An extraordinary week in the life of Susan Rivers, Chief Executive, BBT.
Part Two. Saturday 20th – Monday 22nd February 2010. Utrecht – Mora – London
Saturday, 20 February
Another early start by train to Schiphol to start my epic journey to Mora, which is sort of heading towards Northern Sweden, to join Martin Fröst at his 2010 Vinterfest. Martin has been asking me to go for some time and as three other BBT artists were taking part as well I felt the journey was justified.
I left Utrecht at 7.30am and arrived in Mora via Stockholm, in a blizzard, 12 hours later. Schiphol was a zoo as it was the start of the school Spring holidays. The train from Arlanda to Börlange was delayed because of bad weather and therefore I missed the connection to Mora and I had to wait one and a half hours at Börlange. However, the journey was tempered somewhat by the help of a very nice 6’5” young Dutchman who had some Swedish and was able to explain to me what was going on. He was a teacher/photographer who was going skiing and camping (in that weather!). He tossed my luggage on the rack and proceeded to share his wildlife photos with me (and very good they were too). I also had the help of another gentleman who ordered a taxi for me from the train (by this time my phone had run out of battery and I could not contact the Vinterfest organisers to tell them what was going on). It turned out that he worked as a policeman for the EU in Chad (close to Darfur) of all places and that he had been travelling for 48 hours, so I had nothing to complain about. I obviously looked like a damsel in distress and I cannot thank them enough for their help.
After a short rest I attend my first concert of the festival at 11pm (yes, that’s right in the evening). We were taken to an inn at the bottom of the mountain to hear the first music of the evening based around Swedish folk music. The original idea was for this to be held on a snow-stage at the top of Gesundaberget so that we could hear the calls of the cow-herder in the open air. Unfortunately it was no longer snowing but ice-ing – horizontally – hence the title of the concert Goose Pimples on the Peak!
Anyway we were nice and snug and warm and it was lovely to hear the strange sounds and hypnotic rhythms whilst sipping hot chocolate.
After a bite to eat the next concert of the evening started at around 12.30 with mainly French repertoire performed by Christian Poltéra (2004 winner), Viviane Hagner (2004 winner), Roland Pötinen and Olle Persson. It was all very lovely and a good time was had by all. Got to bed at 2.30am.
Sunday, 21 February
Out of the hotel by 8.30am to be taken to the Frykås Hotell, 15 minutes outside of Orsa. The 11am concert was given in the hotel’s, wood-lined dining room, overlooking the lake and the mountains, creating a truly chamber music atmosphere where an audience of around 120 gathered to hear Alexei Ogrintchouk (2007 winner) and Martin Fröst (2003 winner) play the Mozart Oboe Quartet and Clarinet Quintet. They were joined by Julian Rachlin, Christian Svarfvar, Tabea Zimmermann and Frans Helmerson and these two woodwind masters gave such exquisite performances of these works that I was moved to tears. Unforgettable.
Next up was a concert in a pleasant hall in Mora at 2pm. Martin, Christian and Richard Hyung-ki Joo opened the proceedings with a beautifully played Beethoven Clarinet Trio. Gorgeous. Followed by a mixed bag of lieder sung by Olle accompanied by Ronald who went on to join Julian and Frans in the Schumann Piano Trio No.1. I just sat back and enjoyed it.
With barely time to breathe and get a cup of coffee we were off to the final 5.30pm concert of the festival in Mora Kyrka. The beautifully lit church was packed to the gills, with cameras everywhere for a Swedish Television recording. Alexei played the Bach Double with Julian, Ronald played Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 (don’t know how he did it as he took part in an extraordinary number of the concerts over the four days of the festival) which was followed after the interval by a new, substantial work, by Svante Henryson. Finally Martin finished with an outstanding performance of the Weber Clarinet Concerto. They were very ably accompanied by the Dala Sinfoniettan which was joined by Martin’s younger, viola playing brother, Göran Frost. A thoroughly good time was had by all.
At last we could relax over a delicious ‘feast’ organised by Vinterfest at our hotel. Time to gossip and exchange stories. Miraculously, Martin – who must have been absolutely exhausted – managed to give a speech where he thanked everybody individually (even me although I am not quite sure what for!) in a most touchingly personal way.
Off to bed at 12.30am. It had snowed all day…
Monday, 22 February
I wake up to a bright and crispy morning, with the snow twinkling in the sunshine. I was delighted to learn at breakfast that the trains were now running again as they had not been going into Stockholm on Sunday night due to the huge amount of snow they were experiencing (it would appear that British trains are not the only ones that cannot cope with snow). I therefore decided to take a walk before we set off for the station. After 20 minutes my face began to freeze, literally, so I decided I had better retreat indoors to discover that in fact the temperature was -27ºC!
Then, it was announced that the trains were not running after all, this time because of an accident on the line. The fantastic Vinterfest support team hastily rustled up two people carriers and by 12.30 we were off. Pianist Bengt Forsberg offered to drive the luggage-cum-instrument van whilst the heroic Anna drove the rest of us (Julian, Tabea, Christian, Alexei plus girlfriend and me) to Stockholm. Christian took over the driving after a while and after four hours I was dropped off at Arlanda Airport whilst the others drove on to their hotel in central Stockholm. Christian, Bengt and Martin (who had travelled separately by car with his family) were planning to rehearse again that evening for a concert that everybody was participating in at the Stockholm Concert Hall the following evening. Such is the glamorous life of musicians.
I got into the Airport to discover, naturally, that my flight to London Heathrow was delayed… I eventually got back home by 11pm (midnight by Swedish time) having completed another 12 hour journey. I was so tired I could neither think nor speak.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! This has been an exceptional week not only in terms of the amount of travel I have done but more importantly for all the creative ideas and opportunities it presented as well as being able to reveal the work of BBT to a whole new range of people. Now I need to be in the office to be able to bring everything to fruition. What a joy and a privilege it is to work with so many talented young musicians. I wonder if they know how proud we are of them?
Photos taken at Vinterfest by Nikolaj Lund