This is a very hard trip indeed. Somebody told me that we have done 20 concerts in 26 days in many different countries since we came back for the closing ceremony of the Olympics. I would like some clean clothes, I would like to sleep in the same bed for more than two nights and I would give anything to see my family right now. It’s a very odd thing, real life is going on somewhere far away, but here we are thinking about which is the best bus to get to the station first, where we are going to find lunch at 4pm in Switzerland, can the audience see how creased my tails are now?
But soon we will be back to normal, well, Abbey Road studios anyway, on Wednesday. As we reach the end of this epic tour with MTT, tiredness means that small things can spoil your day, a favourite cafe being closed, the train being late, or even as happened yesterday, suitcases being lost somewhere in Vienna, leaving players in the clothes they arrived in and borrowing tails and concert dresses for the evening’s concert.
But music has a habit of intervening when you are at your lowest ebb and lifting you upwards without being asked. There was a line of beauty drawn in the sand in Grafenegg the other night. We played Mahler 1 in the second half, the first half was Manny playing Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto. Grafenegg is an outdoor venue, although cast away thoughts of muddy fields in Hampshire with a temporary stage and a Pimms tent. This being near Vienna is a classy affair more akin to the Glyndebourne experience, with a purpose built outdoor hall (and indoor hall in case of rain) with raked seating and a half decent acoustic. By this point in the trip, the novelty of an outdoor show was lost on the orchestra who in all honesty are scanning the schedule for the next day off. It is several pages away. We played the first movement of the Beethoven whilst battling with the stiff breeze which threatened to separate the music from the stands and watched the stage lights gradually take over from the sun which by now was dipping below the castle and behind the hill. As we finished, people coughed, pulled their blankets around their knees a little tighter and then as Manny’s hands hovered above the keyboard, a hush descended upon the audience. The only sound was distant birdsong in the trees behind us.
There is an eight bar introduction for the piano – if you don’t know it, go and find it now and listen. It is beautiful and Manny plays it like nobody else I have heard.
This is when it happened.
During an introduction where the band has to subtly join in, we are normally to be seen staring intently at the music, waiting for our turn, counting. However, as this tired bunch of musicians heard the first soft strike of the strings, the single cloud in the sky began to reflect the old sun of the day and for a few fleeting minutes it began to turn pink and orange. The music and the natural display, although brief, was breathtaking. I looked around and everyone in the orchestra had the same reaction, we were all looking up at the sky as it changed colour, and we were all smiling. I forgot how tired I was and how much I wanted to go home, there was a direct line of beauty from the music coming out of the piano which led directly to the sky, or maybe it was the other way round, I’m not sure. I stopped counting bars and looked up; I expect the audience wondered what on earth we were all staring at. There were times when it almost seemed choreographed with the music as the pink turned to red and then as the movement finished, the sun dipped down and the cloud disappeared. Manny turned to us and smiled.
Nearly time to go home.