Everybody seems to know somebody in Paris.
As the Philadelphia Orchestra pulled into town, most of the musicians were busily trying to round up their Parisian posse for an outing. Even music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin became scarce when his parents joined the tour in Paris.
After the modern, spacious music halls in Dortmund and Lyon, the old-school Théâtre des Champs-Élysées felt cramped and hot (perhaps to prepare the orchestra for the even closer quarters awaiting in Vienna). During intermission, the crew set up a piano in front of the podium for Emanuel Ax’s performance of Beethoven’s 3rd concerto (a performance that has yet to do anything but thrill), but the piano’s open lid completely obscured the audience’s view of Nézet-Séguin.
When the piano was removed for the final piece on the bill – Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” — the audience was treated to the short conductor literally jumping on the podium to coax the orchestra to its fullest power.
Listen to finale (above) and imagine Nézet-Séguin’s feet leaving the floor in his singular, athletic enthusiasm.
The next day was a day off for the orchestra, one that many musicians had planned for months in advance. As soon as the itinerary was nailed down with a free day in Paris, several members of the orchestra scrambled for tickets to the French Open where they saw Roger Federer play exactly one set before the rain set in.
A hardy few had registered for the Paris-St. Germain half marathon, a 13-mile run from the Paris zoo, along the Seine River, to the formal gardens of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
“I think it’s a great way to see a city,” said principal tubist and avid runner Carol Jantsch. “We don’t have time for sightseeing. It’s a good way to experience a town.”
Jantsch was joined by cellist Glenn Fischbach and concertmaster David Kim, who had earlier celebrated his 52nd birthday. Kim had put himself on a training program for months to prepare himself for the half marathon (the three finished in a respectable 2½ hours).
“Touring is such a special experience. Not one that many orchestra musicians can experience. Most orchestras can’t afford to do this, nor are they desired around the world,” said Kim. “It’s tiring – rehearsals, travel. It’s a quest for extra special experiences: great wine bar in an alley or a marathon.”
During a blur of hotels and music halls and cities, many of them coming and going before the musicians really notice, the 13-mile run crystallized a moment of the tour. “This is at the top of my list of 16 years with the orchestra – my list of special experiences,” said Kim.