September 17th 2018 | Paris – France | Philharmonie de Paris

Finally comes the day of the last concert. On Monday 17th of September, the Youth Orchestra of Bahia had the morning free and lunch at the hotel. Around 13:15, the musicians went to the Cité de la Musique, where the amazing Philharmonie de Paris is situated. Upon arrival, they reencountered Fabien Lerat, former Educational Manager of NEOJIBA from 2016 to 2017, who now works at the Philharmonie. He told us that 5 years ago, when he was an intern from the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève at NEOJIBA, he had given musical initiation classes to many of the current members of the Youth Orchestra of Bahia, performing that night in that great venue.

At 14:15 they started rehearsing at one of the Philharmonie’s studios. Before anything else, Ricardo Castro addressed the orchestra, remembering them that the perfect acoustics they were about to experience in that room was designed by the same Japanese company that is designing the acoustics of Parque do Queimado, NEOJIBA’s new headquarters back in Salvador, Bahia. During practice they could therefore really polish the slightest bits of sound, thanks to the outstanding acoustics, readying them for the concert.

After a small break, they had a second rehearsal, this time on stage, which began at 18:20. Martha Argerich came when it was time for the Schumann concerto and one could see how the orchestra was already at ease and in tune with the legendary pianist, after the last two weeks playing alongside her. Beth Ponte, former Institutional Director of NEOJIBA from 2010 to 2018, came to watch the rehearsal as well as the concert later on. She was really glad to see the team, as we were to see her. It was also during practice that we received the great news that the concert was to be live streamed internationally on the Philharmonie’s website!

Not long after, it was time for the concert. The audience was absolutely crowded, the tickets having been sold-out months ago. After the orchestra, came in Ricardo Castro, who directly addressed the public expressing his joy to be back in that prestigious venue only 2 years after their last visit. Continuing, he wondered what the spectators had in mind, guessing they were probably curious to know why a youth orchestra from Bahia was playing Wagner in Paris. His answer was a simple yet thought provoking one: first of all, regarding the chosen piece, he said that the overture of Wagner’s Meistersinger von Nürnberg was excellent for the shaping of hands, ears and spirit of an orchestra, showing by that the importance of a well-chosen repertoire to the maturing of a newly formed musical ensemble. Second, and most importantly, he explained that, inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, NEOJIBA’s goal was to show the world what was possible to achieve, even under the most severe of conditions, with the educational method of multiplication, in which all project members, aside from learning their instruments, have to coordinate teaching activities. The result was to be seen right there, on stage, for most of the musicians performing that night were students of those who had played in the Philharmonie back in 2016.

That being said, Wagner’s overture was wonderfully played, charged with no less intensity than harmony, both characteristic of what true nobility requires. After the opening came Schumann’s concerto: Argerich’s performance was absolutely striking, overwhelming the public to an applause that lasted more than 5 minutes. Yelling and cheering demanded for an encore, which came short after when, joined by Ricardo Castro, Argerich played Le Jardin Féerique, last piece of Ravel’s Ma Mère L’Oye, in its original version for piano four-hands. The two pianists displayed such a touching performance of the piece that an acclaim as big as the previous one ensued from it and the public left the room for the interlude stricken with emotion.

After the break, the orchestra played their American repertoire: Gershwin, Guarnieri, Revueltas, Bernstein. They were inspired, accurate, self-assured, joyful… the demanding public of Paris completely fell for their charm. Before the last piece of the programme, Ricardo Castro addressed the audience once again to stress the importance of Maestro José Antonio Abreu’s legacy to the youth of South America. To illustrate his point, Ricardo recalled of when he was a young pianist: his debut in Paris took place in the small « Villa-Lobos Hall », in the Embassy of Brazil, whereas that night 13 year-old kids were debuting at the Philharmonie de Paris, one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world! Thereafter, Castro mentioned a very important lesson he learnt from the French orchestra « Dissonance », who performed Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring without conductor on that same stage. The speech served as a perfect bridge for what was to follow: Castro left the stage, leaving our young musicians to play Marquez’s Danzón n. 2 without conductor, from which resulted a long-lasting standing ovation! As an encore, the orchestra played the Brazilian pieces « Aquarela do Brasil » and « Tico Tico no Fubá », arranged by our talented Jamberê. Then, whilst leaving the stage, the musicians still played the carnavalesque « Vassourinhas ». The Parisian public could not believe it, as if what they were experiencing was impossible to describe. Such beauty, energy and joy left them completely astonished!

