Many thanks to all the Welsh readers of the blog who spotted my deliberate mistake last week-glad to see you are all paying attention in cyberspace. I feel fortunate that you point out my typographical errors rather than any wrong notes which may or may not come out of my flute. Still, as I do this for free and you read it for free, you can imagine where I will be filing your grievances but thanks anyway dad. As ever, any comments welcome!
So after the lovely weekend in Swansea, its been back to Prokofiev at LSO towers this week. Valery whisked us off to Brussels and Rotterdam for a couple of days. Brussels makes me feel sick. Seriously, every time we go there, I have a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. When we were there last year, I had mussels for lunch and without giving you the gory details, I had to make a swift exit in Mahler 6 narrowly avoiding the offstage cowbells. I never did make it back on and that is why even now, Brussels make me feel sick.
We arrived on the Eurostar on Thursday a bit late and so lunch was a very quick affair which involved absolutely no shellfish. I really like playing in the hall in Brussels, it is small and feels intimate. The concert started with the classical symphony. This is one of the hardest pieces in the repertoire for the flutes. It is one of those unlucky pieces which gets used as a test excerpt for both first and second flute jobs. If you really want to know how hard it is, find yourself a friendly flute player and ask them if they have ever played it and watch their reaction, it will be kind of similar whatever the answer! Its the last movement which is the graveyard, and Valery always starts it immediately after the third movement. I realise that sounds a bit obvious, but really, there is hardly anytime to turn the page. We always rehearse it a little under tempo, but by the show it goes like a bat out of hell. Fortunately, it is so fast that I am unable to read the notes, turn the pages back and forward (we do the repeats), move my fingers and tongue together and get nervous and panic all at the same time. When it finishes in a flurry of top Ds, the highest note on the flute I feel a rush of displaced nervousness; I then start to shake a bit. Its a bit like when you step out on a pedestrian crossing in London without looking and a cyclist whizzes past shouting at you-except without the Lycra. This was followed by Leonidas Kavakos playing the first concerto which was breathtaking as was his encore which displayed such virtuosity the entire string section simply stared open mouthed in astonishment-incidentally also the reaction to the aforementioned cycling collision scenario.
The next morning we didn’t have to leave until 10 which is very late for us, and then we had a very pleasant train journey to Rotterdam. There is quite a lot of building work going on around the hall and it took me a while to find my bearings, we haven’t been there for a while. Of course Valery has been Principal conductor in Rotterdam for the last few years, so it must have been interesting for him to come back with us, and also for the audience to hear what it sounded like. The hall is very nice with the audience sitting all around the orchestra, an the sound is really great. It was the same programme again and Valery received a very warm reception. He took his place on the podium, raised his arms and then all of a sudden the bell to signal five minutes until the start of the concert went off! It was very funny, he didn’t move but just stood there smiling until it finished, and then we started. I’m sure it is getting faster you know, that last movement gets harder every time, or maybe I’m just getting old, it being my birthday the following morning.
The hall had very kindly organised a reception after the show for us where quite a few of the players from Rotterdam came to say hello. Joost, our second bassoon player used to play with them before he moved to London and so he knew everyone and introduced me and Sharon to some other flute players. At around midnight, which was about half an hour after we were supposed to leave, a circle of old and newly made friends sang happy birthday to me in English and Dutch. I was touched and a bit tired so I was dragged off to celebrate further much against my better judgment. The rest of the evening was much fun, but this isn’t really the time or the place…
The next morning felt very early indeed, and an extra hour to sleep on the bus to Schipol airport was most welcome. We all got onto the plane, got to the runway, and were then told that there was to be a two to three hour delay due to fog in England. Amazing, it always happens on a day off. Oh well, the extra sleep did me good. We have one day off, including the travel day and then its more Prokofiev in London and onto Paris on Monday. In fact I’d better go now as I have to get to the Barbican to play, the classical symphony. I’m a year older than when I played it last week so it will seem even faster, all I have to do is remember to look both ways on Silk Street and everything will be fine.