The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, is renowned for two things: its peerless acoustic, which is renowned for its warmth and clarity; and the most theatrical of entrances for the conductor, via a long flight of stairs descending from upstage left. Luckily, the MSO's chief conductor, Sir Andrew Davis, negotiated this tricky route to the podium with the nimbleness of Fred Astaire.
It had been a long miserable Friday for the 112 in the party. The leaving of Edinburgh, endless lines for airport check-in and security, then landing in Amsterdam at the height of a thunderstorm left little time before the late-afternoon balance-check in the hall.
The concert, though, supplied more proof, were it required, of the astonishing cultural durability of travelling musicians to survive queues and luggage-schlepping, and turn on a performance of which they can be proud. It helps that each concert starts with Richard Strauss' Don Juan, one of the best orchestral throat-clearers that immediately puts all players on their mettle. The art of successful touring is embodied in such an admirable approach.
Sometimes, though, other circumstances can make a vividly memorable evening. As it was with the Concertgebouw concert. The performance of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs was dedicated to the families and victims of the MH17 disaster. As it happened, Friday was the day of the first of the funerals of the many Dutch victims. Somehow, this emotional confluence united performers and audiences, making the plangency of Strauss' scoring and the autumnal nature of the verses even more meaningful. Soprano Erin Wall was in radiant form. The standing ovation was completely justified.
After the interval, in an absolutely fizzing performance of Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, the Concertgebouw sound enabled every note to be heard. THe hall doesn't as much emphasise, as burnish: the aural equivalent of beeswax-polished mahogany. No wonder the musicians were ecstatic. The audience, too, provided another ovation. Grainger's Handel in the Strand sent them bouncing into the chilly Amsterdam night.
Michael Shmith, who is covering the MSO's European tour, is travelling as the guest of the orchestra.