The Jugendgitarrenorchester in Russia
Diary of an exceptional concert-tour
10th February 1994, youth-hostle Tübingen
In the early afternoon, the members of the orchestra appear to rehearse with the conductors Dr. Eberhard Wilhelm and Helmut Oesterreich, to freshen up the repertoire studied four weeks ago. It includes works of Erasmus Widmann, J.S. Bach, Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla, Leo Brouwer, Steve Reich, Werner Heider and others.
Departure to Stuttgart airport at 6.15 o'clock without breakfast. There the only misfit happens: The bus can't start, must be pushed by us. Then however, everything works perfectly: Arrival at the airport, check in, (our baggage includes a 60kg freight-case with electronic equipment) take off, and finally arrival in St. Petersburg (27 degrees Celsius below zero) at 15.00 o'clock. Mrs. Prof. Drosdowa, our spontaneous and improvisation-gifted guide, - we may call her Henrietta - is already there. She turns out as a resolute but very educated lady, who apparently knows every important person in St. Petersburg, from the custom- officers, musicians and artists up to the directors of broadcast, museums and theaters.With the bus chartered for the entire stay (it wouldn't have been allowed to go for just one meter in our country), we go to the city. In a school-like building, the Youth-Culture-Center, we meet the members of a childrens choire and ist conductor Ludmilla.The families of these children invite us to live in their homes.
Rehearsel at the Youth-Culture-Center and trip to the " Eremitage ", one of the most important museums of the world. We see paintings of the 20th century under the guidance of Henriettas English speaking sister Ina: Picasso, Kandinski - and also some of da Vinci, Rubens and Breughel and of the Impressionists Manet, van Gogh and Pissarro. Ina now accompanies us constantly and expounds the respective sights in her kind way, with the result, that at the end of our stay everyone of us knows the name of "very famous architect Rastrelli", who had built numerous palaces in St. Petersburg. In the afternoon, our first concert takes place in a church. The orchestra plays fine despite the perceptibly frigid temperature. For the Russian audience the accumulation of so many guitarists seemes to be something completely new and exotic. Afterwards, we return to our families, the both conductors are invited to a luxuriant dinner with champagne, vodka and tea by Ludmilla.
Visit of the Zarist summer-residence, "Peterhof". After watching the extraordinarily splendid interiors, we stroll through the park and on the ice of the frozen East - Sea. It is extremely cold and breezy. In the evening we could see Tschaikowsky's ,,Schwanensee", performed by the world-famous Kirov - Ballett. The next day, after another sightseeing of the "Puschkin-Palace", we do again extensive rehearsels.The next concert takes place in the following morning at a school. Certainly, it was not only because of the narrowness of the room, that we get an especially intensive contact to the youthful public. There were standing ovations, and after the last encore, the concert finally finishes by all together singing Russian songs. In the afternoon we have a city-sightseeing tour with the bus. Our driver, Wladimir, is a man like one imagines the typical Russian. Afterwards, there is a farewell-party of the guest-family-children. (The next day we shall go to Nowgorod.) We listen to an overwhelming performance of the children's choire, the level is really professional. A word to the guest-families: Despite the more or less existing language-barrieres, the people showed us an exuberant cordiality and hospitality.Their material need was obvious everywhere, but nevertheless they offered us particular hospitality: Beds were evacuated, candies, meat and fruits are presented, and I myself have to survive the Russian friendship with a particular steadiness in Vodka-drinking. Quickly, we get close contact, and then even serious conversation-topics like the current political situation, economy, democracy, communism, Tschernobyl etc arise.Beside the concerts, the musical experience, it was this the most valuable experience, that we could take home.
We go to the 200 km distant old Russian city Nowgorod, which formerly belonged to the Hanseatic league. In the history of Russia it had played an important role since the MiddleAges. A historic city-kernel with Kremlin-wall and dome-church reminds of former influence and wealth. Here, we have our most important concert in a beautiful big hall of the local philharmonic. It is a concert within the Nowgorod Winter - Music - Festival and it is estimated with active public interest. The local broadcasting brings a live-report of our rehearsel; in the concert-pause there are television--and press-interviews. A professionel announcer introduces our program to the audience. Again is the public reacts enthusiastically to our music. Not finishing applause, that forced us to four encores, may give an impression of that. Especially the jazzy pieces and the avant-garde works of Leo Brouwer, and Werner Heider ("Edition "), as well as Steve Reich's "Electric Counterpoint" were favoured.
The last day of our stay we walk around in the ancient part of town, looking for stamps which are very rare. On the way, we can see people, who had cut wholes into the ice of the frozen river bathing in it! Nobody of us felt urged to do likewise! In the evening Henrietta had organized a meal in an historic restaurant; beverages and foods after old Russian recipes are served.
Return to St. Petersburg and flight to Stuttgart. Everybody is back home again - wearily, but stimulated from the many experiences. These eight days in Russia had been a big success, musically, culturally and socially.