And now…the end is near..

Flute player obeying bilingual signs

Finally, after almost two weeks away, we are back home. In fact, it’s longer than two weeks because this trip came straight on the back of Edinburgh and Lucerne/Salzburg. A grand total of 20 concerts in 26 days. Upstairs at LSO Towers, eJo has marked all the places we’ve been to on a google map below.

All the places we’ve been in the last 26 days. Any idea how many miles that is?

I shall bestow the honour of glorification on the blog for the first reader to work out how many miles we travelled in total (roughly). You will from then on be able to use the letters GOB after your name. I know, I can hardly contain myself with excitement either.

We returned to Bonn where last year we played with John Eliot Gardiner. This year, with MTT, we play a Beethoven concerto one night and King Stephan overture the next alongside Mahler and Berlioz. As the BeethovenFest does what it says on the tin, I can’t help thinking that it must be a relief for the good people of Bonn (Bonnites? Bonners? Bonnys? Anyone know?) to hear a different composer for a bit. Whatever, they cheer and shout at the end of Mahler’s first and I’m not surprised as MTT really knows how to pace the ending of the symphony. The tiny details aren’t ignored, the subtle tempo changes and even making sure that the horns stand up at the right place at the end are all where they are supposed to be.

The weather was spectacular and most welcome to lift the sprits of an orchestra where the finish line is in sight but still well out of reach. As you know from previous blogs, the life of a musician and a conductor are very different, but one thing that you can say about MTT is that he does seem to understand, in fact, he has been travelling with us rather than in different cars and planes and that kind of thing makes a difference. I don’t know whether he has some kind of intuition but just at the right moment, as we really couldn’t find the energy to play the last few hours of the tour, he made an announcement in rehearsal.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s been a very hard tour and so to express our gratitude, Josh and I would like to invite you to a party after the second concert in Bonn.”

You can imagine the cheer he got for that. But it got even better, as we all scanned the dog-eared schedule and realised that the last concert in Bonn was at 6pm. That meant several hours of party.

The orchestra doesn’t all get together like this very often you’ll be surprised to know. I think we spend so much time en masse that sometimes they are the last people you want to see in a bar! However, on this occasion we all piled into the pub next door to Beethoven’s house (I’m surprised he got any work done) and were greeted with more food and drink than we knew what to do with. There were no long speeches, another little moment of understanding, but MTT went round every single player to chat.

It’s my party and I’ll chat if I want to

It was a great night and kept us all going for the final push. It was a very generous thing to do, as the LSO can certainly get through food and drink, and I don’t mind telling you that MTT is the only conductor who has ever done this for the orchestra, and it’s not the first time either. A very generous man. Thanks Michael!

The train journey the next morning from Bonn to Basel was like a graveyard but without the charm. Hardly anyone spoke, only the noise of pages being turned broke the silence but even that slowly stopped as eyes grew tired. As has happened so often on this tour, we conveniently arrived at our destination just after lunch when most restaurants were closed. At the hotel I stayed in there was only one restaurant which, thank goodness, was open all day. Manuel, our waiter looked a little overworked, but we were fed eventually, just in time to leave and go to the lovely hall. The concert house in Basel sits on the side of a beautiful square and inside has a gorgeous balcony all the way around the stalls.

Manny not needing to warm up in the furnace that is Basel

It is decorated with beautiful carvings in plaster and sounded pretty good too. Unfortunately, when the doors are closed, the audience are seated and the stage lights are put up to gas mark 9, it also doubles up as a furnace. I have no idea what the temperature was, but by the time I came off for the interval I looked like I had jumped into a swimming pool with my tails and flute for some kind of charity stunt. It was extremely unpleasant and as I went outside onto the street, the entire audience was also outside cooling off. For the second half, Mario was walking around making an announcement.

“Ladies and Gents,”

He’s very polite is Super Mario.

“Ladies and Gents. Because of the extreme temperature on stage, you may remove your jackets and waistcoats for the second half, but please leave your shirts on.”

Thank goodness for that, we would like to be asked back. Having said that, my shirt was so sodden, it was stuck to me and would have looked awful if it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t in the second half. I changed quickly and left the building with my head down so that my sweaty colleagues couldn’t see the small smile on my face. The tour had finally ended. Chris and I used our time wisely and had a pizza and some beer during the second half and expressed disbelief that the first meal we had had in Wiesbaden had been on the same trip, as it seemed like a year ago.

With an early start the next day and then work again the day after, (we are recording a new film score) we were all going to have a beer in the hotel and then go to bed. As Malcolm and I walked across the foyer we heard the unmistakable sound of our Chairman shouting.

“Come on Murray! Scotland forever!”

I looked at Malcolm. He looked at me. We paused. We should have gone to bed. We didn’t.

When will we ever learn?

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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6 Responses to And now…the end is near..

  1. Alex Hartmann says:

    Working from Gareth’s twitter feed, I came up with 6,354 miles, after looking up all the stops on Google Maps and converting from km to miles. We should probably add another 125 for transportation to and from hotels and airports. Wonder if I’m close. WELCOME HOME!

  2. Liz Verran says:

    You must be exhausted! Was that Manuel from Fawlty Towers in Basel? Lucky you ate at all. Hope my Better Half pays you before he comes on holiday with me 😉 If you are very good I’ll being him back in time for your next pay or maybe …

  3. Elizabeth Owen says:

    Welcome home everyone you all looked good over the opening week end back at the Barbican not exhausted from your hectic summer.
    Janine Jansen was wonderful and her encore with Roman too.

    Now a heartfelt plea Gareth!
    Please when the whole orchestra is not crammed on to the stage can you ask whoever sets the stage to put the conductors’ podium in the middle and centre the orchestra round him? Half of Saturday night’s concert and all of last nights concert were over stage left which meant that the second violins were almost falling off down stage left and those of us sitting on the left of the auditorium (I’m deaf in one ear so always sit there) were looking at about fifteen feet of floor boards and the backs of the admittedly very beautiful heads of the back row of the first violins. I’ve noticed this happens before and it is frustrating and this Monday morning I still have a crick in my neck!

    Thank you

  4. LSO says:

    Thank you!
    I will pass your comment on, but will say that it is often caused by the position of the basses. If I remember rightly, they were sat at the back of the firsts which is why the second violins get pushed back slightly. Another reason is that Valery has the cello section sat next to the firsts, just in front of those basses again. Of course, the cellos need more room to play than the second violins and this is another reason why they get pushed around. I’m starting to feel a little sorry for them now…

  5. Elizabeth Owen says:

    Yes but that doesn’t stop everyone being seated from the middle out if you follow. The eight basses were up stage right and then a big gap to the top of the steps. And then the firsts so that everyone seemed crammed stage left. Sorry but my neck still hurts and it’s still raining.

  6. LSO says:

    I’ll see what Alan, our stage manager says when I see him. There will be a reason. Maybe your neck hurts because of the rain and dampness. However I know some of the second violins quite well and they can be a pain in the neck, unlike the violas who are a pain somewhere where hopefully the seating at the Barbican is more kind.

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