in David’s words…
For the most complicated day of our tour, we left Sao Paolo early for a short flight to Rio de Janeiro (the city is named “January River” because the bay was discovered on January 1, 1502). The approach to the airport revealed the city’s spectacular setting, bordered by water and mountains. We landed in the city airport, right downtown. It reminded us of the old airport in Hong Kong, where one used to fly literally in between buildings to a really short runway.
Downtown Rio was lovely on a sunny afternoon. The city views, with the mountains in the background, are spectacular. With our schedule, though, a trip to the roof of the hotel was all the sightseeing one could do. The famous Sugarloaf Mountain seemed right next to us.
After a few hours in the hotel we left for the rehearsal and concert. In the course of our conversations with the presenters, they realized that because of the length of our program, we stood a very good chance of missing our evening flight to Buenos Aires, a possibility which threw some of us into varying degrees of panic. The Ives 1st Quartet, the Ravel, and Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, plus encores, had gone two hours and twenty five minutes in Sao Paolo two nights ago.
We looked at this alley with trepidation until we realized we were going there: it was the way to the artists’ entrance.
The hall, the Sala Cecilia Meireles, named after one of Brazil’s most famous poets, has a distinguished history going back many years. Converted from a 19th century movie theater and hotel, the hall’s directors have presented a half century of creative programs performed by an amazing assortment of South American and international artists. From the very beginning, the hall presented baroque, Beethoven and early music festivals, and its succession of distinguished artistic leaders maintain visionary, high-quality, music-driven programming standards. The commemorative book we were given seemed to show that everyone who was anybody had already played there, except us!
The crowd gathered quickly outside, and street vendors sold popcorn and other goodies right in front of the theater.
We were given a wildly demonstrative reception by an extremely attentive audience. I’ve come to learn, as I have heard others say, that the audiences in South America are among the best in the world, and so far, they are absolutely correct. They listen with the silence and respect of the German audiences, but applaud and cheer like people do at the Aspen Music Festival. What better combination could there be? On top of that, the crowd is filled with young listeners who provide that vital energy, and the glimpse of the future, that makes you want to play for them again and again.
As it happened, the trip to the airport took less time than expected, our flight was late, and we sat around the airport wondering what we had been so worried about. What was nice was spending time in the only airport I know in the world named after a musician: the Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim, composer of “The Girl from Ipanema”.