in David’s words…
The first concert has brought us as far south as I’ve ever been – to the capital city of Chile, Santiago, nestled between the coastal mountains on the west and the Andes range to the east. Santiago, founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, and today, greater Santiago is home to 40% of the entire Chilean population. Expanded northward and southward during the succeeding centuries, Chile is now the farthest-stretching north-south country in the world, approximately the same distance from one end to the other as the United States is from coast to coast. Because of this, Chile has a multitude of climates, from desert to tropical to alpine, with Santiago in the middle, sporting a nice Mediterranean feel. It is winter here now but still mild and pleasant, with snow capping the very-nearby mountain ranges.
Chile, happily, is one of the most stable democracies in South America, having endured a long period of military dictatorship from 1973-1990 (Augusto Pinochet). Chile recently elected its first woman president, and enjoys high productivity, good quality of life, and complete freedom of speech and religion. Besides descendents of the original Mapuche people, Chile’s diverse population is drawn from numerous immigrants from Spain, France, Germany, Croatia and even Palestine.
Tonight’s concert is in the Teatro Oriente, which I have yet to see. The Emerson Quartet is greatly anticipated here: we have been told, by the director of the Fundacion Beethoven, that classical radio station has been playing our recordings every night for the past two weeks, in prime time. We have been treated royally by the organizers, who present all kinds of classical music, from soloists to chamber ensembles and orchestras. The director and his colleagues, distinguished gentlemen all who hosted us for a sumptuous meal last night, recalled hearing artists such as Heifetz in Santiago, part of a solid classical music tradition that extends far back into Chile’s history.
Writing after a late dinner with a large, gregarious group of young local journalists and organizers from the Fundacion, I can report that the concert and the entire experience in Chile were happy and successful ones for the quartet.
The Teatro Oriente was filled with an attentive and enthusiastic audience, even though the theater, heated apparently only by propane heaters (we had two on stage) must have been in the forty-degree range.
After the concert we were greeted by the American ambassador to Chile, Paul E. Simons, and his wife.
A highlight of the evening was meeting the roughly two dozen music students who journeyed from the Valdivia Conservatorio, in Valdivia, some five hundred miles away. After innumerable group photos and autographs, we went to dinner, and they got back on the their bus for the night-long journey home. It was extraordinarily touching to witness the effort they had made to get there, and to see the excitement in their eyes at meeting what I guess has been a famous quartet in Chile for some time.
The Fundacion Beethoven took excellent care of us and could not have been more gracious, thoughtful and efficient. I look very much forward to returning.