It’s not very often that you will hear the point of view of a member of the Orchestra’s administration on this blog. As it so happens, while the Orchestra are in residence here in Aix-en-Provence, the Festival and LSO Discovery have worked together to put on a number of projects involving a huge range of people – school groups, mothers and babies, and annual work with the Orchestre des Jeunes de la Méditerranée, aged 16-25. I am here for the last two weeks of the festival to look after the final year that LSO players will be involved with this youth orchestra.
The first meetings with the participants bring back old faces, and familiar smiles as the 10 LSO players (Laurent Quenelle, Sarah Quinn violins, German Clavijo viola, Noel Bradshaw cello, Tom Goodman double bass, Chi Yu Mo clarinet and Joost Bosdijk bassoon, Jonathan Lipton horn, Paul Milner trombone, David Jackson percussion) greet the young musicians who have gathered here from some 20 countries surrounding the Mediterranean. The project runs over 11 days of rehearsals, culminating in four concerts given here in Aix, then on tour in Nice and Manosque. As this is the last year of the Orchestra residency with the Festival, it is also the last project with the OJM. To commemorate this final collaboration, this year the OJM will perform Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Ballet at the Grand Theatre de Provence with young dancers from Josette Baïz’s Company Grenade and elementary school children, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, who is here also conducting Rigoletto.
Rehearsals began bright and early on Tuesday morning. Although I have just left London which is about as hot as I can handle, it is a good five degrees hotter here in Aix. Thankfully though, the buildings are built to accommodate this heat, so all players were happy to set up for sectionals in the large air conditioned studios in the GTP. Sadly, I had bad news for Laurent, Sarah and German, as the upper strings sectionals were to take place in the Mignet School, a ten minute walk away. Let me set the scene – the Mignet is an old, rather run down school, with no air conditioning, and what feels like 10 flights of stairs. We reluctantly began the walk over. Once we arrived however, the young musicians were already there, set up, and raring to go. They all seem so thrilled to be back working with the LSO players that the heat was soon forgotten, and soon you could hear Romeo and Juliet in every corner of the building.
Sectional work has continued apace, with individual sectional coaching, as well as tutti wind, brass and percussion sessions. We are very lucky to have Franceso Pasqualetti (assistant conductor to Maestro Noseda) involved at the start of this week. Francesco has been leading the larger sectionals, and will also conduct the last two concert performances.
Yesterday, the youth orchestra work continued without the LSO players, as they had to rehearse for their own evening performance with Noseda in the GTP. The youth orchestra rehearsals finished in time for them all to attend the end of the LSO’s preparations in the main hall in the early evening.
A few hours later, a huge storm descended on Aix as we filed into the main auditorium of the GTP to hear the LSO open their concert with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. Although the sounds of the Suffolk coast conjure images of places far from here, it was a hugely atmospheric start to what was a fantastic concert. The Orchestra seem to respond to Noseda’s every muscle, his energy bringing out new textures, and finesse. By the end of the concert, all the OJM players who were in the audience (nearly all of them) were on their feet, cheering enthusiastically.
At the sectionals today there is new focus and concentration as the young players have had the chance to see Noseda at work and are hugely excited, and understandably a bit nervous about today’s sessions, the last of which will be with Maestro himself. There is much anticipation of the excitement he will bring to the music and the project as a whole.