I am in Heidelberg for the fiftieth anniversary of the Cambridge-Heidelberg-Montpellier youth orchestra and have just heard the most sensational concert.
I was last here forty years ago when I was lucky enough to be picked as one of the Cambridge contingent to visit Heidelberg for ten days of rehearsals, culminating in a concert at the Stadt-Halle. My memories were fragmentary, until I walked into that hall again this evening, and I immediately remembered, the gilt eagles and swans on the walls, the magnificent organ and choir loft and the heat, which played havoc with our tuning.
I shall say more about my visit in 1972 in a second post. For tonight I want to express my admiration at the young people who played tonight.
Directing the orchestra tonight was Georg Schmidt-Thomée, brother of the celllist Peter who played in 1972 and stayed with us in Cambridge when the Heidelbergers returned to stay with us. I stayed with Hans Döbbeling and his family; Hans was not a musician himself, though he knew many of the German players.
Georg shared the conducting burden with Olivier Vaisette of Montpellier and Matthew Gunn of Cambridge and the programme was well-chosen to balance the national traditions of each. After a rousing chorus from Carmina Burana, performed with a scratch choir made up of some former members of the orchestra, Georg conducted a brilliant young trombonist in a work unknown to me, a movemeent from Launy Grøndahl's concerto. Olivier gave us Debussy's Fêtes, Georg again took them through Mahler's Sympohnic Prelude, and the most extraordinary young meozzo, Sabine Garrone, scared us witless with Berliox's arrangement of Erlkonig; after Sabine had given us a wel-deserved encore, Matthew injected the English sense of humour with Matthew Arnold's A Grand Grand Overture. Written for one of Gerard Hoffnung's concerts, it includes obbligato parts for vacuum players, expertly played by some of the grown-ups.
After a break, in which we could inspect programmes and press cuttings from fifty years, Olivier gave us some Offenbach, the overture to La Vie Parissienne, Matthew conducted Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite and Georg finished with a spectacularly polyrhythmic Latin piece, Marquez's Danzon number 2.
In between the music, we were addressed by Herr Wörner, who runs the Heidelberg Stadtjugendring, Herr Dr Gerner the Bürgermeister , and Herr Bielfeld, for many years the leader of the orchestra. I remember rehearsing with him. He have a witty and humane speech, and reminded me of Geoff Varley's (of whom more later) maxims, 'no parties the night before the concert', and 'play together and have fun'.
We cheered them to the echo and gave them a standing ovation. Three encores were not enough, but they were more Offenbach, the Can-Can from Orpheus in the Underworld, Elgar's Nimrod from the Enigma Variations and the final section of Danzon No 2.