Two weeks into my holiday, I decided that I could no longer ignore the pile of paperwork and accounts on my desk. It is difficult to relax with a bulging in tray sneering at you, so I woke up one morning and decided to tackle the mountain. It was of course the hottest day of the year, so most of my receipts were damp by the end of the day. However, after the recent political expenses scandal, I payed particular attention to my train fares and taxi receipts. I finished by the afternoon, and as fortune was smiling on me and the sun was still high in the sky, I decided to clean my own moat instead of paying someone else this year.
After sorting out my affairs, relaxing and spending some much needed time with my family it was time to get the tube out of the box and get back to work.
You know how athletes spend time easing gently back into training after a break? Wimps the lot of them. We came back to a Valery rehearsal-full throttle. 6 hours of Schnittke, Shostakovitch 8 and 11 and La Mer which we pretty much repeated the next day. My back contorted into its normal crooked positions and the old tensions surfaced within hours. Trouble is, thats what works and sounds good, so there you are.
Anyway, yesterday we got up at an hour my body hadn’t seen for 3 weeks and travelled to Ljublijana. I’m glad to say that we arrived in time to have lunch in what is a very beautiful city. I ended up in a place which claimed to be the oldest restaurant in town-having said that, I’m sure I’ve been to another one that claimed the same thing, but that may have been in Swindon, I forget. Anyway, it was full of traditional fayre the like of which we don’t get in London. I decided to have the local venison which was lovely and preferable to the “Foal with Salty Cheese Pie”!
Can’t stand salty cheese pies.
After a meal like that, I could feel my body attempting to hibernate, however, we had a rehearsal of Shostakovitch 8 and La Mer, or as Kieron calls it, The Mother. The hall in Ljublijana is tall but not very deep and has one of those shells around the back of the stage to reflect the sound back into the hall. It is very effective and was a pleasant surprise.
I’ve written before about Valery’s way with French music and today was no exception. His interpretation of La Mer is of a murky threatening sea, constantly moving forward and has a huge amount of power. Shostakovitch 8 was the second half and found me down the line playing piccolo. I love playing this part for three reasons.
It has solo playing around the orchestra which I get to listen to as I don’t have much to do. It takes my breath away what my colleagues can do.
I get to be a thorn between Sharon and Siobhan
I play mainly in unison with Sharon, very high and loudly and she does all the high quiet stuff and fast tricky bits while I sit back and relax.
It would take me ages to list all the fabulous contributions, so if you want to hear it, we’ll be at the Proms on Monday or you can listen online, radio 3, iplayer etc etc etc next week.
Of course, as I write the blog, I shall pick out my section as being particularly fabulous because I can. As Principal flute, I play almost all of the time, however sitting next to the picc, I was aware of how long you have to sit there not playing and then come in on some horrifically high quiet bit, like in the 4th movt. funnily enough Norman Lebrecht mentioned this in a blog he wrote after our Mahler 9 prom. He pointed out that Sharon sits for very long periods not doing anything and then suddenly has to leap into action for a short time. Its a bit like a goalkeeper in a 0-0 cup final draw after extra time being confronted with a penalty shoot out. They haven’t done much for 2 hours, but they don’t half earn their money in a short space of time and often save the day. That was my analogy by the way, not Norman’s.
Anyway, the point is that in Mahler 9, Sharon sat there for ages not doing anything whilst Siobhan and I sweated away and then she suddenly floats in at the end of the movement like some kind of celestial presence. Mr Lebrecht noticed that instead of sitting there looking bored she was actively involved with the performance of those around her. Now I know thats its in her best interests to at least look as if she’s enjoying my playing, but she really does follow whats going on around her which is why she sounds so fabulous when she does finally make an entrance. That was his point and I agree with him.
I can tell you that in Shostakovitch 8, she most certainly does not sit there unemployed but plays her socks off whilst I sit there looking like I’m enjoying it.
Its not difficult. Unlike the piccolo part.
So if Norman Lebrecht is at the Prom on Monday night-if he was impressed by Sharon doing nothing-then I hope he has his socks firmly in place as she may very well knock them off.