Very low temperatures and a big surprise!

Report of my 2nd trip during my 25th conductor’s jubilee

Two weeks ago, I left home to conduct the BACH Chamber Orchestra (Soloists of Russia) from Yekaterinburg and the Murmansk Philharmonic Orchestra. I did put as many as possible warm clothes in my suitcase, knowing it would be cold in the Ural and above the Polar Circle.  

The last time I worked with the BACH Chamber Orchestra was almost two years ago. It was a pleasure to see and work with these enthusiastic musicians again. The atmosphere during the rehearsals was one of concentration, devotion and commitment. On the program the Idyla by Janacek, the Concerto in D by Stravinsky, two pieces by Sibelius (Romance and Rakastava) and the Two Elegiac Melodies by Grieg. The work by Stravinsky is not easy to play, but the individual musicians were well prepared, so after several rehearsals we were able to play it in a fantastic way during the concert. The Idyla by Janacek was played with a lot of musical energy. The orchestra showed to be able to produce many different colours and to play with a big dynamic range. A concert to be proud of! Special thanks to Anna Balovina (director of the orchestra) who looked after me all those days and who had the organization in full control.  

The concert took place in the beautiful museum for architecture with very nice acoustics. The only disturbing thing was a machine for smoke alarm that couldn’t be switched off and that produced an audible humming sound, being exactly a c-sharp. And this tone didn’t really fit to our pieces in C-major and d-minor!

During this week in Yekaterinburg, I needed all my warm clothes. One morning I went to the rehearsal and the temperature outside was -26 degrees Celsius (feeling temperature was -32!). The magazine JustMedia made a small photo shooting with me that morning.  Click HERE to take a look at some nice pictures.

A special experience to me was the frozen river in the city. During many months in winter, people don’t cross it over the bridges, but just walk over the ice with snow from one side to the other. In this way, many paths arose and of course I used them too. 

On the frozen river with a beautiful view of the city of Yekaterinburg









The week after was for the Philharmonic Orchestra of Murmansk. It had been two and a half years ago that I conducted this orchestra. On the program three works: Asia Argento for strings by the Dutch composer Chiel Meijering, the first piano concerto by Chopin and Schubert’s symphony no. 6. The piano concerto was the first work I rehearsed. After we finished it, I told the trombone player and the 3rd and 4th horn players that they could leave, because there are no parts for them in Schubert 6. Both horn players didn’t leave. On my question why, they answered that they had parts to play. My first thought was: “Oh my god, some stupid arrangement with two extra horns”. So I decided to take a look in their parts. It appeared that they had parts of Schubert’s 4th symphony. My second first thought was: “These two horn players have the wrong symphony”, but immediately after I saw, that all the other musicians had Schubert 4 as well. So we had a problem: I didn’t prepare Schubert 4 and had no score of it, the orchestra had no parts of Schubert 6. My third first thought was: “Okay then, let’s go for Schubert 4” and after 10 minutes I got a copy of the score (thanks to IMSLP) and the rehearsal went on. The funny thing is, that both symphonies begin with a long note c played fortissimo by the whole orchestra. I might even not have noticed in the first seconds that the orchestra would have played another symphony than the one I would have conducted. I was happy the orchestra didn’t chose for Schubert 1, 2 or 3, because these symphonies I don’t know. The numbers 4 to 9 belong to the standard repertoire, and these symphonies I know rather well. I still didn’t find out how this situation could have happened.

The “heavy metal” piece by Meijering was a new experience to the orchestra. It’s a short energetic piece in rock style. Although the orchestra was not used to some rhythms, it finally managed to play them all and the result in the concert was overwhelming.

The soloist in the piano concerto was Mikhail Lidsky: a brilliant pianist who played a very poetic second movement. His rubatos were not extreme (as do many other pianists), but felt natural and comfortable. I was surprised to hear that he even spoke a little bit Dutch: in former days he used to play in The Netherlands with orchestras like the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Schubert’s symphony no. 4 was a big success: the orchestra loved to play it and the public didn’t stop applauding.

During my stay in Murmansk, I visited the “Alyosha Monument”: an enormous statue of a soldier on a hill outside the city to the remembrance of the soldiers who gave their lives during World War II.

The height of the pedestal is 7 metres; the statue is 35.5 metres high. It is the second-tallest statue in Russia, after the statue “Mamayev Kurgan” in Volgograd (click HERE to read my post about my visit to Volgograd and this monument).


As always, I thank Elena Kostyuchenko for her detailed preparation of this second concert tour in the year of my 25th conductor’s jubilee and for planning my trip to the Volgograd Philharmonic Orchestra next month.



  1 comment for “Very low temperatures and a big surprise!

  1. Cees
    16/03/2018 at 21:01

    Renee день я желаю вам удачи с юбилеем и поблагодарить вас за вашу историю.
    Успех и хороший отдых в России-матушке
    Cees 🎺

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.