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Pittsburgh Symphony heads home after Far East tour

| Saturday, March 9, 2002

The members of the Pittsburgh Symphony are tired but proud this morning as they leave Australia for home, having completed a triumphant three-week tour of the Far East.

Mariss Jansons and the orchestra spent midweek in Melbourne, 400 miles to the south of Sydney, offering two concerts in the Victorian Arts Center concert hall. Again the Australian audiences "were very demonstrative of their love for this orchestra," cellist Anne Martindale Williams says.

In Melbourne, she encountered the personal hospitality that transforms travel. Violist "Paul Silver and I were invited through friends of friends to the home of a Mr. and Mrs. Sweet in Melbourne. It was nice to have a home-cooked meal," Williams says. "We've all been eating too well on tour. There was very good food in Malaysia and especially here in Australia, but home cooking is very nice."

"They gave us a wonderful car tour all around the city. We visited beaches and one of the big produce markets. We had a leisurely lunch, really leisurely — about three hours — including Tazmanian oysters and a huge spread of mideastern type food," she says. "Then we went to the zoo and saw koalas and kangaroos. It was an express tour, but wonderful."

The Pittsburgh Symphony concerts are important events in Australia. Oboist Cynthia DeAlmeida learned Wednesday night in Melbourne that a group flew 2,000 miles from Queensland to celebrate a friend's 80th birthday with her by hearing Jansons and the Pittsburgh Symphony. They said the concert took them out of their seats, DeAlmeida reports.

As days pass on the road, thoughts turn more and more toward home — with the phone to help. Williams says she had just spoken with her daughter Claire, who "was all excited over her sleep over with Tatiana (Mead Chamis) and her daughter Fabiana."

Chamis, a symphony violist who did not go on the tour, says the children made "their chamber music debut in our house last night. Claire brought over her tiny cello, and Fabiana played violin. They were up till 2 in the morning."

Williams is one of the musicians who is sorry to have played Mahler First Symphony for the last time on tour. "I will never tire of it. I believe it was the first symphony I ever played, while in high school in Philadelphia. I think Jansons does it a little differently every night. I still find it very fresh. I love the thrilling ending."

Clarinetist Michael Rusinek finds Johannes Brahms' First Symphony the most rewarding. "The Brahms is less high-impact, but there's a refinement I think the winds achieved in delicate writing that really turns me on. When that can be done on the road and consistently, that's very rewarding."

He also says he loves the Mahler One, he calls it "fun," and says the audience response to it at the Sydney Opera House reminded him of the London Proms — "really loud, deafening really."

He found the time off in Melbourne not only enjoyable but thought provoking. As he enjoyed waterfront cafes next to the concert hall, he wondered why Pittsburgh hasn't created such a charming spot.

"Between the acoustic rehearsal and the concert we went down for coffee and to look at the river," Rusinek says. "People coming to concert joined us in conversation. There is a nice riverwalk that takes advantage of the waterfront nicely and leads to the Queen Victoria open-air market — 17 acres of stalls with people selling food and clothes and other things."

Bassoonist "Nancy (Goeres) and I went there yesterday and had so much fun. We bought fresh ingredients, tomato and cheeses and made ourselves a delicious lunch. This is a very thriving place."

Rusinek is among the few musicians not returning to Pittsburgh today. He plans on staying a week, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and spending a couple of nights in the rain forest up north, closer to the equator.

The rest will leave their hotel this morning at for flights departing in the afternoon. Because they'll traverse the International Dateline in the Pacific, they will seem to arrive in Los Angeles before they left — but their watches won't fool them. It will have been a 13 1/2-hour flight.

After waiting for a 2 p.m. flight, and setting their watches ahead three hours, the musicians will embark on the last leg of their journey, arriving in Pittsburgh at 9:25 tonight.

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