Kai Gleusteen & Catherine Ordronneau

Dear future and potential Danube sailors,

We are still ironing out a few details for this fabulous trip (‘Classical Austria and Classical Italy in 2020') to which we are so much looking forward. Our memories are still fresh and vivid from the last trip on the Danube: sliding quietly on the water in an unbelievably comfortable ship, seeing the gorgeous landscape slip by, sharing music and friendship (and food and wine!), walking in the steps of Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms and Dvořák, and arriving in the centre of Budapest by water. We are delighted to be able to do it again!

The topic for today? A typical week for us in Barcelona. Let's see, this past week, for instance. I had to see all my students on Monday as the rest of the week was packed full. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, two 2.5-hour rehearsals at the opera, having started work on Romeo and Juliet by Charles Gounod, a beautiful and little-known work (except for a few famous arias).

Romeo & Juliet at the Liceu, Barcelona © Ken Howard

Tuesday evening, we did the first of my 'The More You Know, The More You Love' series, in which I take one work and go through it with the audience, showing how the composer treats the themes, uses the instruments, the harmonies, the rhythms, and anything else to show how incredibly great it is! We went through all 6 movements of the Dumky Trio, playing, showing, explaining for about an hour and then performed it in its entirety. You can imagine how much people are fascinated by this. I always keep the explanations spontaneous and non-intellectual, which keeps everyone, including my own students, interested.

Wednesday, after the orchestra rehearsals, a meeting with the committee of the orchestra. This is never particularly pleasant as it is long-winded and the opportunity for many people to complain. I know, group psychology is not my forte!

Thursday, after orchestra rehearsals, a trio rehearsal in preparation for the Friday “Kaimerata Concert”, my series of concerts in which I pick a composer every year and do a few concerts of this composer's works, allowing the public to learn about the composer and acquaint themselves with various works from different periods of their life. We do a condensed version in the summer in Canada, on Denman Island (first week of August): www.kaimerata.com

Interior of the Liceu, Barcelona © Jordi Play

Friday morning, orchestra rehearsal. Friday lunchtime 'open rehearsal' of the Dvořák Serenade for winds (I was conducting) in a program called 'Art & Science' in the Research Centre right beside the sea, in which I explained the life of Dvořák, the difficulties and challenges of rehearsing in a large group (we are 11 musicians in the Wind Serenade: 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 1 cello and 1 double bass), and the similarities between research meetings and rehearsals (the difficult question of the role of a conductor).

Friday afternoon, lunch, snooze, off to the concert hall for dress rehearsal with the trio, dress rehearsal with the Wind Serenade, concert at 8:00 pm, followed by a good margarita (and some food). It was the first of the 'Kaimerata Concerts' this year – as you figured out, on the music and life of Antonin Dvořák. It was well attended, luckily (one never knows!) For those of you who came to Barcelona, you know the hall: the Auditorium of the Liceu Conservatory, where you heard the Piazzolla Seasons, the Mozart Piano Concerto and the crazy Schnittke 'Moz-Art à la Haydn'.

These were the 'official' activities. As we all know, the rest of the time is filled with answering e-mails, trying to encourage people to come to the concerts, organizing, oh – and practising individually a bit, of course! Not to forget the obligatory exercise: a jog along the sea, to try to shake out of the body the completely unnatural position of the violin.

Parque Guell, Barcelona

Saturday: a free day. Time to be lazy. No violin. No students. No organizing. Feeling exhausted. Time to catch up with all the things that were put off. A drive to yet another beach (there are beaches everywhere around Barcelona). A nice walk with Catherine in the sand, staring at the sun sparkling on the breaking waves. The chance to take out our fancy car (another secret passion) for a little drive.

La Boquería Market, Barcelona

A few of the greatest things of living here in Barcelona, which also make it possible to do so many things: great weather (it was sunny every day – sorry West Coasters...) and everything is close. I walk to the opera in 5 minutes, I bike to the conservatory in 6 minutes and walk to the concert hall in 10 minutes. The stores and market are 2 minutes away by foot. No need for cars, no need for metro. I only have to zigzag around the tourists. And then the sea, the beautiful Mediterranean is right at our doorstep. In warmer weather, the morning jog is followed by a swim. No need for mudguards on my bike: it hardly ever rains!

Kai Gleusteen & Catherine Ordronneau Walking Through Barcelona

Voilà: a few days of my life in Barcelona. Catherine is less busy than I but fills her time with intense preparation for the concert (more than I, lucky her!), wonderful cooking (you can't believe the fresh gambas and fish we had on Tuesday, the delicious ossobuco on Thursday, the cake that just came out of the oven today!), her piano students and quite a bit of chamber music coaching, including one day of juries for chamber music exams. I could never do so many things without Catherine's help, and my life would certainly not be as pleasant! The rewards for the week: performing together with the Dumky Trio (violin, cello, and piano) last night, which went very well in the concert, the excellent food and the drive in the fancy car (a convertible – yes, open, even in winter) today!

Kai Gleusteen & Catherine Ordronneau Concert

Join Kai Gleusteen and Catherine Ordronneau on Special Travel International’s upcoming ‘Classical Austria’ and 'Classical Northern Italy' tours from May 26 – June 9, 2020, and June 19 - July 1, 2020, respectively: