The end of our tour has arrived, and we are on our way home. Our last concert was in Madrid, Spain, at Teatro Zarzuela. The program consisted of three compositions by Sibelius, Pohjola's Daughter, Symphony No. 3, and Symphony No. 1. It is one of the trickiest programs of the tour, and it never got any easier. Because of the challenging acoustics and logistics of this particular hall, and because it was at the end of the tour, it might have been tempting to not put our hearts into this performance but that sort of thing is not in us. I have played in many different halls with this orchestra over the last 14 years, and we have made some less than perfect halls resonate beautifully. This turned out to be the case in Madrid. In my conversations with my colleagues following the concert, we shared the perception that Esa-Pekka, in spite of the hall, was digging in his heels and giving it his all. I found his passion very motivating and contagious, and that contagion extended to the audience. It was a great way, musically, to end the tour.
TheThe Los Angeles Philharmonic, while on tour, is subjected to less than ideal conditions because of the travel schedule, performing in a new hall with its own unique acoustical challenges in each city, adjusting to unfamiliar sleeping conditions, etc. But every effort is made to make us comfortable so that we can best represent our country and our fair city of Los Angeles. Sometimes the conditions are challenging, but more often they are favorable and even fun.
For the last hectic leg of our tour we are traveling on Swiss Air from London to Barcelona, finishing with Lisbon and Madrid. This is the toughest part of the tour because of the attrition alone, but it is also difficult because it is three concerts in three cities over three days. Ouch!
For whatever reason, so much seems larger-than-life on this tour, whether it's on a grand or intimate scale: The audiences, rapt with attention and then tumultuous with applause. And then a casual encounter with a concertgoer coming to the stage and welcoming me to town. Shopping in the endless, dizzying halls at Selfridges in London, and then happening upon a tiny icon sale at a Russian Orthodox church next door to our Paris concert hall. (It's not so easy understanding Russian spoken with a French accent.) Being overwhelmed by an enormous Giacometti show at the Pompidou and a few days later discovering the perfection of the small Courtauld gallery in London.
Everywhere the people are welcoming and enthusiastic, to the point where they've gone completely against type, as in the Parisian waiter who insisted on standing outside — for some time — on a cold night to hail us a taxi after a marvelous cassoulet meal.