The Youth Orchestra of Bahia did much more than go to Europe to simply play music. They toured through the most prestigious concert halls, with one of the best soloists in history, to show what can be done in the severest of situations through hardworking, goodwill and the proper educational method. They went there both to inspire, as the example they are, and be inspired by the Old Continent. One could say that our purpose was fulfilled with much beauty and liveliness. Long live NEOJIBA!

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September 14th 2018 | Verona – Italy | Teatro Filarmonico

On the 14th of September, the team checked out from the hotel in Verona and then had a rehearsal at the Teatro Filarmonico, where they had played on the 12th. The rehearsal was preceded by Ricardo’s speech, saying that the expectations for Paris were the highest possible and that they were extremely priviledged to be rehearsing and playing at the most prestigious concert halls of Europe.

By the end of the practice, Ricardo let the orchestra speak out their suggestions on how to improve the pieces where they play without conductor and many of them came out with ideas.

The last half hour of rehearsal was used by Castro to discuss with the young musicians the purpose of the European Tour, by which, extraordinarily, they who came from Bahia ended up playing at the most celebrated concert halls of Europe, with one of the best musicians of all time, featuring at the most prestigious festivals of Europe, with almost in every occasion all tickets quickly sold out!

Ricardo went on to explain that its purpose is 1) firstly, to show our musicians the beauty humans are capable of creating and maintaining, using the Teatro Filarmonico itself as an illustration of that; 2) second, to show our musicians that they too are capable of creating beautiful things as well as harmony in their own field of action; 3) third, to show them that, individually too, they can be positive examples of the previous statements just as NEOJIBA is collectively.

Ricardo also referred to his recent article for that month’s edition of Revista Concerto, inquiring the musicians if any of them had seen a « favela » (shanty town) in any of the towns they had been to during the tour, a theme which was also treated in the article.

After praticing and chatting, the orchestra took the bus and traveled back to Turin, where on the following day (15) they got on a train to Paris.

September 13th 2018 | Merano – Italy | Kursaal

On the 13th of September, the Youth Orchestra of Bahia started off the day with no engagements in particular, having a bit of free time to rest. After lunch, they headed to Merano, an italian city bordering Austria. It is a highly touristic city which also happens to be bilingual, the people there speaking both italian and german. The Youth Orchestra of Bahia had already played there once before, in 2014.

Rehearsal took place at the Kursaal (with the capacity to seat 1’060 people) from 18:00 to 19:30. The concert hall, which integrates the symbolic Kurhaus building, was built in the 19th century, at a time when it was recurrent for the city to receive visits from the Austrian nobility.

After having rehearsed a bit of Wagner, Gershwin and Guarnieri, the orchestra received Martha Argerich to practice for the only performance of Liszt’s Concerto n. 1 in the 2018 European Tour.

Then, after a small snack break, the concert started, around 20:30, with the overture of Wagner’s Meistersinger von Nürnberg, followed by Liszt’s concerto. As always, Argerich’s extraordinary performance left the public absolutely astonished and she had to return to the stage several times to respond to their long lasting ovation. She then performed the first piece of Schumann’s Kinderszenen op. 15 for an encore. Regarding Liszt’s concerto, it has the feature of having one of the first triangle solos of the repertoire, and Martha Argerich insisted that David Martins, the percussionist playing the triangle, seated next to her during the concert.

