Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Friday – Travel from Verona to Rome, Concert in Rome

It is difficult to know where to begin describing a day like this, perhaps at the beginning.

As is often the case, I skipped the hotel breakfast and stayed in my room to write. I’m not much of a breakfast person anyway so I chafe all the more under the provision in our contract whereby a large chunk of the per diem is deducted for the lavish buffets I rarely indulge in. Even more puzzling is the fact musicians would be billed for something most European hotels offer free of charge most of the time. No wonder some of my colleagues line pockets with purloined breakfast items to feed on for the rest of the day.

The bus ride to the airport ends with the bad news that our flight will be delayed. At 10:15 we are told to report back at 11 for an update. What happened to calling the airport before leaving, I wonder? At 11 the news is worse: no flight until 2. We are encouraged to get back onto the buses to be dropped off in Verona for some bonus sightseeing. I wander the streets of Verona for about an hour and get back on the bus at 1 to return to the airport.

Security is painfully slow, and Verona is one of those airports where passengers need to take a bus out to the plane even though it could be plainly seen through the terminal window parked about 200 feet away. The last orchestra members boarded a little after 2 at which point we were informed by a sheepish sounding captain that because of the slow boarding we had missed our slot and would need to wait 90 minutes. To the relief of all we got going almost right away. From then on the flight was more or less normal. We landed a bit after 3 and by 3:30 I was on the train to Rome. Since I chose not to stay at the orchestra hotel I was spared another bus trip. All in all there would be 7 bus rides a colleague pointed out at the intermission of the concert that evening.

I made it to my room by 5 and spent almost an hour trying to figure out how to get to the concert hall by city bus. Rome has hundreds of bus lines that twist and turn throughout the city, making planning a trip a challenge for the novice traveler. A brief nap followed by a slice of pizza on the run had to stand in for what was supposed to be a half-day in Rome. Arrival at the concert hall by bus at 8 PM for a 9 PM concert was largely uneventful.

The concert hall in Rome is part of a giant complex containing several venues. We were warned in our tour book that it was a 7-minute walk from the stage door to the stage – more or less true. Inside, the auditorium looked much like the all too familiar Berlin Philharmonie, with some of the same sound issues as well. At the opening of the Tchaikovsky 6, I thought I was playing but no sound seemed to come from the instrument. Someone said after the concert the basses sounded ‘OK’ in the hall, but under the ear, nada.

The orchestra played well, I thought, considering what a crappy day we had. The atmosphere was more charged than the night before, I guess because it was Rome. Also, the president of Italy was in attendance. I was nearly trampled by paparazzi on my 7-minute walk to get out of there.

Outside, I learned that there ‘might’ be a bus strike in progress, walked halfway back, and then took a taxi, not reaching the room until 12:30. Various revelries kept me up until about 3 AM.

Saturday is a free day, thank heavens.


Karajan fan said...

Just curious,

What don't you find satisfying with playing at the Berlin Philharmonie?

Michael Hovnanian said...

The sound.

Erin said...

Saw you concert last night in London... how did you find the acoustic?

I work there too actually, editing programme notes among other things. Though I didn't work on yours.