After having prepared myself during many months to be able to conduct the famous “Le sacre du Printemps” by Stravinsky by heart, I left for Volgograd on March 27. The other piece on the program was the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, to be played by my son Maxime, who would travel to Volgograd some days later.
My flight schedule: Amsterdam – Paris – Moscow – Volgograd. Unfortunately, the plane from Amsterdam to Paris had a considerable delay, which meant I would not be able to catch the next plane in Paris and this meant, I would not be in time for the first rehearsal in the morning of the next day. Arriving in Paris, the quickest way to travel to my destination, was staying the entire day at the airport in Paris and taking the last flight to Moscow (23:30 h), which I did. So, I arrived in Moscow at 04:00 in the morning, without having slept. The first flight to Volgograd was at 09:30, arriving at about 12:00. From there, I was brought directly to the orchestra, which had already started to rehearse from 10:00. Finally, I could rehearse with the orchestra from 13:00-14:00. Although I was very tired, I preferred not to sleep in the afternoon.
The hotel (Hotel Volgograd *****) was excellent and the concert hall was situated at a wonderful place at the bank of the river Volga. On Facebook I already posted a picture of that building. In my country, we have the “Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ” (Music building at the river IJ), in Volgograd, they have the “Muziekgebouw aan de Wolga”!
In the next days, I rehearsed with the orchestra, solving all kinds of problems, most of them being caused by the use of two different editions of the “Sacre” (one of them rather old and handwritten!). the progression of the orchestra was considerable and I was happy to tell this during an interview with the local television. For those who understand Russian, or for those who are able to listen to the spoken English at the background, here is the link to the entire interview:
In the meantime, Maxime had arrived in Volgograd. Together we went to “Mamayev Kurgan”, which is a statue of “Mother Russia”, symbolizing the victory of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on the German army in 1943 which was a turning point in the Second World War. The size of the statue is amazing and very impressive. By enlarging the picture, you will see me standing at the foot of the statue which is 85 meters high. The sword has a length of 33 meters! It is the highest non-religious statue in the world.
The next day, we visited the city museum about this battle. A personal guide told us during more than two hours all about the brave citizens and soldiers of Stalingrad. This was a very impressing experience as well. Above the exhibition halls of the museum, there is one of the biggest panoramas (painting) in the world. Beautiful!
There is a short video on Youtube, showing all the interesting things of the museum (including the statue) in 2 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvobq2HrN08
On April 2nd, after several days of hard working with the orchestra, we were ready for the concert. I guess about 700 people came to listen to Tchaikovskys and Stravinskys masterpieces. We started with the violin concerto. The orchestra played and accompanied in a fantastic way. All my compliments! After about 5 minutes, Maxime suddenly stopped playing: the tuning peg of the e-string had loosened and he couldn’t continue playing. So, I stopped the orchestra as well and after a short time, the violin was ready to be played again and I decided to start the concerto from the beginning: here is the video of the accident:
The audience applauded long and enthusiastically after the first movement as it did as well after Maxime finished the concerto. It had been a very musical and energetic performance. Of course, as a father, I was very proud of my son.
Maxime decided to play an encore piece: “Dance” by the Dutch composer Theo Loevendie, with small bells around his right foot. The public reacted in a fantastic way: take a look at the video.
After the break, there was the exciting moment for me of entering the stage and facing the orchestra without having a stand with the score of the “Sacre” in front of me. Conducting by heart gives me the freedom to communicate continuously and personally with every single member of the orchestra. This direct communication is very important for me: it gives me the feeling that we are making music together. This is exactly what happened during the concert: all musicians were very concentrated, gave their very best and reacted perfectly on my “wishes”. A great achievement! Here you will see the “Mystic circles of the young girls” and a short excerpt of the “Sacrificial dance” (because the microphone is near the brass and percussion, the audio is not ideal):
Satisfied, Maxime and I left Volgograd next morning and we arrived perfectly in time in Amsterdam at the end of the day.
As with my former Russian concert tours, I want to thank