CSO IN EUROPE
When the music stops, the missions begin
Music Director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra 2011 European Tour (Todd Rosenberg Photography, Todd Rosenberg Photography / August 31, 2011)
The last of those consecutive nights came Wednesday in Luxembourg, where the audience was on its feet for the orchestra's and music director Riccardo Muti's second bow — and stayed there for bows three, four and five — following Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.
Thursday morning began the down time, with orchestra members given the choice of remaining in Luxembourg for another day or traveling to Paris, where the next concert was scheduled for Friday night.
Most took the Thursday train to Paris.
So what do classical musicians do with free time while on tour in Europe?
The oboists went to visit the Paris-based F. Loree company, which has been making the instrument since 1881 and, CSO principal oboist Eugene Izotov said, is "in every possible way the most important maker in the world and certainly the most important maker in the history of American oboes."
In most cases the makers are as eager to meet with the CSO musicians as the musicians are to see the makers. Having members of one of the world's top orchestras use, endorse or at least try out their instruments is no small deal to what often are small, family-run businesses.
So Izotov talked to the Loree folks about making some adjustments to his instrument so it would play even better than it already does. "We're always looking for improvements with how technology can serve artistry," he said.
Fellow CSO oboist Lora Schaefer was there as well and left with an arrangement to have two new oboes shipped to her in Chicago so she can try them out on stage. "And he did some work on my current oboe, which had issues," she said.
New principal clarinetist Steve Williamson was scheduled Friday afternoon to do a photo shoot and appear in some video footage for a clarinet maker in town. "They're sort of announcing my new position," he said, though he was taking advantage of the visit to request some instrument tweaks as well. "I told them that I want some changes made to one of the clarinets I play. I want them to reconsider how they're making my instrument."
A German horn maker visited the CSO brass section in earlier in the tour in Salzburg so they could offer feedback on some of his instruments. John Hagstrom tried out some trumpets. Charles Vernon sampled the bass trombone, so he could make suggestions for the maker, who wishes to sell better instruments in Germany.
"I help them, but I always like mine the best,” said Vernon, who plays a Selmer-Bach bass trombone made in Elkhart, Ind. Vernon and his wife, Alison, enjoyed the opportunity Friday for some Paris sightseeing, including a visit to the glorious stained-glass windows of the gothic Sainte-Chapelle cathedral.
Concertmaster Robert Chen also didn't have a particular mission Friday in Paris; or at any other point of the two-week tour; so he said he was going to take the advice of his wife and kids, who had been in Paris when he left for the tour.
"They said I should go to the zoo," he said.
Other orchestra members took off for the Eiffel Tower and various museums and churches while some musicians still could be heard practicing in their hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, some musicians could be heard practicing in their hotel rooms.
Musician missions were hardly confined to Paris. Acting principal timpanist Vadim Karpinos said that at the final tour stop in Vienna, he hopes to buy some Viennese timpani mallets. Other than that, he said, his main duty lay back in Lucerne, Switzerland, where he could "buy dark chocolate blackberry bark for my wife."
CSO librarian Carole Keller had a goal in Lucerne as well: to buy a high-end music box to add to her collection. But the raised prices and the poor dollar-euro exchange rate diverted her to look at watches.
Also in Lucerne, violinist Hermine Gagne said, "I'd love to get a cuckoo clock. It's my dream."