Playing it Safe in Vancouver

Vancouver, Canada – Thursday 9 November 2000

After the cold shock of Edmonton, Vancouver comes as a pleasant surprise, with mild temperatures (around 10 degrees), just like an autumn day at home. The apparently omnipresent November rain has given way to sunshine, and the city is reminiscent of home in other ways, too; a spectacular harbour surrounded by steep hills and suburbs, a compact scale that can be covered easily on foot and plenty of autumnal colour in the turning leaves. It also feels safe; threats to personal safety and mustard attacks are long forgotten.

So safe is Canada, in fact, that there are moments when it feels just a little stifling. As we have witnessed, Canada has rules and regulations relating to safety that are unheard of elsewhere, and Canadians seem to love nothing more than to live life by the book. After dodging traffic in Latin America became second nature in order to get anywhere, we are bemused at the sight of people waiting patiently for traffic lights to change when there is no traffic to be seen. Canada is also the only place where the buttons provided in lifts to open and close doors actually seem to make the doors open and close faster than leaving matters to take their own course – every elevator ride becomes a frenzy of button pushing.

Our concert venue in Vancouver is the stunning, four year old Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia. The centre comprises a studio theatre space, backstage facilities and a 1200 seat concert hall. The acoustics of this hall are the best we’ve encountered on the tour thus far, and the hall’s acoustic design team attends both concerts. They are delighted when David and the TSO experiment with various settings for the moveable acoustic screens and curtains, something that the resident Vancouver Symphony has apparently been unwilling to do. The results are superb, the Orchestra sounds magnificent and both concerts are greeted enthusiastically.

Julie and I are becoming very familiar with the tour concert program, especially with the Haydn Cello Concerto in D, which has been played at all performances except the midday concert in Buenos Aires. It is a very attractive piece, with wonderful melodies, terrific scope for the ensemble and ample opportunity for virtuosic display on the pan of soloist Liwei Qin. I’ve now heard it seven times within two weeks, and while my liking for it has not diminished at all, I have the distinct feeling that (without intending any disrespect to Liwei) I could just about play it myself. I can certainly report from Argentina that the combination of the middle, slow movement with hot, un-airconditioned auditoriums is a very soporific one. The program is wonderful and the orchestra plays it extremely well.

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