In the second half, the orchestra played their American programme, composed by Bernstein, Gershwin, Guarnieri, Revueltas and Marquez. But, just before the start, Ricardo Castro addressed the audience to explain the purpose of NEOJIBA, and revealed that the current Youth Orchestra of Bahia is mostly formed by the pupils of that former orchestra who perfomed there, at the Philharmonie, in 2016 — proving that the « multiplication method » really works.

The orchestra also played two encores as aknowledgement for the warm applause that ensued from the last piece of the programme. Many people from the public came close to the stage as soon as the concert had finished to congratulate our musicians.

September 11th 2018 | Bologna – Italy |Auditorio Manzoni

Following the successes of Montreux and Geneva, the Youth Orchestra of Bahia returned to Italy, and reached Verona after a 456km ride through the alps. Upon arrival at that beautiful city — famous for being where “Romeo and Juliet” takes place — the orchestra met with George Walker’s team, who is doing a documentary film about YOBA’s tour.

The next day, the orchestra went to Bologne to rehearse and play at the Manzoni theatre which was built in the historic center of the city and has a capacity to host 1236 spectators. After having practiced with maestro Ricardo Castro some excerpts of Wagner’s Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Dvorak’s New World Symphony, the orchestra reencountered Martha Argerich to rehearse Schumann’s concerto.

The concert they were preparing for that night integrates the 2018 Bologne Festival, which, aside the Youth Orchestra of Bahia and Martha Argerich, also present other important names such as Daniil Trifonov, Gil Shaham, the Arditti Quartet, Leif Ove Andsnes and Ton Koopman.

Already the first piece of the programme, Schumann’s Genoveva’s Overture, provoked intense applause from the audience. Yet, the piano concerto by the same composer, played by the great Argerich, allowed for even greater commotion of the public! For an encore, Argerich played Liszt’s piano transcription of the song Widmung, by Schumann.

After the interlude, it was time for Dvorak’s New World Symphony, conducted by Ricardo Castro. Huge success: intense applause and several shouts of « bravo » ensued from the performance. The maestro then addressed the audience, explaining the purpose of NEOJIBA, emphasizing on the importance of « multiplication », that is, the fact that every member of the projet — even the youngest ones — also coordinates teaching activities.

Then, as a reference and homage to El Sistema — the project from Venezuela which inspired the creation of NEOJIBA — our orchestra played Arturo Marquez’s Danzón n° 2 without conductor, impressing the public to the edge of their seats. After a standing ovation, they played Tico Tico no Fubá (arranged by Jamberê, our musician) for a second encore and received yet another standing ovation!

September 9th 2018 | Geneva – Switzerland | Victoria Hall

On the 9th of September, 30 members of the Youth Orchestra of Bahia went early in the morning to Geneva, to rehearse and play with the local children’s orchestra and youth orchestra, headed by Rada Hadjikostova-Schleuter and Tomas Hernandez respectively.

The concert took place around 11am at the Victoria Hall, a stunningly beautiful venue with perfect acoustics, having Eduardo Salazar and Tomas Hernandez as conductors.

By 3pm, the rest of the orchestra arrived in Geneva to rehearse for the main concert, which was to take place that night at 6pm. The performance started with Schumann’s piano concerto with Ricardo Castro as soloist and the orchestra ‘unconducted’! It was a great success.

Then, while the stage was being prepared for Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Ricardo addressed the audience to thank ASANBA — the Swiss association of friends of NEOJIBA — for having organized with so much care the Swiss part of the European Tour. Next, he explained the purpose of NEOJIBA and expressed his joy in being there, the city where he studied during his youth, with all our young musicians, besides of course the fact that they were playing in that magnificent concert hall.

Right after, Eduardo Salazar took over the lead and conducted a very intense New World Symphony, which amazed the audience to the edge of their seats. After a standing ovation, the orchestra responded with Tico Tico no Fubá for an encore.

