My first visit to Vidin, Bulgaria, was a quick 14-hour jaunt in the middle of January. The day before I had a concert in Bacău, Romania, in which I was a soloist in Prokofiev’s Symphony Concerto (conducted by Ovidiu Bălan) and I conducted Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 5. Following the marathon performance, I took a night train to Bucharest, ran around the city from one administration office to another (but that’s another story), and took a five-hour car ride with my friend Mihai Paun to Vidin.
I enjoyed crossing the newly inaugurated bridge over the Danube, but the lackadaisical approach to border checking by the Romanian agents was somewhat annoying (the border crossing was closed while they stood for 45 minutes smoking cigarettes, waiting for the next shift to show up). I was lucky to be in a car, so the wait was manageable, but there was a 2-mile-long line of trucks to cross the border, clearly a wait of perhaps 10–12 hours. It’s still better than the old way of crossing by ferry.
Vidin is a town of contrasts. Beautiful medieval fortresses, a great promenade on the borders of the Danube River, wonderful cafés overlooking the water, but also a sort of “back-into-the-communist-time” feel of the architecture of the suburbs.
I had a fantastic meeting with Miroslav Krustev, the director or Vidin Sinfonietta, ironing out the Academy details over a portion of fresh fish from the Danube and delicious vegetables, all for a price of about five dollars.
The visit to the concert hall provided a wonderful experience. Housed by a modern building, the hall provides great acoustics – a perfect place for making music. The theater is across the street, as well as the music school, which will provide space for the participants to practice. Several restaurants are within a stone’s throw. It was rather surprising to see the prices for the delicious looking food. 25 cents for a portion of traditional been stew, about two dollars for a portion of chicken with rice, and the delicious looking yogurt with the fruit was about 75 cents!!
I can’t wait to be back enjoying the slow paced life of Vidin, but especially to making music with our Bulgarian colleagues and young participants from the US, Asia and Europe.
Ovidiu Marinescu, Artistic Director