Here it goes. After a punishing pair of flights, and the nicest bus ride you’ll ever have (suede seats!), the Pacific Symphony and your favorite critic arrived at the Hilton in Munich Saturday night much the worse for wear. The flights did have their use, however, namely, getting acquainted with members of the orchestra, and in some cases reacquainted.
My row included myself and the violinists Angel and Tina, who shared with me the musical journeys that brought them to the Pacific. Both women are from China, in fact, and Tina is brand new to the orchestra — her first full concert with the group will be in Munich Monday night.
Bass-trombonist Bob Sanders, who sat in front of me and watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the video monitor (don’t worry, Bob, I won’t tell anyone), greeted me with a detailed disquisition on how I was wrong, in a review I had forgotten about, to say that his solo in the Bydlo movement of Pictures at an Exhibition should have been on a tuba, not a euphonium. Seems that Ravel’s “tuba” was much closer to our euphonium than the instrument that we call a tuba. I wonder if it’s too late to run a correction.
Many of my chats, in fact, had something to do with criticism and its foibles — and I must have provided my musical credentials a half a dozen or more times. Ah well, I knew that going in. Musicians, when they don’t actually loathe critics, are a little suspicious of them. Second trombonist Dave Stetson, who was my fierce section leader in the USC Marching Band several lifetimes ago, stopped by my seat to catch up and told me that he agreed with 90 percent of what I write — the unspoken message seeming to be, but boy, howdy, that other ten percent is out there, man. Everyone has been most friendly, though.
The leg room was too cramped to get any real sleeping done, but the alcohol was free. Early in the morning, upon seeing me pull out some reading material, Roger Angell’s Late Innings, oboist Jonathan Davis turned and nodded his approval. When I asked him if he was a baseball fan, he merely replied: “I’m from Boston.” You learn to conserve your energy under such circumstances.
Our hotel is literally next door to the Philharmonie am Gasteig, the concert hall (or, actually, collection of halls) where the orchestra performs Monday night. More on that score in a bit.