After negotiating the ticket system of Europe, we successfully performed in the Chateau and consequently enjoyed a well earned lie in the next morning when the rest of the orchestra was on a very bumpy flight from Gatwick. As we met up with some wet colleagues in the foyer, it was difficult not to look like we were gloating as that was exactly what we were doing.
The concert in Luxembourg was the same as earlier on in the week in London, the Scottish symphony and Elgar’s violin concerto with the astonishing Nikolaj Znaider.
Colin and Nikolaj really are a match made in heaven. The music of Elgar courses through Colin’s veins and all the different tempo changes that litter the score ebb and flow in a way which they simply don’t with anyone else. It is very difficult music to perform in many ways as because of the quick changes in tempo, in clumsy hands the piece becomes a disjointed landscape of unconnected motifs which feel like they will never end. With Colin, it just all feels so natural, every section leads into the next with a subtle shift so that the constantly changing patterns are seamless. This is orchestral music that really does need a good conductor, it cannot play itself.
Nikolaj is one of the most intelligent of musicians, he is very aware of what is going on in the orchestral parts, so much so that playing in a concerto with him is more of a chamber music experience. There are many great soloists who bend to no man and carry on regardless because thats how they play it. Znaider on the other hand listens to what we do and reacts to it in a very generous way. He turns to us when he plays, takes over from our leads, smiles (!) and makes the whole experience a very pleasant one for all involved.
He is also an up and coming conductor, well pretty much up actually, he has recently been appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, where another conductor of ours works! He watches every move Colin makes, not just when he’s playing, but he stays on stage during rehearsals of the Mendelssohn and seems to be trying to absorb everything he can from Colin. At the end of the performance he insists on Colin taking the bow with him every single time and refuses to be acknowledged alone but forces the orchestra to stand. At the performance the next evening when he played the Brahms, he again insists that the Principal Oboe is stood and applauded before he takes his own bow. Nobody else does this and the orchestra love him for it. He is generous in his attitude, his time and his sound. If he continues like this and is half as good a conductor as he is a violinist, then I look forward to working with him in the near future. At the end of every performance he turns to Colin and they both smile. Znaider is the same height on the floor as Colin is on his rostrum, and every evening he grabs Colin’s hand, pull shim close and gives him a hug, (not Colin’s normal comfort zone I think!). Colin sort of leans into it in an Elgarian way and looks little shy. We are an English orchestra you know!
At tonight’s performance, the last of the tour, Znaider once again gives Colin a hug and gets the same lean in. They separate, a few words are said and then all of a sudden Colin throws his arms around Nikolaj and gives him a huge hug at last.
It was really quite touching. Extraordinary performances.