The upcoming Boston Symphony tour to Asia in February reads like Sec. of State Pompeo’s travel itinerary: Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai. We’ve already had a security briefing. Turns out the demonstrations and marches and general political unrest in East Asia might turn out to have been the least of our worries. Now, we also have to make sure we don’t contract coronavirus. String players like me can wear facemasks while we play, but those poor trumpeters! They’re in a bind. But they’ll be okay. Trumpet players are a hearty breed.
No fears about the music, though. We’ve been rehearsing the tour repertoire and tonight’s Boston concert is a preview: Barber “Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance,” Shostakovich Chamber Symphony (the orchestra version of his eighth string quartet), and Dvorak Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” All strong, emotionally appealing works.
I feel compelled to add an extra plug for the Dvorak. The “New World” Symphony is so familiar to audiences and performers alike that it’s almost impossible to hear it with fresh ears. And that’s a shame, because it’s one of the greatest pieces of the orchestral repertoire—I guess that’s the reason it has become so familiar—and now it’s genius is almost taken for granted. So artfully and imaginatively constructed, richly orchestrated, and of course, with Dvorak’s gorgeous melodic creativity. I wish I could have been at the premiere. But I’ve got the next best: playing it with one of the world’s greatest orchestras with one of the world’s greatest conductors in Andris Nelsons. It’s hard to ask for more than that.
While I’m in Boston, I’ll also have the pleasure of giving a book talk at Author Night at the incomparable Stellina Restaurant in Watertown on January 29. In fact, I’ll be talking about two books! Symphonies & Scorpions, my memoir about the BSO’s trips to China and Japan, and from which my TEDxSaltLakeCity2019 performance was extracted. And Maestro, the Potbellied Pig, my children’s book about a young harp player whose loneliness from practicing is cured by a rambunctious, music-loving pet pig. I’ll be joined in a musical presentation with one of Boston’s finest harpists, Franziska Huhn.