None of us can remember exactly when the idea of touring the OPL to South America started to evolve but it probably began with a dreamy remark over a post-concert glass of wine at the Philharmonie. Ever since Gustavo Gimeno was appointed as the OPL’s Music Director five years ago, travelling far became a clear ambition.
Life on tour – 100 people moving together on trains, planes and buses day after day for concert after concert – is never without its challenges. But the bonds created with colleagues through the shared discoveries of different cities and concert halls, publics, cultures and acoustics can have an enormous effect on an orchestra’s identity and music making. Over recent seasons we have been performing on international stages all over Europe from Brussels to Athens, Hamburg to Madrid. So, high time to see what might happen if we take the journey further.
The planning began about three years ago. First the essentials were put in place; some favourite programmes with a world class soloist and a defined period in the calendar. And then the conversations with concert promoters began. That Luxembourg and its orchestra hold a distinct place in Europe there is no doubt, but would we find an impresario on the vast South American continent some 9 000 km away who could be interested in our project and our music making? How might we find some common ground? We heard of a small population in Florianópolis, southern Brazil who are descended from 19th century migrant Luxembourgers. While they live by an extraordinarily beautiful beach, they unfortunately haven’t yet built a concert hall.
Gradually our proposal was answered, concert reviews and recordings were exchanged. The conversations became more concrete, dates were swapped, programmes juggled, and a schedule evolved. Twelve days, eight concerts plus workshops and masterclasses in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. But planning in the arts is never fixed; you can count on the unexpected. Just five days before we were due to travel our soloist Janine Jansen had to withdraw because of illness.
The disappointment in these moments is for everyone; the soloist themselves, conductor, orchestra, promoters and public. The plane tickets have long been purchased and the concert tickets long been sold. But the musical world is extremely positive both in its sympathy for an illness and in its resilience and belief to make sure that the music goes on. Great artists want to perform great concerts and what many are prepared to do for their art and at short notice is worth applauding.
Simone Lamsma, a young Dutch violinist, agreed to make not one but two round trips to South America within a week in order to perform with us in both São Paulo and Montevideo returning to Europe for a concert in between. And Julian Rachlin willingly changed his flight path from Indianapolis to Tokyo in order to join us for four concerts in Argentina.
So now, the travelling has begun, we already played one of two concerts at the legendary Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and no doubt there is still much to discover on a journey with still a long way to go.
Matthew Studdert-Kennedy is Head of the Artistic Planning Division at the Philharmonie Luxembourg and the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.