Higher! Faster! Lauda!

I may have imagined it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I slept in my own bed yesterday, or was it the day before? After the Prom where socks were blown off and Christine Pendrill astonished us all with her fabulous cor anglais playing, we all had a short time to turn around. I got back home at midnight, packed my bag again and then slept briefly before getting up at 5.30 to go back to a weirdly empty Terminal 2 at Heathrow. I know at some point I was in the mountains in Gstaad, but this week has been so ferocious in its intensity that I’m really not sure when. Yesterday we were in Milan. No wait, that’s where we landed, we went to Stresa and played a show in a small hall in which we only just managed to fit on the stage. I think that most of the audience are still attached to their seats such was the volume in the compact space. We came out in the the late evening to torrential rain and a river running down the hill to the lake. This meant a quick dash back to the hotel and then a bowl of Pasta and some wine before bed.

I have to tell you at this point in the blog that I will be revealing two amazing secrets about Valery and his philosophy on conducting and also his super human time travel. Brace yourselves.

If I had a penny for every person who asked me how we follow the maestro I would have heavy pockets. The questions normally involve key phrases like fluttering hands or sweeping gestures or toothpick. There is a very simple answer. I think in one of my more prosaic moments, I described the look in his eyes or something like that,which still stands. However, I am normally asked by people who aren’t professional musicians how we follow him. Put it this way, I’ve never had a string player from one of the other London orchestras asking me how we follow the conductor, he already knows the answer. Its our job. I’m sure nobody asks Lewis Hamilton how he drives so fast without crashing, or the Queen how she manages to look so royal. No the truth is, its his job to conduct and our job to follow-simple as that. I had this theory (which you can imagine took me years to come up with) confirmed by Valery in the rehearsal for the concert. During the Shostakovitch, one of the trumpets asked him if he was going to give 2 or 4 beats in to the last movement or if he was just going to start. Valery smiled and paused for a moment.

Well” he said thoughtfully, “ Basically it works like this. I move, you play”

He did. We did. Sorry its not a more mystical explanation.

I had a chat to a very nice lady from the choir at the proms (Hi Amanda) who said how much she liked reading about our exploits on the road. She seemed to enjoy the glamour. Now, to be honest, although my room at the hotel was lovely, the water in the basin was brown, although some people didn’t even have water so I guess I was lucky really. Of course, just when I’m thinking that we could do with some glamour, you get a day like today. The journey from Stresa to Salzburg is quite tricky involving going to Munich for some reason. Anyway, we were very lucky to have our own charter which had been provided by our great friend and supporter Yoko. It means an easy check in, sit where you like and there is no need to worry about annoying civilians! It also means a short bus ride and a direct flight, saving us hours of travel time.

Of course, as Kathryn pointed out, Yoko never does things by halves and this was no exception. This is where it starts to sound like I’m making it up-but truly, I’m not.

You know how Valery is always seemingly in about 3 places at once and he jets around the world twice as much as other conductors? Well, today we discovered his secret of time travel.

The cockpit door opened as he walked onto the plane and a familiar looking figure came out to greet him. It took me a while to realise who it was because he was such a huge figure in my childhood. It turns out that Valery’s pilot is none other than ex Formula 1 champ Niki Lauda. Move aside Stig, get out of the galaxy Han Solo, you’ve got no chance with this team at the front.

I took a picture of them together just in case you don’t believe me but stopped myself buying the Niki Lauda frisbee in his on board shop.

So now you know the secret of conducting and how Valery gets around the globe so fast. But don’t tell anyone I told you.

You might be interested to know that we arrived in Salzburg 30 minutes early.

Valery Gergiev ladies and gentlemen.

Higher. Faster. Lauda.

Valert discusses baton technique with Niki Lauda


About LSO

The London Symphony Orchestra is one of the world's top orchestras. Our home is at the Barbican Centre in the City of London where we play over 80 concerts every year, but we also spend quite a bit of time out on the road, touring all over the world. Recently we have toured to Germany, France, Russia, New York, Japan, Holland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Lithuania; and coming up this year are China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Portugal, Florida, Romania and a return visit to New York, where we are resident at the Lincoln Center.
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7 Responses to Higher! Faster! Lauda!

  1. Gill says:

    And there was I thinking you had all been cybernised!

  2. Elizabeth Owen says:

    I’m sitting in the library getting some very funny looks as I’m laughing out loud. Lauda, for shame! tee hee.


  3. Tim Wheeler says:

    Well, o well. Why couldn;t it have been a more mystical comment!! Drat! i have been traumatised for life now by this comment!! Lol!

  4. LSO says:

    Perhaps you should try it next time you’re conducting and see what happens!?

  5. David says:

    I was at the concert in Stresa – you are right, we certainly were blown back into our seats during the Shostakovich! It was fantastic. Complimenti to the Piccolo player – she did a fantastic job. I can imagine hearing you guys playing the 8th in a decent sized concert hall with better accoustics! Thanks for a great evening. Wasn’t it nice to come out afterwards to the refreshing rain? Who is Yoko? I believe she was sat in front of me next to Kathryn.

  6. LSO says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it and yes, the rain was very welcome although my tails did get wet! Yoko is a friend of the orchestra, a great friend and she was sitting with Kathryn. Sounds like you were right behind them. Hope to see you again.

  7. Kelly Norman says:

    Oh, Gareth, how did I miss this one! Your writing is both revealing AND witty.

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