparently we had a stomach virus, as can happen on a tour where we have been in the same place for a long time.

 

The day before, our doctor stood up at the start of the rehearsal and said, “Half of the orchestra did not contact me about digestive problems, but this does not mean they do not have digestive problems, it means they did not contact me.”

 

The first half of the rehearsal passed with difficulty, due to our delicate condition, and then when the second soloist, the wonderful Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos, joined us for his part of the rehearsal, he so conquered us with his supreme playing and gentle smile that his arrival was a cure for our anguish.

 

That Kavakos is a master violinist is only the starting point, as great as this may be, of all that his music inspires. He puts his infinite abilities into the service of the art so fully and modestly that the result is pure music, his instrument is merely a means of expression, and the experience is comprehensive. The balance he finds between the heart’s work and profound intellect is perfect, as is the balance between his personal ideas and Brahms’ own intention in the violin concerto. I also felt that the entire legacy of Kavakos, who is rooted in Greek culture, is present when he performs. It is impossible to explain this exactly, but can only say that his understanding of all these concepts is deeply entrenched in him. During the concert the silence in the hall was deafening.

 

Kavakos listened to the orchestra, interested in full collaboration in making chamber music with us, and the attention he received from Maestro Mehta is no less miraculous. There is no doubt that Maestro Mehta’s unquestioning ability to safely lead the orchestra through the corridors of a symphony is immense, but the way he attends to his soloists is unparalleled. The ease with which he translates this understanding to the orchestra is remarkable (this is also notable in his conducting of operas, as in Turandot at the end of last season).

 

In conclusion, I will share with you how nice it is to visit summer festivals that are also a meeting place for musicians from around the world. In Bucharest, I happened to see my roommate from my time in London, a trumpeter in Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt. It was a lovely reunion, and I’m sure other orchestra members can tell of similar encounters. I also hoped to hear a recital by the famous tenor Jonas Kaufman during the festival, but he canceled his appearance at the last minute.

 

The wide range of experiences on this tour has made it memorable…and now we are on vacation until the beginning of the season, where we will meet you fresh and ready (hopefully) this fall on our next tour in the United States.

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