If you are reading this in England, you might want to go and check your email for a moment and come back in five minutes.
We left a very wet Stansted Airport at 9am this morning, and landed 3 hours later at Palermo airport. If you are enjoying the English summer of rain, I have to tell you that it is 30 degrees and very sunny here. It is a huge contrast to the concert earlier in the week in St Pauls where we concluded the Mahler cycle with number 8. It rained a lot that day. If you missed the concert, you can still hear it on the BBC website or if you go over to St Pauls, you can probably still hear the reverberations. Or you can wait for the CD release later on in the year,
Anyway, back to Italy. We are here to do two concerts with Daniel Harding, playing Brahms 2, Don Juan and Firebird. After arriving at the hotel we had a quick lunch, fortunately, being in Italy, it is culturally relevant to have a quick bowl of pasta, and it always tastes better than in England, I expect its the rain-sorry to rub it in.
We drove straight past the concert hall, I hadn’t read the schedule, as it turned out that we were playing outside. Now I have a soft spot for outdoor dates as I spent every summer of the first 5 years of my career in muddy fields with the Bournemouth Symphony-happy days. We played on an open air stage with no roof, no chance of rain you see. Sorry! I was concerned at the ambient noise during the rehearsal, the stage was surrounded by Cyprus trees full of crickets who felt the need to join in. However, I am happy to report that they stayed quiet for the show. Sadly the local dog population did make their presence felt during the quiet bits in the second half.
Its always strange playing outdoors as the lack of reverberation makes it feel like you are playing in a dead box. It is quite difficult to judge how loudly or quietly you are playing as well. Rather disconcertingly, the applause was very quiet, although as it was fairly prolonged, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Even the dogs and crickets.
We began with a hot and steamy performance of Don Juan with a beautiful oboe solo from our guest principal oboe, David Theodore. Wearing tails is never my outfit of choice, but in the humid Italian evening it was almost unbearable. So as the opening of the Firebird competed with an offstage mobile phone ringtone, a cool breeze drifted in from the east, physically and musically. Most welcome. Almost as welcome as the cold beer after Brahms 2.
At the end of a very long day, most of the band drifted into the centre of town in search of a quick bite to eat. My small group managed to find a lovely little place down a small side street which it turned out had a kitchen 5 minutes walk away, not a good sign especially as the pizzas arrived two by two over a 30 minute period. Always being sensitive to local custom and traditions, and having had pasta at lunchtime, we all decided to eat pizza.
It was the worst thing I have ever eaten in my life. Probably the equivalent of an Italian having his first roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in one of those reheated carvery/refectory places. Next time I pass the one near me and see some tourists, I’m going to take them round to my mums for a proper roast dinner.
Still apparently there is an outdoor pool at todays hotel. And still no rain.
I’ll let you know how we get on.