Travel Diary – Iceland, Day Two

Under Arrest? Or Getting in Shape?I have my first rehearsal with the Iceland Symphony today. It’s going to be a long one – 90 minutes on the first movement of the Brahms Concerto, a 20-minute break, and another 90 minutes on the remaining movements. In total it’s almost an hour longer than a typical American orchestra rehearsal. I notice with some relief that there is a fully automated and high-tech espresso machine in the musicians’ lounge.

It turns out that the orchestra hasn’t played Brahms 1 in about ten years, so we definitely have a lot of work to do. Arild and the orchestra work quickly and in great detail. But unquestionably, after 90 minutes on the heroic first movement, we’re all in need of a break.

I’m about to retrace my steps to my dressing room when I notice something odd. A dozen players have stayed onstage, and are gently clearing chairs and music stands around them, creating some personal space. Suddenly, one of the violists, Disa Jönsdóttir (this is a family-oriented country, everybody is the “sson” or “dóttir” of somebody), hops onto the podium and throws her arms up in a ballet pose.
“What’s happening?” I ask the concertmaster, who has thrown her arms up in the same pose. “Yoga”, she replies.

In hundreds of orchestra rehearsals I have only seen a few variations from the standard routine. Once, when I played the Beethoven “Emperor “ Concerto with the Mormon Tabernacle Orchestra in Salt Lake City, a player stood up and blessed the rehearsal before we began. I loved that. But yoga? What a great idea. So up went my arms. We spent a few minutes in various standing poses, made loud exhalation sounds, and strange gyrations. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to imagine an American orchestra feeing uninhibited enough to do this onstage during a break. And I have to say, it felt wonderful. One does build up physical tension playing Brahms. This was a great release.

One thing I did not expect during our workout was the presence of a staff photographer from the Icelandic daily, Fréttablaðið. I’m definitely not sure what possessed them to publish this photo with a headline that reads “Romance tonight.” It would appear to the casual viewer that we’re under arrest. “Halt! You’re playing the allegro non troppo too fast!”


"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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