Saturday, August 20
On the flight over I found myself casually discussing jet-lag with Wendy Williams and Marni Hougham. “Oh, it never hits me hard travelling in this direction,” I said blithely in the Amsterdam airport, quite certain that I would not be the only person in Helsinki electrifyingly awake at 4am. And now, positively drugged, trying to wake up from a nap at 4 in the afternoon.
How do they do it—our stunning international soloists who show up week after week in Minnesota to bestow their brilliant performances on music-lovers in Orchestra Hall, and then depart for other concert halls in other countries around the world? Always at their best. Seemingly impervious to fatigue, hunger, nerves. How does Osmo do it?
Somehow I think there’s more to it than simply, “Drink more water.”
And so I am using our free day to try to adjust my clock, as all the other musicians are doing as well. And to remember that today would have been my father’s birthday. He died suddenly three days before our very first European tour with Eiji Oue in 1998. He was a conductor, studied in Leonard Bernstein’s class with Koussevitzky at Tanglewood. He conducted a few Beethoven 5ths in his time. How he would have liked to be on tour with us now to hear this orchestra play Beethoven’s 5th in Edinburgh and Amsterdam. Isn’t it bittersweet that I remember that tour more vividly than any other?
Tomorrow it’s Beethoven’s 3rd in Lahti. I’ll be ready. I’ll drink more water. But if that fails, I know I can depend on the music itself to make me new.
Sunday, August 21
The Helsinki sun seems very low in the sky to me, and bright. So much so that I checked and discovered that the latitude of Minneapolis is about the same as Bologna, Italy, and Helsinki’s is level with Anchorage, Alaska. I did not know that.
Can this be why the city seems so slow to wake up? I went for a walk at 8am, and the streets were so deserted, it gave me pause. But here I am an hour later, back in my hotel room, safe and sound.
The streets are still quiet. Not so, the hotel breakfast room. I’m reminded why touring does so much to knit an orchestra collegially, musically, and—dare I say?—spiritually.
Every tour is high-pressure, but this one is, I think, more so than most. Music lovers at home have had ample chance to witness the resurgence of the Minnesota Orchestra. But it’s still a question in the minds of audiences here in Europe, where our fans go back to the days of the Minneapolis Symphony recordings.
No audience is more important to us than concert-goers at home; they are why we exist. But we do feel a certain added excitement, and you can hear it in the animated conversations at breakfast.
Players who normally sit a few feet away from each other on stage, but who may not have actually spoken together in months, are exchanging tips on how they are coping with reeds, managing to practice without disturbing hotel guests, worrying about adjusting to each hall’s logistics and acoustics. We are aware that our collective sound and approach to playing is greatly shaped by Orchestra Hall, but how will that translate in Lahti, in Edinburgh, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen?
A major tour like this one fosters every aspect of our musical identity. Shortly we will be on our way to Lahti, where my cello awaits. First performance of the tour. It feels like a long-awaited sunrise, this chance to shine as one of the world’s great orchestras.