Among the spectators one could find many friends of NEOJIBA such as Michel Bellavance (flautist), Gerard Métrailler (trumpeter), Laurent Gay (conductor), Philippe Dinkel (Head of Geneva’s Music School), Chiara Banchini (internationally renowned violinist, a reference in baroque music), Luiza Flores (conductor), Rainer Held (conductor), Yaiza Prieto (bassist) and many of the Geneva’s Music School students who have already been to Salvador for an internship with NEOJIBA.

After the concert, ASANBA offered dinner to all musicians at the Geneva’s restaurant boat, on the Lake Geneva, after what they returned to their hotel on the outskirts of Montreux.

September 8th 2018 | Montreux – Switzerland | Auditorium Stravinski

On the 8th of September, with the orchestra already settled in Montreux, lunch was followed by a little rest and rehearsal, which was scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Auditorium Stravinsky, a great venue famous for holding concerts of many stars from very diverse genres such as jazz, classical, popular music, etc.

The rehearsal started with Schumann’s piano concerto, in the presence of the young Brazilian pianist Ronaldo Rolim, already acclaimed internationally. This is not the first time the young pianist collaborates with NEOJIBA. In fact, on the 21st of June, when he was in Salvador — hometown to the Youth Orchestra of Bahia — Ronaldo played Liszt concerto n° 1, conducted by Ligia Amadio.

During the rehearsal, Tobias Richter, Artistic Director of ‘Septembre Musical’ (Festival de musique classique Montreux-Vevey) since 2004, addressed the orchestra and expressed his joy in having the Youth Orchestra of Bahia once again in Montreux, where, in his own words, they already fill a space in everyone’s hearts.

The concert, in which the orchestra played — for the first time in this 2018 European Tour — complex pieces such as Schumann’s Genoveva Overture, Guarnieri’s Abertura Festiva, Revueltas’ Sensemaya and Ginastera’s Suite Estancia, was recorded by the Swiss national radio.

Ronaldo Rolim was lengthily applauded and, for an encore, played one of Liszt’s Petrarch sonnets.

After the interlude, Ricardo Castro addressed the crowded audience and explained the purpose of NEOJIBA, emphasizing that all musicians who integrate the project are also « multipliers » — that is, they also coordinate teaching activities.

He then thanked all instrument donations, a gesture we are very used to seeing ever since our orchestra first came to Montreux.

The last piece played was Arturo Marquez’s Danzón n° 2, which was performed without conductor and was received with a long lasting standing ovation! Still touched by the public’s reaction, the orchestra played Tico Tico no Fubá as an encore.

September 6th 2018 | Milan – Italy | Sala Verdi Conservatory

This is how the Italian press echoed yesterday’s (6) concert in Milan, a fantastic performance by our Youth Orchestra of Bahia!

On the night of the second concert of the 2018 European Tour, something entirely unexpected happened from the start. The much awaited soloist, Martha Argerich, had a slight accident which impeded her from playing Schumann’s concerto in A minor for piano and orchestra.

Thus, a last minute substitution put maestro Ricardo Castro — who was supposed to direct the piece — as the new soloist. What could have been cause for defeat and resignation turned out being an incredible lesson of resilience and excellency, for our young orchestra ended up playing an extremely complicated piece without their conductor!

What happened next was breathtaking. Overwhelmed by what they had just experienced, the audience showered the musicians with applause, so much so that the maestro went out and back again the stage no less than 6 times!

The night was still to continue with a second half filled with North and South American compositions. The YOBA played Leonard Bernstein’s overture to West Side Story, Wellington Gomes’ Sonhos Percutidos and Arturo Marquez’ Danzón n° 2. As for the encore, it could not be otherwise, was Zequinha de Abreu’s Tico-Tico no Fubá, one of the most renowned brazilian sambas around the globe.

At the end of this trying night, the young orchestra left the stage under great ovation.

A great success it was indeed! And tomorrow there’s more!

Next stop: Montreux!