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Our co-principal viola, Max Mandel, blogs his tour diary from Poland on the Bach Christmas Oratorio tour.
Day 2–3 Katowice, Poland
Sometimes this musician’s life is so full on that you don’t manage to make any plans before arriving at the next stop on your tour. Practising, packing, performing, and all of the other regular life commitments that come at you can feel overwhelming. Combine that with a lovely, gentle and persistent hangover from Coco Nuts, I wasn’t sure which end of the country Katowice is in. I thought, ‘I’ll figure it out when I get there.’
I had an odd feeling landing in Krakow, my first time in Poland. Both of my father’s parents were from Poland, so I was trying to connect to some feeling of returning to the homeland. But as the grandson of Jews who emigrated to Toronto during the 1920s, it’s a place that conjures up very mixed feelings.
I got to the hotel and checked the map for where Katowice actually is. Turns out we’re incredibly close to the Czech border (my family comes from the exact opposite end of the country). When I went for a walk around town I looked at it through my closest frame of reference, the Czech city of Ostrava where I had been in 2009 which has a wonderful contemporary music festival. The only description I can give you is that Katowice is like a more upscale, less industrial version of Ostrava. The number of people reading this blog to get that comparison is probably less than 1.
What Katowice does have is a spectacular concert hall, home of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra built in 2014 (with E.U. Funding) designed by Yasuhisa Toyota who has done some of the best halls around the world.
At rehearsal Maestro Suzuki couldn’t restrain his enthusiasm for the amazing acoustic, especially because he is very close friends with the acoustician.
Here’s the view from the maestro’s podium before rehearsal:
The concert had a little extra zest and a palpable sense of freedom because we could hear each other on stage much better than in other halls. We were feted with a lovely reception afterwards by the administration of the hall, rightfully proud of their new venue.
Here’s a pic of an angelic light fixture hovering over Masaaki:
The food was delicious except violinist Dominika Feher from Hungary tried to poison me with a cake which she claimed was very authentically polish (poppy seeds in the middle) but it was so dry I nearly choked. Luckily there was white wine close at hand to save my life. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully for me but by the sound of the occasional groan on the bus this morning I understand that some damage was done during the post-concert celebrations in the liquid form of Bacherovka. I had to look it up but guess what? It’s a 76 proof liqueur that’s actually Czech.
Check out part 1 of his tour diary. More tour diary entries coming soon.