Tonhalle, Zürich (photo: Andreas Praefcke)
Yesterday it was 25 years since my wife and I had our first date – April Fool’s Day.
Twenty five years ago we went to Bach’s Matthäus Passion, in Groningen, Holland. Last night we celebrated by attending Bruckner’s Mass in F Minor at the Tonhalle in Zürich, together with our three children. It dawned on us afterwards that for over half of our 25 years we have been parents, our eldest having just turned 13.
Whenever I enter the Tonhalle I feel like I am threading on hallowed ground, and I can’t help but feel the presence of history. Since its opening in 1895 it has gained a reputation for having one of the finest acoustics in the world. No less a figure than Brahms himself conducted on the very first opening night. Since then such greats as Karl Böhm, Wilhelm Fürtwangler, Otto Klemperer, Bernard Haitink and Wolfgang Sawallisch have followed his example. The in house conductor and musical director today is David Zinman and recent musicians who played under his baton include Yo-Yo Ma, Krystian Zimerman and Alfred Brendal. Esther and I already have our tickets to see Radu Lupu in June.
After the performance
Last night's was a stellar performance by the Kollegium Wintertur (founded in 1629, making them one of Europe’s oldest musical ensembles) and the Mixed Choir of Zürich, founded in 1863. The evening included two of Bruckner’s motets – challenging pieces for any choir because of their exceeding complex polyphony and rich harmonic language– which are performed acapella, increasing the difficulty for the choir as they have to change key and modulation abruptly, without the support of any instruments. But the choir, led by their conductor Joachim Krause, did an outstanding job. My eight year old did fall asleep on my lap, but the 11 and 13 year olds, fans of Rhianna rather than classical music, were engrossed throughout the one and a half hour performance.
It was wonderful to celebrate our anniversary in this way, though there was one big difference. I sat among the audience with our three children; Esther was on stage singing. Although photos are not allowed during the performance, I did sneak this one quick, not very clear, one. Esther is in the back row, second from the left.