I’ve got writer’s block today. Bear with me. I’ll try to work through it.
The Boston Symphony arrived in Lucerne yesterday afternoon after another uneventful, uninteresting charter flight. “Cheese sandwich or chicken sandwich?” Today I choose chicken, but there’s nothing between the two pieces of bread that come close to imitating chicken. Better to call it a bread sandwich so that whatever’s inside will come as a pleasant surprise.
Lucerne, as always, somehow manages to retain its charm and elegance even as it becomes more and more tourist saturated. The lake, mountains, and its historic architecture are as beautiful as ever. Here’s visible proof. In previous posts I extoled the brilliance of Felix Mendelssohn as a musician. It turns out he was also a gifted artist. On the left is a watercolor Mendelssohn painted of Lucerne back in the 1830s. On the right is a photo I took today from a similar angle, though with the swarms of tourists it was hard to find a spot that wouldn’t have a head in it.
The other noteworthy feature of our first of two days in Lucerne is the famous coffee machine at the Kultur und Kongresszentrum concert hall where we performed tonight. As soon as we got to the hall for the pre-concert rehearsal, a dozen of us ran to the machine, which makes the best coffee in Europe (from scratch) with the touch of a button. (Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.) To our great dismay, the machine was off and required a key to turn it on. In desperation we sought out and eventually found a hall staffer who turned it on for us.
Success? Not yet. The machine required “warming up” and the clock was ticking to our rehearsal. “How long?” we asked. “Be patient,” we were told. “Everyone knows this machine. That’s why we turn it off. Otherwise, we would run out of coffee.” I wanted to take a photo of the machine for this blog, but the hall manager would not permit it. He said no one is permitted to let the secret out. (I just made that up. I simply forgot to take a photo.)
The machine seems to be thumbing its nose at us. Should we wait, or should we go on stage and rehearse Shostakovich 4th and Bernstein Serenade? Our contract requires us to do the latter, not drink coffee, so we grudgingly obey our orders, casting gloomy looks over our shoulder at the intransigent machine.
But we have not given up! The rehearsal, only a 15-minute acoustical rehearsal, allows us a half-hour before the concert. Enough time to change into our concert dress, and yes, the coffee machine is cooperating! It has made its point, it seems to say. Once again, after our last trip to Lucerne two years ago—voila—a superior double espresso. Remaining alert through the Shostakovich will now be a piece of cake.
Did someone mention cake?
If you enjoyed this hastily written blog, you’ll certainly enjoy SYMPHONIES & SCORPIONS, an insider’s (my) look at life as a symphony musician, set against the backdrop of the BSO’s two historic tours to China.