Bach to Bach Mahler

The final day of the tour and we have a bit of a marathon to run, or hobble at any rate. Leaving the hotel at 6.45 am after a concert the night before in Lucerne, we get on a bus which takes us on a short journey to Zurich airport to arrive by 7am. Sunday mornings are never particularly speedy but today we walk straight in with our luggage and form an orderly queue at the group check in desk, This of course blocks the airport foyer but is effective in applying pressure to the slightly sleepy staff. Well normally it is, but today, nothing happens. Nothing at all. There isn’t really anyone around in the airport except us, but still nothing happens and nobody seems to know what to do, Mario starts walking quickly and purposefully around whilst gesticulating. Nothing happens. Then a man comes and tells us to put our luggage at the side and he will sort it out. Call me suspicious, but this makes me suspicious.

I am not normally suspicious.

The people at the back of the queue start to peel off and try to use the check in machines. They never, ever, ever work and you end up having to queue up anyway at the oxymoronic speedy bag drop (easy on the oxy). Some normal people think our snakey line looks fun, and so they join on the back. After a few minutes they leave as somebody points out that it isn’t really the line they are looking for and besides, they have to do an audition to stand in this line. Mario gesticulates some more. Still no movement. After a bit of talking we are told to go and use the machines and then drop our bags off at the machines which never ever, ever work.

The machines don’t work.

The woman next to me points at my machine and shouts at me in German/Italian/French. I have no idea what she is shouting, but she seems rather aggressive. I try to explain in German that I don’t speak German but she doesn’t like me. She shouts some more and throws her bags on the floor and points at me and her friend telling her that I have done something terrible. Her friend looks embarrassed and smiles meekly at me. She looks like a woman used to this kind of outburst. I tell her in English that I don’t understand and whatever is wrong, it isn’t really my fault. She carries on shouting. I decide to look a little unstable on my crutch to soften her mood. It doesn’t work and she continues on shouting, which is very rude, so I decide to take decisive action and use a very powerful anglo saxon phrase. She understands and goes away as suggested. It is 7.35am and we seem to be causing an international incident. Oh dear.

I decide to join another long queue and drop my bags off and eventually get through as the woman from the useless airline is shouting at Mario. Mario smiles in a disarming way and she stops, eventually and shoos us all to the front of the queue as the flight is looming. Sarah gets pushed forward to the front right in front of my angry friend who has now returned. She starts shouting again, but we don’t have time for pleasantries and rush to catch the plane.

The flight is uneventful and we land in Berlin and wait for the luggage. Some arrives and then the belt stops, leaving 30 of us without bags. Great. I have a feeling it was the people in Zurich taking revenge on us. The people with bags go on the buses to Leipzig with is the best part of 3 hours away, the rest of us sit and wait. And wait. Mario and Carina and Miriam are all on the phone trying to find out what is happening and eventually we find out that the airport had decided to do a customs check on some of our bags and so took them to another part of the airport-but forgot to tell us. Soooooo, we walk to the other side of the terminal and pick up all of our bags apart from one, which really has gone missing. We are now about an hour behind the other buses and as we sit waiting to go, Malcolm spots a food and beverage stall nearby. He is in a good mood as he remembered not to pack his passport in his case which is good as it went missing. He disappears and comes back up the bus smiling and serving chips to everyone. He also brings back a couple of beers. Now that is a friend indeed.

Eventually we pull into a very hot Leipzig and go for a late lunch. Despite travelling all day, I feel like I have been sat down a lot, partly because I have been sat down a lot. I decide to make a small pilgrimage to the Thomaskirche in the centre, famous for a sermon by Martin Luther and also the place where JS Bach was Cantor from 1723 until 1750. Mozart played the organ there in 1789 and Mendelssohn also worked there and since 1950 Bach’ remains lie under a huge stone. In short it is steeped in musical history but it is still a living church and isn’t a touristy shrine to Bach which was a relief. I didn’t have time to go into the museum but as I walked back I listened to the Magnificat in D on my iPod. It is difficult to comprehend how much music he wrote to be performed every year in this place. I imagine that the present day cantor and director of the choir feels a little under pressure at times. Would you knock up a little oratorio for Easter please, a bit like St John passion, or St Matthew passion by Johann Sebastian? Thanks.

Bach is such a giant that he even towers over the man of the moment, Gustav Mahler whose studious face is plastered all over Leipzig for the festival here. Despite him being dressed in a fine three piece suit, I’m afraid Herr Bach, in his statue outside the church at least, is dressed in full 18th Century finery and makes Mahler look a little, well, suburban commuter, to be honest. Takes one to know one.

They are certainly packing them in here in Leipzig, concertgoers and symphonies. The Mahler festival (he was employed here for two years and wrote the first symphony here) is taking place from the 17 -29th May and already today, there has been a concert by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra before ours this evening. As the director of the festival said to us as he welcomed us to the hall, they are in a kind of “Mahler Delirium” at the moment. Three Mahler symphonies in one day would do that to most people I think. Playing most of his works in thirteen days is certainly a rich banquet and one which would quite frankly leave me reeling a little. To put every one of his notes in perspective however, if you were to play most of JS Bach’s works in a festival, it would stretch out for weeks on end. Extraordinary.

However, if you do wish to see the concert then I have good news, you can watch it on this website live in a few moments or for the next seven days. Its the tenth and first symphonies from the Leipzig Gewandhaus.

After a very long day, it does feel like time to go home and as if someone was sending me a sign, I saw this double decker bus outside the concert hall on my way back from Thomaskirche.

Hmmm, now all we need is a competent airline tomorrow, no bus delays, no mad women at the airport and we should be home by lunchtime unless there is a volcano in Iceland again!

But what are the chances of that happening again…

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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4 Responses to Bach to Bach Mahler

  1. James F. Mothersbaugh, Jr. says:

    Again I have to tell you folks what a wonderful sense of personal interaction your orchestra and its members have. I follow you all and feel like I am right there with you. (I’ll take the beer on the bus, but you can keep the old German bag in the airport, please.) I follow other orchestras and feel like they couldn’t give a fat rat’s behind that anyone is out here wanting a little info. If orchestras are to survive, they must use the social media like you do. One day I’d love to sit in the back of the seconds for a concert with you all. In a certain sense, I feel like I already have.
    I teach 10 & 11 year-old string players in the public schools, and I think I’ll see if there is some way we can get the kids to follow you on a tour next year. You make it all come to life. Keep it up!

  2. LSO says:

    Thank you sO much for your comment. It’s nice to know that you enjoy my ramblings! If you do get your kids to follow, let me know and they can interact a bit more than usual. It’s a while until the next big tour (thank goodness) but until then, all the best. Gareth

  3. Juha Markkanen says:

    Terveisiä Pensolan Janille!!! Ja oboisteille!!!!

  4. Cara Chapman says:

    I love reading your blogs Gareth! They always bring a smile to my face!!
    You should write a book!

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