NACO tour blog 7: If it’s Sunday it must be Saskatoon

JKP with NACO violinist and buddy Mark Friedman

Saskatoon, SK

We are officially on the final stretch, having played in Calgary two nights ago and Regina last night, with Saskatoon tonight and Winnipeg, our final concert, tomorrow night.

There are signs. After last night’s concert in Regina, several of the players walked offstage looking slightly stunned. The hotel bar was a little quieter than usual at midnight. There’s a little less chatter and little more napping on the busses and planes.

And of course, the number one telltale sign that we’re near the end of an orchestra tour: it’s becoming obvious to anyone who looks – or smells – closely, that none of us have had a chance to launder or dry clean our clothes for some time. You can really tell if an orchestra is at the beginning or end of a tour by checking out their wrinkled tails and dresses onstage. (In case you were wondering who the best-dressed orchestra is, it’s the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Their secret? Thousands of local and inexpensive tailors in the nearby streets of Kowloon.)

Yet it is a sign of both the professionalism of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and of our feeling of being on a ‘mission,’ that the concerts this week have had as much energy and passion as they did at the beginning of the tour. I am at the “five down, two to go” stage, but they are remarkably at the “ELEVEN down, two to go” stage!

Two nights ago our Calgary audience had a rare treat and heard both NACO and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra together on stage in a stirring performance of Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5.

Prior to walking onstage, Pinchas Zukerman made a telling comment. “It’s not about how loud it will be when both orchestras are playing fortissimo – it’s about how rich and full the sound will be when both orchestras are playing mezzo piano.”

He was right, but I have to add that the symphonic climaxes in this performance were very, VERY loud indeed. (One of my habits, if I have performed a concerto in the first half of a program, is to sneak out into the hall to hear the symphony on the second half.)

For this Sunday we are spending several hours bussing from Regina to Saskatoon over a very icy highway, checking in to our hotel, and then bussing to the hall at staggered times to try instruments and test the acoustics, and then giving another concert.

At this point it’s probably a good thing that the concerto has been switched back to Beethoven 4. Shifting back and forth between Beethoven and Tchaikovsky is keeping me on my toes. In fact my practice schedule has been downright bizarre. Last night, after performing Tchaikovsky in Regina, I returned to my hotel room, ordered up a bowl of soup, switched on my traveling electronic keyboard, and practiced Beethoven 4, and then Shostakovich 1 (which I am playing for the first time with Hans Graf and the Houston Symphony next week) until 2:30am.

It’s a wonderful time to practice with absolutely no chance of a telephone interruption.

But I digress. Our busses are arriving in Saskatoon. The mission continues…


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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