Thursday morning, with the cheers from Strathmore still in their ears, Nadja and the Orchestra were back on the road. It was a cold morning in Washington; the temperature had dropped at least 30 degrees from the day before. Although the Washington temperatures were balmy compared to where they were going.
New Century headed to Baltimore-Washington Airport, and on the way, Operations Director Everett Doner shot a quick video while everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to send as a surprise to Berkeley-based instrument-maker and repair-person extraordinaire Joan Balter.
We also said a fond farewell to bus driver Gerry Soucy (with Nadja, left), who had become such a popular member of the tour family since he met us at the Louisville airport two weeks, and 1,961 bus miles, ago. In fact, Nadja had announced from the stage in Washington the night before that she was dedicating the performance of the Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 to Gerry.
As the Orchestra got onto the plane, a new chapter of the tour was beginning. The next stop was Chicago, a city that had been one of the New Century Chamber Orchestra’s greatest successes on the 2011 tour of the Midwest and California.
After the flight, there was a happy reunion at baggage claim, as Pradeep Suri was there waiting for his wife, violinist Liza Zurlinden, and their daughter Clementine (pictured below with her mom and Gerry earlier in the tour).
After a ride through heavy Chicago traffic, the Orchestra arrived in Evanston, home of our wonderful host, Northwestern University. Just as was true two years previous, New Century was presented for Chicago audiences by Northwestern University and its Bienen School of Music’s Winter Chamber Music Festival, a three-week, seven-concert exploration of chamber music in its many forms.
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall is a small gem, seating almost exactly the same number as does Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. But Pick-Staiger, with a smallish downstairs seating space and a large balcony, is much more intimate, and audiences get much closer to the musicians. The sound is live and clear, meaning the orchestra did not need to “push” the sound off the stage, but could play naturally.
Being based at a major university’s school of music, with many members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on faculty, the audience was sophisticated, polite during the performance, and passionate in their response to the music.
Nadja and the Orchestra performed with enormous focus and precision. The Orchestra’s interpretation of Metamorphosen, while still passionate, has grown in subtlety, delicacy and nuance as the Orchestra musicians return to the piece for performance after performance and delve ever more deeply into its possibilities.
As has been true everyone where on this tour, the cheers went on and on, even after the Orchestra had finished “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (to many appreciate cheers and chuckling at the start) and Nadja led Associate Concertmaster Dawn Harms off the stage.