BOSTON-Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra have played in a couple of the great old concert halls of Europe this summer, and one edging into middle age, the Berlin Philharmonie, now 52 years old and still looking great.
SURSEE, SWITZERLAND – Tonight, Monday, in Lucerne, conductor Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic will play the final concert of their European tour, and it will certainly be an emotional occasion. Then, Tuesday morning everyone climbs onto buses to take us to the airport in Zurich and then on to Boston, some players on a direct flight, others with a layover in London.
SURSEE, SWITZERLAND - There has been only one concert by the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra since its glorious program in Berlin’s Philharmonie Monday night, and that took place in the Kultur Casino in Bern, Switzerland on Wednesday evening.
BERLIN – Event concerts are one thing; concerts that become an event are another. An event concert is created by publicity, summons big names to perform predictably programs, television cameras record the proceedings, and then the music congeals on PBS.
BERLIN - The third concert on the 2015 Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra European tour was a runout from Prague – that is, the musicians left the Prague hotel in the morning, travelled by bus to Pilsen, about 90 minutes away. In Pilsen the group had lunch, rehearsed, and gave a concert before returning to Prague late.
PRAGUE - “They clean up well,” remarked a chaperone when members of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra descended the stairs to enter the lobby of the Park Hotel in Prague, Czech Republic. They were dressed for work, which meant that there was a concert to play, an important one. The young women were perhaps less startling because they were limited to black, but they looked quite elegant, a quality that doesn’t seem all that interesting to most teenagers these days, and the phalanx of young men in tux and black tie looked like a photo spread in GQ.
PRAGUE - The good news first - not that there is any bad news so far on the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's European tour, which continues in Prague. The opening concert on Tuesday night in Smetana Hall was nearly sold-out, thanks to BPYO buskers and to 3,000 flyers which the players and tour staff took with them and distributed everywhere they went. Michael Stephan remained outside the main entrance until time for the concert to begin playing highlights from the tuba literature and urging passers-by to come on in.
PRAGUE – In 1962 this historic city destroyed a landmark – the world’s largest statue of Joseph Stalin. It stood on a hill arising from the banks of the Vlatava River, famously depicted in music by Bedrich Smetana as “The Moldau.” The statue was built to last, to join the history of the city; in fact it loomed for only seven years. It took 2000 pounds of dynamite to blow it up, and the force of the explosion, they say, shattered windows all over the central city.
“Impossible,” scoffed the Scotch-born impresario Neil Wallace, when Benjamin Zander proposed a tour of the Netherlands for June, 2013 rather than the summer of 2014 or 2015. That was at a point about a year ago, when Zander’s Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra existed only on paper; the players were still being chosen, and no rehearsals had taken place yet.
For musicians, the great concert halls of the world are holy ground – the expression comes from the Bible, Exodus 3:5, a verse describing the moment when the voice of the Lord spoke to Moses from within a burning bush and said, “Draw not near here: put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” Nobody that I saw took off his shoes when the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra entered Amersterdam’s Concertgebouw for rehearsal on Thursday, but