Although the students are back from Germany, their impressions of Dresden continue. Horn student Katie Jordan remembers the rehearsal and concert in the Frauenkirche.
After traveling all day on Sunday to get to Dresden, I’m going to call this blog post “Day 2” of our fantastic tour. We all had the morning off, and left the hotel ready to explore the Altmarkt square, filled with carnival-ish food and complete with a Ferris wheel. Covered wagons and various carts offered the aromas of cooking bratwurst, fried dough in many shapes, and even cotton candy! Local crafts and souvenirs dotted the square as well. With our bags filled with goodies, we hurried back to the Quartier Frauenkirche to prepare for a dress rehearsal.
Playing at the Frauenkirche is a unique experience: the beautiful pastel colors on the walls and gold-plated arches paint a European landscape. The dome seems improbable, with never ending balconies. It was impossible to imagine how many people would fit in this gargantuan space.
Despite the pastoral setting of the historic church, our dress rehearsal was nothing short of a disaster. The four-second reverberation seemed to turn everything into mud. As a horn player, I usually love to play in spaces with the acoustics of a lovely marble bathroom, however this was crazy. In solo sections, it seemed like we played with our own echoes. Dismayed by this turn of events, we trudged back to the hotel hoping for some miracle.
Upon returning to the church later that evening for the concert, the inside was teeming with many attendees. The church basement was our dressing room— but this was no ordinary basement. The arched stone walls created a cavernous space, but it was well-lit. Four corners of the room housed remnants of the old church that stood prior to the World War II bombing of Dresden. Most of the basement was reconstructed, but there were a few areas that still housed old tombs. The other areas were more reminiscent of a museum: tombstone heads, stairwells leading to nowhere, and statues.
Nathan Laube, a Curtis graduate, played the organ to open both halves of the concert. Although used as a concert space, the organ preludes brought a certain greater reverence to the venue. The first half finished spectacularly. The soloists of the Brahms Double Concerto received thunderous applause, as well as the Academic Overture. I only played on the second half, but even from the depths of the church basement, the sounds of the orchestra could be heard.
Finally, we ascended the stone stairway to the altar in preparation for the Brahms symphony. With this stage set up, the brass and percussion were seated what felt like a mile away. The fears of the earlier dress rehearsal began to creep into my mind as I sat down. Though it was still intermission, the hundreds of faces staring back seemed closer than usual. But I looked down the line and saw the familiar faces of my colleagues grinning eagerly, and knew that we would be fine.
In actuality, the entire audience soaked up about two and a half seconds of that initial echo, which turned the church into a different place acoustically. It was no longer a marble bathroom; it was a hall. The symphony flowed from one movement to the next. The final movement was one of complete relief, an acknowledgment of the passionate and mature sound coming from our ensemble. We received five standing ovations, each louder than the next. Later in the evening during dinner, we were informed that that many ovations were extremely rare! As for my second to last Curtis orchestra concert, I’d consider it one of the best.
- Katie Jordan