Unlike the trips to Berlin and Antwerp, this one was not intended as a "musical trip" at first. In fact, our motivation was to visit a Christmas market in Germany, as the magic surrounding these markets is something that has always caught our attention. It's not like I'm the biggest fan of Christmas myself, actually I have mixed feelings about it as part of me loves making presents and gathering with my loved ones to eat amazing food, but on the other hand it's the perfect time of the year to be extra nostalgic and miss people who are not around anymore. Anyway, since I now live in The Netherlands and I can easily travel to Germany, my friends and I decided to go on a quick weekend trip to Düsseldorf. We booked the train tickets and a room in the cheapest hostel in the city center and went there to spend three marvelous (and freezing cold) days.
I must admit that Düsseldorf is not the most beautiful city I've ever been to. Most of it was destroyed during WWII and now it's kind of a mixture between modern buildings and the city center, which is a bit more "traditional". During our stay there, we strolled around the city and visited the Rheinturm, the Christmas market and a couple of museums. Besides the tourism, we also ate a lot of delicious food: we tried the German bratwurst and the Schweinshaxe, as well as the best Ramen we’ve ever had (turns out that the biggest Japanese community in Europe is in Düsseldorf!). We also went to a vegan Vietnamese restaurant and we weren't the biggest fans of the food, but we laughed so much and it was nice to get out of our comfort zone and try new flavors!
When I travel, I'm always curious about the music halls of the cities I visit. On our first day in Düsseldorf, I checked the website of the Tonhalle to find out that there was a concert by Isabelle Faust and Il Giardino Armonico scheduled for the next day!! They were going to play Baroque repertoire by Locatelli and Vivaldi, combining violin and flute concertos with some concerti grossi. I told my friends and we decided to buy the tickets. There were very few spots left and cheapest ones were the ones behind the stage, so that's what we went for. It was the first time I ever watched a concert from that perspective and I must admit that it was much better than I thought. It gives you a new perspective and, honestly, in the end what matters is what you listen to, not so much what you see.
Something that I found interesting was the poster of the concert, which just didn't seem like the traditional poster you'd expect for a classical music concert: you could see a guy wearing a "Vivaldi-like" wig and eating pizza out of a cardboard box. Turned out that the guy on the poster was the moderator of the concert, a famous German comedian, and they served pizza before the concert and during the break. I keep being surprised by how going to classical music concerts both in The Netherlands and in Germany is not only about the music, but the social aspect of it is also really important. In my case, I go to concerts to listen to music rather than to meet people, which I normally do in different environments. On this occasion, the majority of the audience had a slice of pizza and something to drink during the break while they talked to each other. As innovative and appealing it sounded at first, it had a little drawback for me: the whole foyer smelled like pizza, which is a scent that I'd never relate with a concert hall. I guess it's just because I'm not used to it, but I found it quite shocking.
The concert itself was MARVELOUS. It was the first time I listened live to both Isabelle Faust and the ensemble and I loved their sound and phrasing, they were so expressive and touching. You could see that the musicians were enjoying themselves and communicating with each other, they seemed more a big chamber music group rather than a small orchestra. Their playing looked so relaxed and natural that it gave the impression that they were not making an effort at all, as if playing would be easy. I couldn't help thinking how lucky those musicians were for being able to do what they do. Honestly, I had never considered joining an ensemble like that one in a professional way, but what I saw on stage made me rethink about it. Since I started my Bachelor's, all I thought and was encouraged to was being a teacher or playing in an orchestra. But when you're in an orchestra you're supposed to play following the conductor and concertmaster, there's no room for individuality. In Il Giardino Armonico, the role of every musician was important and they could put more of their personality into the playing. The connection between them was evident and it looked like a cool environment to be in. I think that my musician self would be more fulfilled in a group like this than in an orchestra. Anyway, these are just thoughts, because I have different plans in mind for my professional career, but I'll talk about that when the time comes 🤓
Another new experience to me was the presence of a moderator on stage. It kind of reminded me of the pre concert short lecture that the musicologist gave in the concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker that I attended some months ago, only that this time it was during the concert. Even though the moderator spoke in German and I could barely understand a couple of words, the audience was laughing a lot, so it must have been very funny. He went on stage a couple of times and right before the end he did a little interview with Isabelle and the conductor of the ensemble. As a member of the audience, this interview made me feel closer to the artists, as I got an idea of how they look at the music and the way they feel about it.
To sum up, it was a wonderful trip in which I learnt that it doesn't really matter where you are, what matters is who you are with. Even if the city itself didn't amaze us, we had so much fun and we laughed a lot. I feel so lucky to have friends with whom I can be myself and feel loved and appreciated for who I really am. I wonder what our next destination will be!