Our departure time on Saturday morning will be a truly gruesome 0730 deadline, so for the last full day in Salzburg I opt for a slow and civilised start. Breakfast in the room helps me out the door by mid-morning feeling rested and ready to stretch my legs in the now familiar streets. Getting to know this city has been a particular pleasure. Everywhere I go, I’m met with outgoing, friendly people who are interested in talking to me. My German is now less rusty and I am given the space to practise it. The temperature has fallen again so my walking tour soon sends me in search of a café. Café Fürst is brimming with old-world charm, a mind-boggling selection of cakes – and history.
Paul Fürst created the famous Mozartkugel chocolate in 1890. His great great grandson now runs this café and confectioners. The shop also has a display of unusual tiles… I spend the rest of my free time finding some local specialities to take home and taking leave of my favourite corners of Salzburg so far.
Our rehearsal today is scheduled right before the concert so I head to the hall early. It is already buzzing with activity. Various bits of Brahms issue from backstage and dressing rooms. The admin team is in full flow, ironing out problems and addressing queries. They have around 100 musicians to look after. And keep firmly on course.
Maestro Mena is concise in our short rehearsal, revisiting any problem areas and clarifying others. Often with helpful comments like “Here, I need more CARiss!” We look at each other. More….what?? “CARiss!” It turns out that he requires us to CARESS the notes as we play, producing a tender sound. Bless. He may have his own unique take on English words, but we still love him. Over the years we have grown wise to his unusual phrases. We know that when he asks us to please birth here, he wants us to breathe. He admits the speed of our earlier Brahms performance was due to the “crazy conductor,” but we are not alarmed. Adrenaline does strange things.
After a further superlative performance by Håkan Hardenberger, we get to find out how the conductor adrenaline is behaving. It is a slightly different reading from our previous one, but that is refreshing. This, the last concert of our Salzburg residency, feels special. And the audience reacts. Once again, cheers and vigorous applause. The two Grieg encores make their appearance and this time the trolls are not merely marching – they are gallopping in March of the Trolls. Mena has a glint in his eye as we end with a flourish. It has been an enriching few days of music-making together.
We are all on a high as instruments and clothes are packed for the journey back home to Norway. The massive BFO truck is already purring outside – our crew will be loading almost the second we close the cases. My cello buddy, Bodil, and I slip around the corner to the musicians’ pub for a celebratory gin and tonic. It feels good to celebrate what we have achieved this week. Charming a Salzburg audience to such a degree is no mean feat and we are proud of the whole orchestra.
By the time we emerge into the sinking temperatures, the truck is locking up and ready to go. We watch and wave as it lumbers off on the first leg of its long journey – they will first drive overnight all the way up to Hamburg. It is an emotional moment watching them leave with the precious cargo on board and the distinctive logo of our orchestra along the side.
Crossing the bridge for the last time, we come upon a trolleybus stuck midway and two men attempting to push it. It has lost contact with the overhead power lines and needs to be moved nearer to them. Bodil and I offer to help. So two blonde cellists lend a bit of muscle and enthusiasm to the general effort – and it works! The men laugh, a little surprised and we walk on, laughing. We have our uses….
I’m sure most of us are barely conscious, leaving our hotel at 0730 the next morning. It is a cruel hour after a concert, but I’m also looking forward to getting home, being reunited with my cat, Max, and catching up with sleep (and washing.) On Monday, we begin Amadeus week – with fresh inspiration in our baggage. Thanks for the tour!