Notes from Europe: Robin Kesselman, Principal Bass

Notes from Europe: Robin Kesselman, Principal Bass

The Houston Symphony just completed its triumphant 2018 European Tour! Get an insider’s view of the tour when Houston Symphony Principal Bass Robin Kesselman shares his experiences below.

Warming up in the Elbphilharmonie pre-sound check.

Hello everyone! I’m writing to bring you along with us on our final three tour stops. First up, the beautiful port city of blustery Hamburg, home to a brand new, ultramodern performing venue: the Elbphilharmonie. Visually, the hall is staggering. The audience seats engulf the stage from all sides in incredible interlocking sections. The walls have a porous, almost web-like pattern that simultaneously evokes an insect hive and a wine cave. The orchestra may have still been riding a high from the Vienna concert because the music on stage in Hamburg continued at an exceptionally high level. After performing, we packed our instruments and ascended to the top level of the hall’s lobby for a reception with some of the patrons that traveled all the way from Houston to see us perform in Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg. It has been incredibly special to see such dedicated individuals join us; seeing familiar friends and concert attendees in the audience in Hamburg highlights how many people give so much to the Houston Symphony with their time and presence.

The winter tundra portion of the tour continued for another day as we left Hamburg for snowy Hanover. Secretly, I really enjoy distance bus trips. It is a nice change of pace from being in so many airports and a pleasant way to see the rolling German countryside. My bus quietly hummed with conversation as we pulled away from Hamburg.

Döner snack before practice time.

I’m sure by this point multiple musicians have blogged about the staggering logistical feats pulled off on a daily basis by our fabulous operations department and crew. Our instruments and equipment have travelled thousands of miles without a hitch, safely waiting for us at each new venue. As a bass player, access to my instrument is always a little challenging. Usually I get it about an hour before the evening sound check and then am without it again on any travel day. Trying to stay in shape is always a little hit or miss over the course of a multi-week tour. I got a tip from one of our crew members that the hall in Hanover might be one I could talk my way into a little early for some bonus practice time. I’m on a mission as soon as the bus arrives!

Two short hours later we arrived in front of our hotel in Hanover – a red brick, refurbished pen factory. I quickly dropped my bag in the room and headed out to find a quick bite and a cab to the hall. Just down the street there’s a small Turkish spot selling döner kebaps. It seems like Turkish food is the Tex-Mex of Germany and equally as delicious! For a döner, think gyro but with fresh baked pita and loads of toppings. Food, check. Now off to work. A practice adventure is also a fun way to get out into the city and away from the group. After arriving at the concert hall I found an open door, grabbed my bass and was able to camp out in the men’s dressing room before the orchestra’s first bus arrived. Success!

One last snowy day, this time in Munich, and the tour has come to a close. I am incredibly proud to be a member of an ensemble that rises to play above their best for occasions such as this tour. What a special group of talented and generous people. The concerts over the past two weeks have been, without question, among the greatest artistic experiences of my life. Can’t wait to bring this back to all of you in Houston. Houston Symphony Proud!

Learn more about the Houston Symphony’s 2018 European Tour here.

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