The entire morning of September 8 was spent writing and posting the previous blogs, of course with a coffee break at Starbuck’s. At 1:30 PM we left the hotel and took the Hankyu Line train to the concert hall for the first full rehearsal with the P.A.C. Orchestra. We arrived just in time to check our instrument setups, which had been transferred from the rehearsal room, and of course, everything was positioned by the stage crew perfectly. Somehow the ribbons and wind chimes were also in place without any instruction from us. (We later learned that one of the stage crew members had been at the Suntory Hall Japan premiere of “From me flows . .” in 1991, and he remembered the setup.)
The rehearsal went very well and Yutaka Sado, the conductor, had a real ‘feel’ for the phrasing. There are always a few timings and cues to be worked-out at the first rehearsal and these were resolved easily. The orchestra sounded great and the solos in the orchestra – flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn – were done beautifully. After a second run-through, the piece was basically ready to go.
The rehearsal ended at 4:30 PM, and we had a few hours to kill before the 7:00 dinner to be hosted by Sado. So, Russell, Bonnie, Garry, Diane and I walked a few blocks to an enormous nearby indoor shopping mall, with 2 anchor department shores and 4 floors with dozens of small fashionable clothing shops and restaurants. We didn’t buy anything, but after a while we stopped to get something to drink. I ordered a juice drink (orange & other fruits ?) that had an unusually wide straw inserted into the plastic cup. At the bottom of the cup were what looked like blueberries, and I thought to myself “oh . . . cool!” But on my first sip on the straw I not only got juice in my mouth, but also one of the little blue things that were not blueberries but small gelatinous balls which did not easily dissolve or break down by chewing on them. The only two courses available to anyone drinking this were A) to spit out the little blue ball or B) to swallow it. I chose B, and survived, but from then on I carefully watched my straw as I finished my drink, stopping every time a blue ball appeared in my straw and then carefully blowing it back into the cup. On my many visits to Japan I have learned that virtually every meal is an adventure, and that with every meal there is ALWAYS something new.
At 7:00 we all met Kazu back at the hall and were driven by taxis for 30-minutes to a restaurant in Kobe. Already present at the restaurant were a number of musicians from the orchestra, and I decided to join them at their table instead of sitting at the head table with the NEXUS gang. Fortunately, at my table there was an American (principal horn) who spoke fluent Japanese after his 10-years of living in Tokyo, and he was graciously helping me with translations. Also sitting next to me at my table was Yoshiko Ozawa, a percussionist in the orchestra and the niece-in-law of Seiji Ozawa. In our chatting, I learned that she had studied in Vienna with the timpanist and that she had taken lessons with Roland Kohloff (late timpanist of in New York Phil) and Paul Yancich (timpanist in Cleveland). I mentioned that I had taught Paul Yancich (and his brother, Mark) when they were in high school . . . small world!
The dinner consisted of ‘nabe’ – sort of Japanese casseroles, cooked in metal woks over a gas flame right at the table. The chicken/tomato nabe was great, but the beef tendon nabe challenged my capacity to deal with rubbery textures; ALWAYS something new with every meal.
All-in-all there were maybe 30 people at the two tables. After dinner Sado-san (the conductor) gave a brief speech about his impressions of the music (very good!), and the party ended at 10:00. After a 35-minute taxi drive we arrived back at the Hankyu International Hotel. Another full day comes to an end.