On the plane, the trip home…another international tour, another tour of Asia, the third since 2009, the seventh of my career in the Orchestra. Every one of these types of tours, including the ones to Europe or South America and Australia, are always exhausting. The musical side of tours, the many performances in front of audiences that are hungry for the Orchestra, hanging on every note, exploding with applause and gratitude, is deeply moving, and, well, a lot of fun. For almost fifty years, and certainly in my 37 years with the orchestra, we have enjoyed success in almost every place we play. With our Music Director, Riccardo Muti, the CSO is enjoying the greatest success touring that we have had in many years. He has the ability to prepare and inspire the orchestra, and maintain the quality of what we do, every time we go out on stage. That makes a huge difference on a tour, but it means the Orchestra must meet that level of preparation and commitment, too. I think the results speak for themselves. Touring is a big part of my career and something for which I will be forever grateful.
But in tandem with the music, is the personal side of tours. While each tour is different, they are the same in one regard: each one takes you completely out of your life; your routines, your family. I think it is fair to say that each tour exacts a cost from all of us. Sure, on tour there are illnesses, injuries, and personal dramas. But for all of us, when we are so removed from our regular lives, sometimes for three, or up to six or seven weeks a year, the costs are deeper. While one is gone, life at home continues. There was one stretch where for seven years in a row, we were on tour during my son’s birthdays. We have all had to miss weddings, graduations, and other events. For my wife and me, this tour has been especially bitter sweet. Two days before we left we had to give our dog, Prince, what turned out be his final chemo treatment for lymphoma. He did well for almost three weeks, but now is very sick. We’ll see how he is doing in a few hours.
So in spite of the problems, many in the Orchestra try to fit in as much activity on tour as possible: sightseeing, exploring food and culture, and seeing old friends and family. For me, after over forty tours, frequently returning to the same places, it is more difficult to summon the energy for a schedule of tourism: a nap or a turn in the gym seems like a better alternative. Our travelblog has attempted to give you a taste of how our members enjoy, tolerate, and endure, a tour. If you have seen a lot of pictures of us at airports, dinner tables, and concert halls, well, that is ninety percent of touring. No matter what one does during the day before a concert or rehearsal (and I have done things like hiked up a mountain, getting lost along the way!), you have to be ready when the Maestro walks out and the concert begins. People always say, “oh, touring must be so much fun, going to all those places!” Well, yes, there is some fun, but you can never forget the rehearsal today or tomorrow, or the concert that night.
The Musicians have many people to thank for making this tour a success. It takes detailed planning from our talented and experienced staff, and our tour operator, Travtours, who make the hotel and travel arrangements. Our superb CSO stagehands handle all of the equipment that makes these concerts, continents away from Chicago, a success. Thanks also to Todd Rosenberg, whose photos you have seen on this blog, as well as the CSO.org site. We would also like to give a tremendous thanks to all of our Members who contributed their stories, photos, and energy for our travelblog.
Ultimately, it is the Music Director who is responsible for the success of a tour. Maestro Muti takes this responsibility very seriously. The response of the audience, critics, and presenters attest to the success of his preparation of the orchestra, and to the beauty of the music we make together. So our heartfelt thanks go to you, Maestro, Bravissimo!