These days, there is an additional element that goes towards the success of the concert. Apart from the regular logistics problems of getting players and equipment to the right place in the right time, the administration of an ensemble now has to deal with the every shifting demands of the coronavirus regulations in different countries!
I really don't envy them, as they will have to deal with the incoming and outgoing demands of travelling players with countries shifting into and out of various danger levels and their associated regulations. However, this orchestra has managed to do it... with a group that is around 70-90 people, a size that is unheard of in these times... well, at least in Western Europe.
A good chunk of the musicians (around half) have travelled from different countries in Europe to reach Prague for the annual Spring Festival where this orchestra will be playing the prestigious opening concert of the festival. This is a revered place in the festival running order where one orchestra each year presents their performance of Ma Vlast (My Homeland) by Smetana, in the country for which the six symphonic poems were written for. So, it is a really big thing for the Czech players especially!
So, after three gruelling days of rehearsal we are now near the end of the rehearsal period. This means we are due at the end of today's rehearsal for a last PCR test which will determine if we can proceed to the recording and concert stage of the project! So, all of this has been hanging on everyone's minds... we need to be in tip-top condition for the music... but we also need to be ultra safe and healthy, as a single positive result for coronavirus could crash the entire project.
Well... all of that out the way, it has been an amazing few days of playing again! I love this particular ensemble, and I've always enjoyed travelling to the Czech Republic to play with them! The Smetana is really a long way out of the comfort zone of the ensemble, as they are normally doing Baroque and Classical repertoire, but with the additional players, the group is ready to present a version of the Ma Vlast symphonic poems without the baggage of the traditional symphonic orchestras... so hopefully it will be a fresh and new take on the revered Czech piece in the homeland for which it was composed.
I have to say that I didn't really know the poems when I first arrived... and I was quite apprehensive, as the music is much further in the future than the stuff than I'm normally accustomed to... so, there was a very steep learning (re-learning... I used to do this stuff much more often!) curve. However, it appears that my fingers have some memory and ability that I didn't give them enough credit for... and things came back fast enough! I don't feel like a fish out of water at least!... however, the first violin part is a full on concentration fest... screaming around the instrument at speed! Phew... nice to get a kick in the arse to make you sit up straight for once!
Anyway, here is hoping that we can proceed to the next stage! Even if we can't, it has been a nice experience to revisit the Romantic repertoire, even if it is not my favourite sort of music! But I do find that I have missed it after these decades of playing mostly Baroque music from the two centuries before Smetana was born!
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