Bundled into a taxi at the stage door of DNO, as if being taken to an under-cover location, Mr Walter finds himself 15 minutes later in the West of Amsterdam in a light industry quarter being dropped off just outside a car-wash – could this be the HQ of the ASKO/Schoenberg ensemble? Brilliant camouflage I thought, but desperate that these contemporary music ensembles have to go to such lengths to protect their identity – I once filmed a scene for a TV opera in a car-wash in London – Marschner’s Der Vampyr – this was a rather brave attempt to create a true ’soap opera’ by airing it in bite-sized chunks every night of the week, with the whole show going out on the Sunday – what Marschner would have thought of such locations is another matter, or how one of his characters had become “car-wash manager” – but it was an unqualified success with one of the Vampire’s final victims being literally flushed out of a Merc in my care – valet parking was never the same again.
But it is actually next to the car-wash where the Ensemble rehearses, and this is where the joy begins – Michel announces that he has become a father for the second time – his son Tim arriving with immaculate timing on Sunday, his father’s only day off in our busy run-up to opening night – this guy will go far. Sincere congratulations follow from us all, and finally we hear Michel’s music again. During our 4 weeks of rehearsal, we have been blessed with a computer-generated sound of what might be accompanying us, which is very good as far as it goes, so the real sound does not throw us too much. In fact it is a considerable help – and an absolute joy to behold. We remember passages from before, but there is new music too, and great excitement around – he writes with such vitality, especially for the strings, and such imagination in instrument combinations and extreme pitches. This moment in a rehearsal process is always a high point – finally we all hear the whole piece; the instrumentalists have been rehearsing without the singers, and we have been listening to the dear computer for weeks – now at last, the piece comes together – and it is thrilling. So Michel has created two things of beauty this weekend – and we all applaud him again. Mr Walter, 71, childless – and dead of course, considers the extraordinary coincidence of both the conductor and composer now having two young sons – is there something in the water in IJburg?
Meanwhile back to the stage for the Piano Dress Rehearsal – so called, as it is normally the last time we do the piece on stage before the orchestra rejoin us – but of course, it really should be called the Computer Dress Rehearsal in our case – the ‘click-track’ will start, and one hour and 42 minutes later we will finish the piece if all goes well – rather like those announcements in planes that tell you as soon as you have left London Heathrow that you will land in San Francisco at 5.42pm, some 11 hours later – do pilots have click-tracks too? I think we should be told. What is for certain is that we might both suffer mid-air turbulence…
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