There is time to report only that that the musical pubic of Rotterdam cheered the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony last night to the a echo; the applause wouldn’t end as conductor Benjamin Zander and the soloists kept returning to the stage and Zander acknowledged the principal players who stood for solo bows before each individual section rose – percussion, brass, harps, woodwinds, basses, cellos, violins. Offstage assistant conductor Benjamin Vickers came on, along with Beni Csillag, the conductor of the Koorbiennale Festivalkoor, and it was a nice touich that Johnny Helyar, who has been in charge of most of the backstage mechanics, inclulding loading and unloading the heavy instruments, also arrived onstage bearing the flowers for the soloists and conductor. The ovation was nearly as loud as the climax of the symphony when the organ comes in shake the foundations of the universe.
De Doelen, Rotterdam’s wonderful concert hall, wasn’t sold out but there was a substantial audience of 1500 or so, and the performance went on despite a couple of minor crises and wardrobe malfunctions – I don’t know how one player who arrived in the hall with only one shoe managed, but I did see chaperone Michael Czitrom give the black socks off his feet to a player who didn’t have any. “It’s the California look,” Czitrom said. Once again Rui Liu went on without his missing glasses; he courageously played even though he couldn’t see his music.
One of the tour leaders justly observed that Zander and the orchestra had clearly learned from the difficulties of performing this work in the cathedral in Haarlem – there was a new sense of spaciousness in Zander’s unfolding of the work, and it was wonderful to hear the kind of detail that it was impossible to discern in the cathedral (although the musicians had to create that detail, or the glorious echoes in the church would have been echoes of something else!).
Today had a difficult beginning. It took a long time to pack and load the instruments and by the time the busses arrived back “home” in the Haarlem StayOkay it was well after midnight, and Elisabeth Christiansen was posting today’s schedule which began with breakfast at 6 AM. The group travels to Amsterdam this AM for the dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s Mahler 2 in the legendary Concertgebouw – there is another event in the hall this afternoon, so the BPYO needs to be out of the hall by noon. This afternoon there will be an excursion to the Rijksmuseum. Around me a fairly groggy crew is finishing breakfast, but it is certain everyone will be in full alert by the time we arrive at the hall.
“As we approach the Concertgebouw,” Zander has repeatedly said, “we all feel like Muslims entering Mecca. It is an awe-inspiring thing.”