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Not Just a Field Trip: Curtis Symphony Orchestra On Tour in Europe

Credit: Timmy Chooi
A Curtis graduate at the Philadelphia International Airport

For the first time since 1999, the Curtis Symphony Orchestra is on a multi-city, 18-day tour of Europe—opening May 20th in Helsinki and continuing through Berlin, London, Salzburg, and Vienna among others—led by conductor Osmo Vanska.

On the eve of the tour departure, The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns discovered enough electricity among the players to light up any one of these cities.

David Patrick Stearns: The occasion wasn't even a concert. The Curtis musicians were simply getting their luggage tags on Tuesday before taking off for Helsinki. For some, it was a big moment.

Roberto Diaz: One of the cellists said to me yesterday, “I'm so excited;  have never been to a single one of these cities,” and I can tell you that that is probably the case with most of the orchestra. We want them to enjoy the flavor of Salzburg and the flavor of Vienna, but at the same time we're not tourists. We're here to work. This is not just a school field trip.

DPS: So says Curtis president Roberto Diaz, who will be on the tour as viola soloist in the Penderecki Concerto Doppio.

Three years in the planning, the tour was intended to expose the Curtis musicianship in major European cities. But here's what is not typical: While many professional orchestras prepare programs and do brush-up sessions before concerts, each Curtis date has a full rehearsal.

RD: It's not like, okay, it's ready now, we'll just play it and let's see what the acoustics are like here. When we're traveling, we're constantly talking about the transition, the color, the tempos. It's really about the evolution of the interpretation.

DPS: Even in the face of jet-lag. Diaz deals with it by resetting his watch. Others swear by hydration, and skin moisturizing.

RD: I'll try it. Bubble bath, anybody?

DPS: But if it doesn't work, you have to play well anyway. It's called professionalism.