Waking up to green meadows, morning fog, and single digit temperatures made me feel like coming home to Austria after a dream-like episode in smog-plagued, dry Santiago. But, alas, we are still in Chile, just another overnight bus ride further south in the likeable little town of Valdivia close to the Pacific. It is the capital of the Los Rios region, cool and changeable in the summer, cold and wet in the winter. The university town is known for its German influences (bratwurst, beer, and kuchen) as well as for its fish market which is frequented by locals, tourists, vultures, and sea lions. We had found a cosy little house for ourselves close to the town centre and made good use of couch and kitchen. With Christmas approaching fast and an oven at hand, we were crazy enough to improvise some Vanillekipferl with exquisite Chilean Almonds, hand grated one by one.
The reason we came to Valdivia, however, is another concert Anna had arranged with Rodrigo Castellanos from the Universidad Austral de Chile. Rodrigo – university teacher, musician, and composer – is the organiser of the Ciclo de Música Electroacústica concert series. For this reason, Anna had a highly specialised and a comparatively big audience when she performed music from the tour including Roberta’s piece. The second half of the concert was an improvisation duet between Anna and Rodrigo. It was truly mesmerising to listen to Anna play and Rodrigo immediately responding to the music by electronically altering and reshaping the material into a completely new sound experience. The excellent acoustics and sound system of the venue as well as the skilful person operating it was delightful and a stark contrast to many venues Anna had played in so far. After the concert, Rodrigo took us to a place for beers and pizza, and we had so much to talk about that our little one fell asleep on my lap. Luckily, our house was right around the corner. Before we left Valdivia, we met Rodrigo once more to talk about the music he was going to write for Anna as well as potential collaborations in Austria. And, yes, we had more beer, the fantastic Cuello Negro, probably the best brewery in southern Chile.
A short trip further south to Frutillar in the Los Lagos region evoked even more associations with home: The landscape is not only scattered with lakes and cows, it also features Alpine architecture with wooden cabins that could as well be somewhere in Tyrol. With its Teatro del Lago, Frutillar is a hotspot of music, culture, and tourism in the area. However, Anna was not going to play in the pretty theatre by the lake, but in the near-by El Triwe natural reserve. It was going to be a fully improvised concert with three flutists and Anna on her clarinete bajo. The musicians were slowly walking through the dense Valdivian rainforest, stopping here and there to play, pause, listen, and interact with the sounds of mother nature.
How on earth, you may ask, did we get here? Well, for our fare-well party back in Austria, we had invited Roberta. She came together with not only her husband and her baby son, but also with her father, who was visiting from Chile at the time. Felix Lazo is a flutist specialised in contemporary and improvised music based in Frutillar, Chile. We enjoyed the gorgeous weather (after a cold and rainy period), the lush forest with its remarkable biodiversity, the laid-back atmosphere around the privately-run natural reserve, our welcoming host Claus, and the unusual setting for listening to music. My son and I did our best to capture photos, video, and audio while hiking through the thick underbrush, and we truly had a great time.