Alban's Blog

Copenhagen’s gorgeous new concert hall

I heard the rumour that 300 journalists got get laid off because the Danish Radio Station went completely over budget with their new concert hall in Copenhagen and in order to avoid bancrupcy they had to cut down their work force. Last week I had the immense pleasure to play in this absolutely stunning looking hall which and as much as it must have heard the people who lost their job, this hall was indeed worth the effort. I have never ever seen anything like it, although the architect must have been inspired by the Berliner Philharmonie with the audience sitting around the stage – but unlike in Berlin it is much less spread out, the feeling is more intimate, and the warm colours make it look like the coziest living room space. Acoustically it felt very good on stage, and the big Tchaikovsky Suite in the second half (never had heard that piece before) sounded very impressive from  my seat in the hall. No, I chose not to sit in and play because I wanted to hear the Danish Radio Orchestra in their new hall as a normal listener.It showed again how important a really good concertmaster is; it affects the entire string section, and this lady was such a strong leader, that for example the middle movement of the 2nd Shostakovich Concerto felt like an easy task for the first time ever. Oh, I adore this piece, and with the support from this top-notch orchestra it was much less scary than it usually is. Unfortunately the most dangerous part, the famous tenths in the first movement, which I nailed in all the rehearsals, didn’t come out as well as it should have: I had a tiny memory slip but the Russian conductor Alexander Vedernikov saved my behind by bringing in the attentive orchestra half a bar early, since I had jumped ahead in my slight confusion… Sorry, Dmitry, won’t happen again.

Highly fascinating, the psychology behind playing by heart and trying not to be afraid of loosing it. I felt incredibly secure and awake, fully in charge of the piece, saw the music more or less in front of me, including the orchestra cues – but all over the sudden I doubted myself, and doubt is memory’s worst ennemy. Well, Vedernikov used to conduct the Bolschoi, so it was a natural thing for him to catch me so easily, that the producer who was in charge of the live broadcast, didn’t even realize the mishap when I asked him to exchange that specific passage with the dress rehearsal for later broadcasts.

Danish people are considered to be the happiest in the world, and I must say, I could sense that happiness on and off stage, in the city, in my hotel and while eating in some nice restaurants. People are being treated very nicely at work, the minimum wage is incredibly high, even for student jobs, but you can’t really get rich since high incomes are taxed brutally – it seems to work, but maybe also because it is such a small country, and maybe I didn’t spend enough time there (it was my very first time ever in Copenhagen!) to get the full picture.

Now I am flying from New York, where I just rehearsed for two days with Cecile Licad for a recital in Montreal, to Miami to play Haydn D Major with the New World Symphony under Osmo Vänskä. How I miss New York, the city where my now almost 11-year-old son János was born, where I lived for 8 years! I love the ugliness of that city, the pulse, the craziness, the variety of people running around, the provinciality, the hype – New York is just beautiful in all its imperfections, too bad it is also so expensive. And as always I almost missed my plane by completely underestimating how long it takes during rush-hour to even drive to Laguardia.

Last night Cecile and me had a lovely dinner together with composer Matthias Pintscher and his boyfriend in an Asian Fusion Restaurant, maybe the most attractive restaurant I’ve ever been to, called “Asian Spices”. I don’t remember if I wrote about Matthias already, but he is among the most stylish musicians I have ever met. Besides being quite a wonderful composer (I played his celloconcerto with him already twice, next time in Amsterdam in a couple of months) he has an excellent taste in food (the restaurant was his suggestion), clothes and wine while being extremely charming – I will never forget how he managed to charm the grumpiest concertmaster on earth (no, no names!) into coming around and making at last an effort to play his difficult concerto.

Yesterday I tried to find the name of the venue where I will be performing in Montreal (right after my concerts here in Miami), and while googeling my name plus Montreal, I came across an article where a critic from Montreal was discussing the value of blogs, quoting how my blog might have influenced him while listening to my recital. He didn’t enjoy my Bach much, didn’t mind the Kodály but I guess because he knew about my hesitation having accepted this short-term-replacement he went soft on me in his review (which I never read); sadly I don’t remember how I played there two years ago, but I hope I can make for it this Sunday 🙂

He also quoted me for promising to play the Ligeti Solosonata the next time I would come to Montreal; how embarrassing, because I have completely forgotten this promise, and the program consists now of two Beethoven Sonatas (g and A) in the first half, and the Janaceck Fairy Tales with the Prokofiev Sonata in the second one. Why so much Beethoven? I just adore playing Beethoven with Cecile, because through her I learned to be more creative while playing this most emotional of all composers. Listening to her way of playing Beethoven made me understand how important the actual handwriting of a composer for us performers is; too bad that nowadays many composers use the computer instead of a pen and paper. The way how they write music can tell us so much about their inside while writing it…

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